As much as we love our busy city, summer is made for getting out of Auckland and exploring our beautiful country. What better place to escape than Northland with everything from perfect coastline beaches to quaint village towns. While we’re sure Aucklanders are no stranger to heading up North for a roadie, we want to let you in on all the best spots, must-do’s, and hidden gems in Northland – from Mangawhai to Cape Reinga.
1. For only a couple of bucks, you can sit back and relax in the Ngawha Sping hot pools in Waiariki. The natural springs are the perfect temperature to cool off, even on a hot day and they'll even leave your skin glowing!
2. Take in all the beauty of the West Coast by hiking the Mangawhai Walkway. The walk takes around three hours and is best at lowtide but provides one of the best views that stretches on for miles.
3. Book yourself in for a stay at the Duke of Malborough Hotel on the beachfront in Russel. Enjoy a vacay away from busy city life and relax on one of New Zealand’s most historic settlements. The friendly staff have also opened up shop on Paihia wharf with Charlotte’s Kitchen—a not-to-miss lunch spot decorated with the amazing Kiwiana artwork of Lester Hall.
4. Speaking of Russell, if you didn’t take a school trip to Pompallier House then you really missed out. Catch up now with a visit to the historic Mission and Printery to brush up on your New Zealand trivia. The house is interactive, interesting, and right next to the beach for an after-tour paddle.
5. Try New Zealand’s reputed best fish and chips from the Mangonui Fish Shop! They've been selling on the same site for a whopping 70 years so you can be sure they know what they're doing.
6. Take a refreshing dip in the crystal clear water of Kai Iwi Lake by the Kauri Coast. With water as blue as a tropical island, Kai Iwi is perfect for a mid roadie swim, kayak session, or secluded spot to go fishing. They even have camping sites too—incase you can’t bear to leave just yet.
7. The Bay of Islands is home to many friendly fish, including pods of dolphins. Book in for a cruise to go snorkelling up close and personal with some of the kindest creatures in the sea.
8. You can’t have a trip to the Bay of Islands without stopping by Cellini’s for an ice cold gelato. Just off the main road, tucked into the wall is Paihia’s favourite ice cream shop with an abundance of flavours to pick from. Grab a cone and talk a stroll along the Paihia wharf to enjoy the Bay of Islands exactly how it was meant to be enjoyed.
9. Live out your ‘Golden Ticket Chocolate Factory’ filled dreams at Kerikeri’s Makana Chocolate Shop. Quality handmade chocolate truffles, biscuits, caramel and barks galore, with a chocolate café aswell—your sweet tooth will be thanking you.
10. Kerikeri has more on offer than chocolates and the deliciousness that is orange juice, The Stone Store is one of Northland’s most iconic spots. Head there to pick up some Kiwi trinkets and then take a trip up the road to see the beautiful Rainbow Falls.
11. Spend a day as a mermaid at the rock pools in Matapouri! Pack a lunch and take a small walk to the tranquil pools—just make sure to go at lowtide for the most Instagrammable pics!
12. After snapping the perfect mermaid pic, take a boat ride from Matapouri and visit Poor Knight’s Islands for an underwater adventure. The ocean bed below the islands have compressed and formed the perfect spot for diving and snorkelling, filled with kelp beds, deep sea diving spots, and alllll the colourful fish.
13. Head into a scene straight out of Mad Max and tackle the Te Paki monster sand dunes. Towards the very tip of the North Island in Pukenui, the sand dunes are perfect for a boogeyboard race, just prepare yourself for the ascent back up.
14. For a real secluded get-away, look no further than the East Coast’s Omapere Beach. With sand dunes, prime fishing hangouts, and an overall laxed feel, Omapere is perfect to unwind. Plus, every New Zealander needs to catch the sunset here at least once.
15. Race up to the top of New Zealand, along the official state highway that is Ninety Mile Beach. Used as an alternative route from Kaitaia’s State Highway , driving along the beach is not only way more fun but much more scenic—and you’ll finally be able to say you’ve done it! Don’t forget to make a quick stop for some Ninety Mile sand dune action.
16. Discover Whangarei Heads white sand beaches and crystal clear waters tucked away under Whangarei’s mainland. With 13 different beaches all presenting their own unique treasures, you’ll be spoiled for choice and find the one that is perfect for you to relax on all summer.
