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Russell and Paihia on the east coast of Northland are two of the must-visit destinations when you finally set foot in New Zealand. Separated by a short car-ferry ride, the two towns, only four hours drive north of Auckland, offer everything from adventure experiences and beach exploring to ridiculously good food and stunning views.
The only thing that will compete with the experience of actually visiting the two towns is, unexpectedly, the car ride to get there. At least the last couple of hoursare, driving from Whakapara towards Helena Bay and from then bay-jumping your way to Russell.
As a tourist, you have a few options when it comes to picking your ride. You can buy a car, rent a car through the traditional car rental companies or you can try one of New Zealand’s alternative peer-to-peer car rental services.
One of them is MyCarYourRental where local kiwis rent out their private cars to visitors and other locals. It is the choice for the environmentally conscious and those who want to interact and get a few tips on where to go by the locals.
If you rent a car in Auckland the first thing you want to do is grab a coffee and then head north on State Highway 1 towards Whangarei. After a couple of hours driving, take a right turn down Russell Rd just after the BP gas station in Whakapara. It might be a good idea to fill up on petrol now, because where you are going, there won’t be many gas stations around.
15 minutes down the road you meet the first stop of the day, The Gallery & Café at Helena Bay Hill. A little combined café and art gallery space, based on the hilly landscape looking out over Helena Bay.
Art with a view
Even if you not an arty farty kind of person, the gallery will blow your mind. It is full of kiwi culture expressed in paintings, cool furniture, decorations and all sorts of remarkable pieces of art. All made by emerging Kiwi artists.
After looking around in the gallery, order a piece of cake or a snack in the café. Put your feet up, get your camera out and feed your memory card with the beautiful landscape that unfolds under the wooden balcony - the native bush covers the hills like a duvet with the deep ocean in the horizon and the white clouds dancing on the blue sky.
Feed your soul with the views for a few minutes and then jump back into your car to continue your journey towards Russell.
Sea breeze through the window
The next part of the trip basically takes you from bay to bay. It takes you over hills, down valleys and shows you some of the most picturesque landscape Northland has to offer. Jump out when ever you like and feel the sand between your toes, or stay in the car, roll down the window and feel the Northland sea breeze fill up the car with warm, fresh and salty air.
Traveling from A to B in New Zealand is never a waste of time. It is a part of the experience and the forever-changing landscapes will astonish you time after time - you never really know what is hiding on the other side of the hill you are climbing.
The drive from The Gallery & Café Helena Bay Hill to Russell takes a little more than an hour to drive. Once you reach Russell you can either take the car-ferry to Paihia or stay in Russell and explore the historical town, which was the first permanent European settlement in New Zealand.
If you choose to stay in Russell, go for a walk down by the waterfront, grab some fish and chips and enjoy a magical sunset to the sound of waves welcoming you to one of New Zealand’s cutest towns.
Pack your suitcase, find your driver license and pull out those sunnies. Browse the list of privately owned rental cars on MyCarYourRental.com and find the car or campervan of your holiday-dreams to explore the land of hobbits and sheep.
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