As the name suggests, this area is the far north of New Zealand. The biggest city here is Whangarei (pronounced as Fa-nga-rei). It is nice and warm, pretty much sub-tropical, even during middle of winter.
My recommendations for Top 10 Must See / Must Do in Northland:
10) See New Zealand’s oldest tree, Te Matua Ngahere, a Kauri (Agathis australis) in Waipoua Forest. Personally, I drove past the area, but didn’t go into Waipoua Forest. Hope you get to see it!
9) While you are there, also look out for New Zealand’s largest tree, Tane Mahuta, a Kauri (Agathis australis). It is taller and probably 1,000 years younger than Te Matua Ngahere.
8 ) See the ecological island restoration of Limestone Island (Motu Matakohe). I have heard of it, but never made the trip. Not a big fan of fauna personally.
7) Spend a night at Cape Reinga? It takes about 10 hours (with resting points) to drive from Auckland to Cape Reinga. When I was there during sunset, some people were still there. And there is only 1 accommodation along Ninety Mile Beach – which is usually full house.
6) Ensure full petrol tank at Whangarei before driving up north. Can’t remember if there were any petrol kiosks along the way, but this is a must! We left Whangarei around afternoon, saw sunset at Cape Reinga, and reached Whangarei around 3am and slept in the car till morning coz there were no available accommodation!
5) Take the glass bottom boat around Goat Island Marine Reserve. When I was there, the sea conditions did not permit the trip that day. =(
4) Visit Waitangi Treaty Grounds. This is where the famous Treaty of Waitangi was signed. Waitagi Day is a public holiday on 6 February!
3) Take a photo with Cape Reinga lighthouse and city signage – the famous ‘northest’ point of New Zealand.
2) Walk along the ‘endless’ Ninety Mile Beach. By the way, it is actually 55 miles / 88 kilometres long. And, regardless which way, I can’t see the end of the beach.
1) Go on a cruise around Bay of Islands. If you didn’t see dolphins, they will give you a complimentary ticket, valid for the rest of your life! The guide said that the longest returner came back 12 years later. I have yet to use mine, dated 24 November 2007. Perhaps I might use it in 2027?
I only visited Northland about 3-5 times during my 3-year stay. There were interesting stuff of course, but the drive up north is way too tedious and time-consuming. Recommended only if you wanna do any of the above.