17. While you’re at it, indulge in all the classic summer activies Whangarei Heads has to offer. Between glow worm cave exploring, coastal walkways, yoga retreats, horse back riding and kayaking, there’ll be no time for boredom in Whangarei.
18. It’s not a Northland bucket list without ticking visit the Cape Reinga Lighthouse off. Set at the very top of the North Island, the lighthouse is a popular icon in Kiwi culture and although you cannot go inside the actual building, the view out into Tasman Sea is pretty damn cool.
19. Ignore TLC, everyone loves a good waterfall and a trip to one is the epitome of a Kiwi summer. Head up to Whangarei Falls to get your hit of waterfall goodness. The cascading water is refreshing to walk under and the massive pool at the bottom means you won’t have to squeeze in tight next to the other 100 people who had the same waterfall hankering as you.
20. Motu Kokako (also known as Piercy Island), (also, also known as The Hole In The Rock) is located at the very top of the Bay of Islands and a sight worth seeing with your own eyes. Hop on a boat at Paihia and cruise out onto the big blue Pacific Ocean, spot dolphins, see the first plaque laid by James Cook, and hold your breath as you go through the seemingly too small hole in the rock!
21. The two largest living Kauri trees reside in Northland at the Waipoua Kauri Forest. Put your hiking pack on to trek through the dense Kauri Forest—the perfect activity to hide from the sun’s rays and do something that won’t turn you into a sweaty mess this summer. Download PlantApp and become one with nature.
22. Take a short drive from Kerikeri to Aroha Island to tick seeing a Brown Kiwi off your list (because no one has actually ever seen one at the zoo). With your choice of camping or cottages available, eco parks and centres, and water sports, Aroha Island takes you back to your roots and has us appreciating the beauitful country we get to live in.
23. Swim, snorkel, fish, kayak, and sail in the blue waters of the Karikari Peninsula. The beaches mirror those of the Carribean and with plenty to do, Karikari is the ideal place for family vacay. Karikari is also home to a championship golf course and the award-winning Karikari Estate vineyard to keep all members of the fam happy.
24. See the significant spot where the Treaty was signed in 1840 at the grounds of Waitangi. You’ll get to visit the Te Kōngahu museum, the treaty house and the largest ceremonial war canoe. The views of the Bay of Plenty are breathtaking from the treaty grounds and after you’ve indulged in all the knowledge your head can handle, head down to Waitangi Beach for a swim.
25. Hummus lovers listen up! Who would have thought Kerikeri would be home to some of the best Middle Eastern food down under? Awarded the Best of the Bay award for Middle Eastern food, Jerusalem Café is well worth the drive. All your favourites consisting of hummus, babaganoush, falafel, tabouli, pita bread, and much more are on the menu at Jerusalem Café. Make this one your stop off lunch spot!
26. Another world famous in New Zealand fish and chips store to add to the list, Opononi Beach Takeaways is fabulous and is best enjoyed at the beach (as is every fish and chips ever). Opononi provides spectacular views of the West Coast mountain ranges and the Hokianga sand dunes over the water. Our recommendation? The burgers and milk shakes really go down a treat on a balmy evening at the beach.
27. Magical Mangawhai is truly a place of bliss—the beaches are picture perfect, the vineyards are plentiful, and the town just oozes rustic charm. With beachside lodges and campsites all around the place, you can easily spend at least a week lounging around the East Coast town. Make sure to visit the local fave The Cow Shed for a feast of favourite Kiwi foods.
28. Head off the beaten track of Waipoua Forest in Opononi and discover the private Waiotemarama Falls. The falls are concealed through dense bush and make a faultless place to cool off and recharge for your trek back through the forest. This is getting amongst nature at it’s best.
29. You deserve to treat yourself after the year that was. Helena Bay Lodge on the East Coast has got your back. The luxury lodges are directly on the waterfront and are the perfect place for you and your s/o to relax. The water is crisp, the rooms are to die for, and the service amazing. Book in now for a weekend away you’ll be dreaming about again until next summer.
30. Our final pick for the best 30 things to do up North is set up camp in the little town of Maitai Bay. No bookings required, showers on site (phew!), and the best views of the transparent bay. Transport yourself back to your childhood camping days and make new memories at Maitai Bay this summer. Psst we also hear there’s a cool cave walk with rock pools to go exploring!
Heading South instead? Here are 30 things to do in the South Island this summer.