Walk under giant trees, float over a marine reserve and discover an island of wine. Here are the top experiences on the Twin Coast Highway.

Start at the top of New Zealand

Journey to New Zealand’s northernmost point of New Zealand – Cape Reinga – a place where two oceans collide and spirits depart for home. A spiritual place for the Maori, featuring an iconic lighthouse, getting to Cape Reinga is as exciting as being there.

Visit an isle of wine

Lazy days in vineyards, olive groves and on sandy beaches are just a 40 minute ferry ride from Auckland CBD. With its award-winning wines, chic eateries, sheltered waters and a thriving arts scene, Waiheke Island among Lonely Planet’s top regions to visit.

Surf down legendary sand dunes

Leave the flip flops in the car. Take a somewhat painful hike up a massive dune before riding down a boogie board at break neck speed (well, almost!). Sandboarding in Te Paki, the largest sand dunes of their kind in the Southern Hemisphere, is an adrenaline rush unlike another and must in Northland’s Cape Reinga region.

Meet the locals

Few experiences match that of getting up close to some of the world’s most intelligent mammals – dolphins. In the Bay of Islands, take a boat cruise or kayak to these ridiculously cute and playful creatures. The Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari(opens in new window) into the Hauraki Gulf is another must-do.

Shuck freshly caught oysters

An hour’s drive north from Auckland, the Matakana Coast is a gourmet delight. Start with a guided tour to harvest, shuck and eat plump Pacific oysters, on the Mahurangi River. Then head to Matakana Farmers Market (Saturdays) to tuck into local fare or visit one of the many boutique vineyards that make this little region so popular.  

Visit the ‘Lord of the Forest’

Explore the ancient living forest of Waipoua (accessed from Hokianga), home to giant Kauri trees that matured even before humans came to this shore. Visit at daytime or take a guided night tour to Tane Mahuta (the largest living Kauri tree) and the other giants that rule this territory.

Explore Auckland’s west coast beaches

Moody and endless, the black sand beaches on Auckland’s west coast are definitely more than a just pretty face. Enjoy surfing haven on almost every beach here (although Piha trumps most!) and a fascinating gannet colony in Muriwai. They’re hugely popular but their size means they never feel crowded.     

Dive into a sub-tropical wonders

Poor Knights Islands in Tutukaka in Northland is a mecca for divers. A marine reserve, dive or snorkel (opens in new window)into its aqua waters to see diverse fish life, colourful underwater plants and rocky volcanic outcrops. Stand-up paddle board is another way to discover this stunning marine playground.  

Discover the rich Maori culture

The ‘birthplace of modern New Zealand’, Northland is rich in Maori culture and historical places. Walk through the historic Waitangi Treaty Grounds(opens in new window) where you can be challenged by Maori warriors, admire the giant waka (Maori war canoe), visit the mythical Hokianga harbour or experience the warmth of Maori hospitality with a local Marae visit and hangi (earth oven). 

Endless fun at Ninety Mile Beach

A fabled strip of sand, Ninety Mile Beach (actually 88 kilometres) in Cape Reinga is a highway that’s perfect for four wheel driving. Other beach activities range from surfcasting to swimming, fishing or simply enjoying the grand sunsets.

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