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Top 10 Things to Do in Northland

Bay of Islands. Copyright: Tourism New Zealand

With lovely sunny weather, beaches that stretch for miles, beautiful underwater marine reserve, and dense rainforests, Northland is a much-loved holiday destination in New Zealand.

Here are some of the top things to do in Northland.

1. Snorkel Poor Knights Islands

Poor Knights Island. Copyright: Whangarei District Council
Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve. Copyright: Whangarei District Council

The Poor Knights Islands are a group of islands located about 50 kilometres northeast of Whangarei, and are the remains of a group of ancient volcanoes. Beneath the waves these volcanoes have been hollowed and shaped by the ocean into a web of caves, tunnels and cliffs which are ideal for diving and snorkelling.

The coastline, archways, and clear waters can be explored by boat, and boaties are able to anchor anywhere in the reserve.

There are a range of tourist companies in Northland providing tours and experiences for both experienced and non-experienced divers.

For more information see

2. Visit Historical Kerikeri

The Old Packhouse Markets in Kerikeri. Copyright: Northland Inc
The Old Packhouse Markets in Kerikeri. Copyright: Northland Inc

Historical Kerikeri is a small, historic holiday town nestled around the Kerikeri River and Kerikeri Inlet, in the beautiful Bay of Islands of Northland, New Zealand. With a rich and colourful history, Kerikeri is famous for its lifestyle, water-based activities and attractions. Kerikeri is remembered for being the first permanent mission station in New Zealand.

Alongside historical tours, Kerikeri activities include fishing, diving, boating, walking and snorkelling. Visit the beautiful Rainbow Falls, dive the Cavalli Islands and more.

3. Drive to Remote Cape Reinga

Cape Reinga Lighthouse. Copyright: David Kirkland
Cape Reinga Lighthouse. Copyright: David Kirkland

Located at the very top of the Northland Region, Cape Reinga is the northernmost point of New Zealand. Visitors can walk up to an historic lighthouse located here, and take in the expansive panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea as they merge.

4. Wander For Miles Along Ninety Mile Beach

Ninety Mile Beach. Copyright: David Kirkland
Ninety Mile Beach. Copyright: David Kirkland

While here, explore the spectacular Ninety Mile Beach. This beautiful seemingly never-ending beach of gorgeous yellow sand is actually 88 kilometres long and officially a highway - though it is only really suitable for 4WDs.

Famous for having one of the best left hand surf breaks in the world, Ninety Mile Beach activities include surfcasting, swimming, bodyboarding down the sand dunes and digging for tuatua (a native shellfish) in the sand at low tide.

Once a year in late February or early March, 90 Mile Beach hosts a five day fishing competition.

Te Aupouri Forest, located beside 90 Mile Beach, is a 29,000 hectacre pine forest originally planted to protect against the drifting coastal sands. Wild horses can be often seen as you drive through the forest.

5. Be Awed by Tane Mahuta

Tane Mahuta. Copyright: Northland Inc
Tane Mahuta. Copyright: Northland Inc

Tāne Mahuta, also called "Lord of the Forest", is New Zealand's largest known living kauri tree. Estimated to be between 1,250 and 2,500 years, the tree was first discovered in the 1920s by contractors surveying to build State Highway 12 through the forest. The tree is named for the Māori god of forests and of birds.

Please ensure you stay on the walking trail to ensure no damage to the tree roots.

Trunk girth: 13.77 m
Trunk height: 17.68 m
Total height: 51.2 m
Trunk volume: 244.5 m³ 1

The forests of Waipoua, Mataraua and Waima make up the largest remaining tract of native forest in Northland. Good walking tracks in the forest, and surrounding forests, give easy access to spectacular attractions including the giant trees Tane Mahuta, Te Matua Ngahere and Yakas. A few tramping tracks and routes are also available for those who wish to venture deeper into the forest, especially in the high plateau and ranges.


6. Walk to the Beautiful Whangarei Falls

Otuihau Whangarei Falls. Copyright: Whangarei District Council
Otuihau Whangarei Falls. Copyright: Whangarei District Council

Whangarei Falls is a beautiful waterfall located in Whangarei Scenic Reserve. The Hātea River drops 26 metres (85 ft) over a basalt lava flow, creating one of the most popular swimming spots in the area.

The track is easy access and part of a well-maintained Scenic Reserve. The full walking track to A. H. Reed Park and back to the falls in a loop is about one hour.

7. Explore the Abbey Caves

Just a 10 minute drive from Whangarei, the Abbey Caves Reserve features a well-established native forest, dramatic limestone outcrops, sink holes and several caves with glow worms and stalactites. Whilst the walk to the caves is easy, wear good shoes as it can be slippery inside the caves. Don't forget a head torch and camera!

8. Wander the Brick Bay Sculpture Trail

The Brick Bay Sculpture Trail features a range of large-scale contemporary sculpture by New Zealand's leading contemporary artists, set in a natural environment of native bush, wildlife and ponds bursting with waterlilies.

This private attraction is open 7 days and takes around an hour. It is advised to wear comfortable walking shoes.

9. Watch the Birds on Urupukapuka Island

Paddle boarding in Otehei Bay, Urupukapuka. Copyright: Northland NZ
Paddle boarding in Otehei Bay, Urupukapuka. Copyright: Northland NZ

Located about 7.3 km from Paihia, Urupukapuka Island is the largest island in the Bay of Islands.

Urupukapuka Island is pest free and has significant restoration potential with its range of habitats, natural regeneration and breeding area for brown teal/pāteke and NZ dotterel. North Island robin/toutouwai, North Island saddleback/tīeke and whitehead/pōpokotea can also be found on the island.

Urupukapuka Island Walk takes about 5 hours and follows the outer edge of the island. You'll see various archaeological features, native and regenerating bush, beaches and steep cliffs.

The island is a popular stopover point for tour boats to the Hole in the Rock.

10. Take a Boat Trip to The Hole in the Rock

Located at the northern tip of Cape Brett in the Bay of Islands, the Hole In The Rock is a 60-foot (18 m) hole at sea level. Created over centuries by wind and waves, the island is one of the most naturally beautiful sites in New Zealand.

Also known as Piercy Island, The Hole In The Rock is of great cultural significance to the Ngāpuhi iwi, historically associated with a range of sacred customary activities.

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