What to do up north

Northland is a beautiful part of New Zealand where you can learn a lot about this country's history, culture and likewise have a lot of fun

Kia Ora,

I’d like to introduce myself to you. I am Anna from Germany and came here to New Zealand almost two weeks ago. The next six months I will do backpacking around the country and figure out which places you really have to go to during your trip here and what activities you mustn’t miss. I am really keen on learning and trying new things and will try to experience New Zealand to the full extent.


  • Whangarei

I have already been to Northland last week. It is the perfect place to get some time off and relax. The nature up there is beautiful, but that seems to be the case everywhere in New Zealand, pretty much the reason why I decided to take the horribly long flight down here.
My very first night in New Zealand I spent in Whangarei, a little village which has to offer more than you would expect at first sight. However, you have to like hiking and shouldn’t be afraid of water. The first must see in Whangarei are the Whangarei Falls, a stunning place to have a picnic and and then walk along the river to the Kauri forest, where you can learn a lot about this amazing tree which has such a high significance for New Zealand.

If you are still fit enough you should definitely not miss the Abbey Caves. These are caves where you can see glowworms everywhere, on the walls, on the ceiling. It looks like a starry sky. The best about these caves is the price: they are free. However, you should be prepared with a headlamp, a towel and maybe a jacket. Moreover, you have to be in the mood for climbing and sharing your adventure- you definitely shouldn’t be alone down there. If that sounds like a lot of preparing for you, don’t be afraid, it is really worth it.

  • Paihia

My next stop was the cozy town Paihia, located in the Bay of Islands. It is prepared for all backpacker-needs such as daytrips, a supermarket, cheap bars and many different hostels which are located right next to the beach. Many of them also offer free bikes, kayaks and the bus for any kind of daytrip will pick you up right at the doorway.

The center with its market on Sunday and Thursday is a good place for strolling and having fish and chips at the seaside. A public piano creates a familiar atmosphere, so if you always wanted to be busker, this is the right place for you to live your dreams. After you have seen the town and enjoyed your free time at one of the beaches it it time to move. Pick one of the walking tracks, there are tracks for every fitness level and enjoy your walk along the beach, collect some shells and feel the sand between your toes. If you prefer the bush, no problem there are also tracks leading to an awesome lookout point from which you can see pretty much the whole bay. Another possibility is a trip to Waitangi (you can walk there in about 15 minutes) where the Haruru Falls and the Waitangi Treaty Grounds are located. I have never seen Mangrove trees before, if you haven’t the walk to the falls is a must.

Paihia is also a good starting point for a boat trip. At the wharf, your hostel or the I-Site you will definitely find a trip that suits you. Most of them show you around some Islands in the Bay, drive trough the Hole in the Rock( which actually really is what it is called) and take you to Russel, a tranquil little place which used to be an important port for whaling and trade. On the cruise you can see dolphins chasing your boat, jumping out o the water enjoying themselves. Personally, that was one of my highlights.

If you are not really comfortable with being on a boat, but still searching for an unforgettable day trip, take the bus to Cape Reinga. Even though it is not really the most northern place of New Zealand, it is at least the most northern place which is open to the public. Cape Reinga provides you the possibility to feel like you are at the end of the world. You can see the Tasman sea and the Pacific ocean collide up there and nowhere else you will as free as there, feel the sea-breeze in your face, being literally on top of the world. For the Maori this is a sacred place since they drive up there to take leave of their deceased whose souls are leaving the earth at Cape Reinga.

Afterwards, the bus drives down ninety mile beach and you got the chance to do climb up the dunes to get back down on a sandboard speeding up to 70km/h. You can’t understand what I am talking about till you have tried by yourself. It is just so much fun.


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