It really doesn't matter what direction you take, there are scenic drives everywhere and this one that heads out to Whangaruru North certainly has its moments
I would encourage enyone staying in the Bay of Islands to utilize your vehicle because the rewards are many.
On this scenic route out the back of Russell it winds through lush countryside for a time until you reach the ocean again and then it certainly rates up with the best of them.
For me the highlight was Elliot Bay. This idyllic setting of a sandy beach with small lines of swell drifting in from the sea (pic 1) is so romantic yet it is relatively remote so remains unexploited even to this day. As you come over the hill and first see the water (pic 5) it looks nice and just gets better from there.
Taupiri Bay was another lovely setting (pic 4) while in another spot the dramatic effects of the recent flood rains could be seen in the form of severe erosion (pic 3). While this type of landslip was visible throughout the Northland, it was never as dramatic as in this spot.
If you want to plan a strenuous, but rewarding, day then Cape Brett could be just for you. On the southern side of the Bay of Islands lies a headland that penetrates for kilometres out into the sea.
At its apex there is a lighthouse and you can organize one of the local cruise companies to drop you off there before you walk back. Depending on your level of fitness and how many photos you take, you might want to allocate anything from 6 to 8 hours to complete this task. It is hilly and you will certainly know you've been exercising but, as with most of these types of things, the rewards are many.
Panoramic views from the summits over the northern and southern bays, walking through the bush on your own and the satisfaction of completing a task such as this and then having boasting rights.
Sadly for me I only had time to do a small part and then missed the departure point I was supposed to embark from. When I finally went onto it I was near Rawhiti and had to circumvent Oke Bay Beach before I even got to the main track and then I only made it about another half hour further on, just past one of the main peaks, when I had to turn around as time didn't allow me any more. That peak had a nice picnic spot and cleared viewpoint (pic 5).
Still, I saw enough to stimulate my interest to make me want to return some day.
En route to the north west coast of the North Island, we stopped at a little hot springs called Ngawha Springs, and spent 20 mins there soaking in the pools (temperature varied between the 6 or 8 small pools from about 33 degrees right up to 40, which was far too hot for me so I stayed in the coolest pool).
Paul preferred the hot ones, so stayed down the other end of the complex, where he met a couple of very big maori women who joked with him and said they were going to eat him!
In my pool, I met a woman from the UK who now lives in the area and comes to these pools often, and we had a good chat while relaxing.
It was only the 2nd hot springs complex we came across on our travels to the North of Auckland – there was another one, Waiwera, north of Orewa, but it looked very much like an upmarket resort and there’s no way we could have got in there for the $4 per adult we did at Ngawha, which wasn’t over developed at all, and looked like photos I’d seen of hot springs over 30 years ago, with wooden surrounds to the small pools, and no concrete to be seen.
The guy at the desk (who you leave to mind your belongings while you're in the pool) was very helpful and told us a lot about the springs, and told us our bodies would know when we got in the water, which one was best for us, as different ones had different properties.
It seems to be a place well frequented by locals, a bit off the beaten track, which was great for us.
Our last stop of the day was at the famous Mangonui fish n' chip place at Mangonui. This restaurant has a lovely deck overlooking the bay. It is here that the patrons can enjoy their meals. Needless to say, the dinner and beer were delicious! After all it?s said that they cook one of the best fish n? chip in New Zealand.
North to Cape Reinga: Ancient Kauri Kingdom
On the way back, we stopped at the Ancient Kauri Kingdom, which is an interesting art shop that sells woodcraft. Unlike normal shops, this one sells woodcraft made out of 30-50,000 year old Kauri timber. In recent years, they have uncovered this precious timber buried under fields of grass that were once swampland. A whole tree can fetch thousands of dollars in today?s market. Many of this timber have remained untapped until recently when prices to discover and uncover these trees have fallen due to the advent of modern industrial machinery. The art shop is a tourist stop for the prices are steep. However, inside you can freely tour the shop. They have a beautiful staircase inside made out of the trunk of a Kauri tree. They hollowed out the trunk and built a staircase inside that takes you to the second floor. I know I could have placed this as a shopping tip, but I think it was better placed next to my other tips on the trip to Cape Reinga
After lunch, we kept on going north towards Cape Reinga. We arrived to the tip of the cape. As we walked from the parking lot to the lighthouse, we could clearly see that what they say is true. The Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet at this point. You can see this effect clearly from this vantage point on a clear day. The green Tasman Sea clashes into the blue Pacific waters marked with a thundering line of interloping waves. This amazing sight is complemented by a gorgeous white lighthouse and thick green pastures. After the lovely walk down to the tip of Cape Reinga, we made our way back.
