Highlights of the Far North:Touring from the Bay of Islands to Cape Reinga
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The ‘far north’ describes the northernmost corner of New Zealand: a sub-tropical paradise with plenty to do (or not do, if serious relaxing is on your agenda). To get here, fly into Auckland or Whangarei and drive up towards Kerikeri: about a 3.5 or 1.5 hour trip respectively. Once you’re here, take your time to explore some of the area’s greatest hits...
Bay of Islands
Taking a boat tour of the Bay of Islands is practically a requisite of any trip. You can hop on a tour from Russell or Paihia and tour around the deep blue water, past rocky islets and pods of wild dolphins. There are a number of tour options, so whether you go on a scenic day cruise, a dolphin swim experience or an overnight on the boat is up to you.
Russell, Paihia and Waitangi
The stunning bay may be the main attraction here, but the charming small towns that dot the Bay of Islands are not to be ignored. These towns are among the first in New Zealand to be settled by Europeans and many heritage sites remain (the Waitangi Treaty Grounds being the most famous). Spend a few days exploring seaside Paihia, historic Russell and quiet Waitangi. Each of these towns offers something unique while sharing a commitment to Northland’s laid-back lifestyle. Haruru Falls, Paihia are worth a side trip to visit: the falls are not especially tall, but their unique horseshoes shape makes them extremely photogenic.
Kerikeri is the largest town in the far north region of New Zealand, and an extremely popular tourist destination. Among the attractions are a scattering of historic buildings, a bustling arts scene and the region's largest farmer's market. Be sure to check out Rainbow Falls, Kerikeri: a stunning cascade over basalt rock. From the falls, you can connect to the Kerikeri River Track, which will take you past the towns historic buildings: the Stone Store, Mission House and St. James Church.
The northernmost tip of New Zealand is Cape Reinga. From the Cape Reinga lighthouse, you can watch the tides collide as the Pacific Ocean meets the Tasman Sea. You can make the drive north yourself, or hop on one of many Cape Reinga tours, many of which also include sites in the Bay of Islands as part of the package.
90 Mile Beach
Located on the west coast of the far north, 90 Mile Beach is exactly what it sounds like: a long stretch of uninterrupted, sandy coastline (it should be noted, however, that the beach is actually 60 miles long). The giant dunes draw comparisons to the Sahara desert, and also draw crowds of ‘dune surfers’ who arrive with boogie boards, sleds and sheets of cardboard. Where to Stay If you are planning to spend some time in the Far North, make sure you book your Northland accommodation at TOP 10 Kerikeri, Russell, Whatuwhiwhi, Whangarei or Kaihu.