The Bay of Islands, Keri Keri, Northland and Cape Reinga
The Bay of Islands and the region north of Auckland is a world of sea and sand, beaches and bush-clad bays, a perfect place to relax after or before a long flight, or simply to get away to for a precious long weekend. Take a boat cruise, sail, swim with dolphins, kayak, picnic on the beach, paddle board, dive, fish or just retreat and recover. The region is also one of New Zealand's most historically significant, both in terms of Maori and European history and settlement and has a fascinating mix of cultural and historical sites to explore. Weather is subtropical and mild.
The Bay of Islands and the Coromandel Peninsula are the only two regions in New Zealand still to hold remnant stands of the great New Zealand Kauri forests. These magnificent native New Zealand trees grow to be 1000 years old and are some of the tallest trees in the world, but they were largely wiped out due to their suitability for ship masts over 100 years ago. If you are driving north from Auckland the Kauri Museum at Matakohe is well worth a visit to immerse yourself in the resourcefulness and character of early New Zealand European settlement. In Russell, visit the Waiting Treaty Grounds (ferry from Paihia). The Treaty is today the basis of Maori-European partnership in New Zealand. Matauri Bay, 30 mins drive from Keri Keri and just a short distance from Takou Bay, is home to Mataatua Puhi, a Maori war canoe built to commemorate the great Pacific migration that brought the Maori people to New Zealand. A short walk up from the bay is the memorial to the Rainbow Warrior. Two and a half hours drive north of Keri Keri you reach Cape Reinga and the northernmost tip of New Zealand where the seas of the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea collide. Take the 10 minute stroll down to the lighthouse at the Cape or explore further along the stunning Te Paki Coastal Track.
Auckland-Kerikeri: 3 hours
The Bay of Islands is a good three hours north of Auckland by car. Often a better option is to fly to the main town, Kerikeri, and explore from there. The plane is a small one so be aware of luggage restrictions. Car rental is available from Kerikeri's airport.