Our Highlights From the Northland
Our highlights from the Northland of New Zealand took us all the way from Auckland to Cape Reinga and back again in eight days.
This was the first time we had ever traveled in a campervan, and our full tour of New Zealand would take us almost three months.
We took our first days getting used to our camper, which we named Lorna after a friend of ours.
Even though we started skipping some sights from our list, or just going to a place for a quick stop, we have to say that our tour of the Northland took much longer than we had planned.
Our route from Auckland to Cape Reinga and back
Our route started in Auckland and then took us to the north-westernmost tip of New Zealand, Cape Reinga.
This is what our route looked like:
5. Te Paki
6. Tapotupotu Beach
7. Cape Reinga
8. Rarawa Beach
Some of our highlights in the Northland
1. Piha Beach
After we had picked up our campervan, we went grocery shopping so that we had something to eat for the next few days.
Tip: the least expensive grocery store in New Zealand is PAK’nSAVE. Make sure to save your receipt voucher for discounted petrol. Note that you can only redeem the petrol vouchers at the same PAK’nSAVE that you purchased your groceries from and are also limited by date.
From the supermarket, we drove to Piha Beach where we climbed Lion Rock. It’s a very easy climb and we were rewarded with phenomenal views of the Tasman Sea. What an incredible start to our camper life and our New Zealand road trip!!
After we had taken our share of pictures, we departed with heavy hearts and drove to Muriwai Beach, our very first campground.
Admittedly, our first campground was more expensive than our budget allowed, but we wanted to start slowly and get our feet wet.
For $ 44 we got very clean toilets and showers, free WiFi, which unfortunately only worked in the kitchen, electricity, water for the camper, and a glorious view of the sea. Since it stormed terribly and we arrived after dark, we didn’t see the sea until the next morning.
Check-in was fast and uncomplicated and check-out was at noon the next day. This gave us enough time for a short view of the beach, but it was still raining hard, so we decided to motor on.
Due to the heavy rain, our plans of playing golf at Muriwai Beach Golf, unfortunately, fell through.
Waipu was on our list because we wanted to play golf at Waipu Golf Club. We drove directly to the golf course, which was another highlight for us. Here we had a fabulous bay overlooking rocks that had cool names such as The Hen or Sail Rock. We only played 9 holes because it rained again very hard and it didn’t make much sense to continue playing, so we stopped. Soaked, we went to Lorna and spent the night here.
After our roundtrip of the Northland, we came back to Waipu to play the back 9 holes and stayed another two nights. This allowed us to have enough time for a long walk on the beach, a very nice chat with Aaron the golf manager and could enjoy this amazing view just a little longer.
Whoever plays golf at Waipu is rewarded not only with a really great golf course and breathtaking views but also with regularly appearing beautiful rainbows. And even if you don’t play golf, you still get all that!
Our onward journey north took us via Kaitaia. The way there was not only paved with dreamlike views of nature but also with cows and sheep as far as the eye could see. The roads were so narrow and winding that my stomach wasn’t doing so well. But I made it without incident. James safely drove us into town, where we first washed a load of laundry and then found ourselves at our $10 campground. A fenced patch meadow in the middle of town. Luckily, there was another camper, so I fell into a deep sleep. The next morning, we were awakened by a surprise. We woke up because the camper was moving a bit and we heard noises. Still lying in bed, we looked out of the window and couldn’t believe our eyes. A herd of cows! And they were licking the morning dew off of our campervan! What a joy, because we had never expected anything like this before.
Tip: we use the app “CamperMate” and “WikiCamps” to find our campgrounds. The apps are free, but if you want more features, you can upgrade the app for a small fee as well.
Via Pukinai we drove towards Houhora. We stopped at a place called “Ka Uri Unearthed”, a souvenir shop with a giant Kauri tree staircase. Impressive!
The trips with the camper in these winding roads took longer than expected, but we did our best to sweeten the time. With ice cream, for example.
Or with a purchase of avocados, which we found at many small corrugated metal stands on the side of the road. With a sign indicating the price and a small cash box where you throw in your money. An honesty box, just like some golf courses!
In the afternoon we arrived in Houhora, or, more precisely, at Houhora Golf Club. Here we played 9 holes and afterward got to know a fun troupe of members in the clubhouse. We were invited for a beer and had a cheerful evening with characters from the Club.
Kevin, one of our new friends, invited us to his house the next morning so we could take a shower if we wanted to. We happily accepted his kind gesture, and the next morning went to his beautiful house where we also met his very lovely wife Denise.
After a hot shower, and some coffee and toast that Denise had prepared, we continued our journey.
Thank you, Kevin and Denise, for your hospitality, and especially for your kindness!
5. Te Paki
We had only planned a total of four days in the Northland but must admit that we didn’t make our plan. Since we were late anyways, we decided to make a brief stop in Te Paki. Here are the Giant Sand Dunes, which are just so beautiful that we could have stayed and tried sandboarding. Boards are available for rent for $15 directly at the dunes. It would certainly have been so much fun to have surfed the dunes, but we settled on taking a few photos and then set off on the way to Cape Reinga.
BTW: Te Paki is part of the 90 Mile Beach.
Tip: Boards are also available to rent at the side of the road before arriving at Te Paki for only $10.
6. Tapotupotu Beach
We arrived at Cape Reinga just as it started to pour down rain. Our next campground was not too far away, so we decided to drive there first and visit the Cape the next morning.
Located in the countryside and directly at the sea, Tapotupotu Beach was one of our most beautiful campgrounds. We arrived early enough this time so that we could go for a walk on the beach. Then we cooked for the first time in our camper and enjoyed ourselves with a glass of white wine and a fantastic view of the ocean.
Halftime of our Northland tour
7. Cape Reinga
Other than Rarawa Beach, we stayed the longest at Cape Reinga!
Cape Reinga is the meeting point of the North-Eastern Pacific and the Western Tasman Sea. Standing at the top of the mountain, we had a view of the sand dunes of Te Paki to our left, and a view of Tapotupotu Beach to our right. And directly in front of us stood the strong waves, where the two seas collide.
The lighthouse is a great photo opportunity and the pathway down there is paved with small wooden panels which tell about Maori legends and describe the plants and trees you pass by.
At the bottom of the Cape stands a Pohutukawa tree, which according to legend is the gateway for deceased Maori to go back to their homeland Hawaiki.
Cape Reinga is a sacred Maori site and eating here is forbidden.
8. Rarawa Beach
In addition to Cape Reinga, Rarawa Beach was THE highlight for us! It was such a white sandy beach that we needed sunglasses. And there was not a single person as far as we could see. We enjoyed having this heavenly beach all for ourselves. We ran to the ocean and back while jumping around and rejoicing like little children.
Another fun factor was that the sand squeaked when you glided across it. I don’t have to mention that we tested it forever. Finally, we also had time and inspiration to take some photos of ourselves. After taking our time on the beach we drove on and made a short stop in Henderson Bay before heading to Matawi Bay.
Mangonui wasn’t planned at all but was quickly added after we had read about “world famous” fish & chips. And since it was practically on the way to our next campground, we decided to form an opinion ourselves. We have to say it tasted fantastic and the small detour was definitely worth it.
After this first unforgettable week, we went back to Auckland, from where we were about to explore the rest of the North Island.
We stopped in Kauri Cliffs at the golf course and again at Waipu, where, as mentioned, we stayed another two days.
We are very curious as to what the next weeks will bring us!
Read also about our Scenic Roadtrip from Auckland to Wellington!