After exiting at the other end of the creek, the driver kept on driving north to Topotupotu Bay for a picnic lunch. It was the perfect day for it as well. Some of the bus even venture into the cold sea, but I joined another group. We simply sat in the beach eating our lunch, relaxing, and talking.
At the northern end of the beach, we headed inland through a small creek. We had a fun ride through the beach, but it was even better going through this creek. The bus stopped here so we could do some serious sand surfing. When I say serious, I mean it! As the bus parked on the side of the creek, we had an uphill battle to the top of the sand dune. As in any sand environment, every yard gained as you go uphill is followed by a loss of a foot downhill. At least the sand was small as powder and as cool as the ground covered by shade. The reward from atop is worthwhile as you get a 360 degree view of the region. Not only that, once I caught my breath, I proceeded to go downhill. Instead of walking, I did some surfing; sand-surfing using a bogie board and riding it head first. I did this four times and all four where memorable. Read more about it under the sport tips.
Later on, we stopped for breakfast at Mangonui. Afterwards, we continued driving north across the incredible Ninety Mile Beach, which is actually about 65 miles long. This beach serves as a highway up north to Cape Reinga. The bus stopped on our way up to enjoy a view of several interesting rock formations at the ocean's edge.
I have heard good things about the trip up north to Cape Reinga. It is one of those places that can be spectacular on clear day, but utterly dull on cloudy days. Therefore, I was a bit worried about the weather. As luck had it the day I went up north was filled with clear blue skies with a few powdery clouds that added character to the sky. Today started early as we left Paihia and stopped at Puketi Kauri Forest to hug a Kauri tree. The 10 minute walk allows you to see this amazing tree up front. Check out my local custom tips for more on the Kauri tree.
we made a stop and some ppl had the opportunity to go snorkelling, as I do not swim, i did not go into the water - it was cold ! and so, i opt to walk up this little hill bare footed ! we were told that it was easier to walk this way and so I gave it a go as I would normally do this at home.
ever wanted to give sand tobogan a try ? well, i did give it a go. it was brilliant ! a whole lot of fun. i do not have any pics of anyone doing this as we were advised not to take out cameras along and so i only have this picture to remember going down the board.
we first had to ' hike ' up this dune and then at some point, put your board down and then our bus driver told us how to brake with our feet ! and going down this dune was fun ! i only had one go at it as it was really tiring to ' hike ' up this sand dune.
was fun !
Waitangi Flag Pole. - Hone Heke (a Maori Chief) was the first person to sign the Treaty of Waitangi. He soon began to fear the Pakeha (or white man) would take all their land. Ironically, he flew the American flag on his war canoe. He cut the flagpole was cut down four times. It became the scene of many protests and fighting between the Maori and the Pakeha. The Governor made peace with Heke but ironically it was only after Hone Heke passed away that the flagpole was re-erected.
The Waitangi National Trust Reserve is a rare piece of land preserved in an unusual way. It consists of 506 hectares (1000 acres) and was gifted to New Zealanders as a place of historic interest, recreation, enjoyment and benefit. Waitangi looks across the water to Russell and out past Cape Brett to the open Pacific Ocean. Whare Rununga (a Maori Meeting House) is a national monument to the people of New Zealand and their ancestors.
Open 9am.-5pm. 7 days a week.
On your way up from Auckland to The Bay of Islands do take time to visit the Giant Kauri trees at Waipoua Forest in Northland. The "God of the Forest" is reached by an easy 5 minute walk from the parking area. It is called Tane Mahuta by the Maori's. It is 51 metres tall and has a girth of 14 metres. It is estimated to be 1,500 years old.
At the parking area is a caravan where a lady serves tea and coffee and lovely biscuits to refresh you during the trip!
There is also a Kauri Museum at Dargaville. This museum shows the role these huge trees have played in NZ history. It is the Matakohe Kauri Museum.