Dishing up coastal scenery, history and culture, Auckland and Northland offer a fulsome and fun-filled introduction to New Zealand.
New Zealand’s largest city is gently hilly with plenty of green spaces, and wrapped around two harbours thus earning it the moniker ‘the city of sails’. As well as lively cultural and hospitality hubs throughout its centre and the wider region, Auckland has a wealth of wild places to visit such as west coast beaches and the island volcano, Rangitoto.
The theme of islands and beaches continues through Northland, the narrow region capped off by Cape Reinga. The classic road-trip to New Zealand’s northern extremity is best made up one coast and down the other, maximising stunning seaside scenery on the way between such highlights as ancient Waipoua Forest, the Bay of Islands, and the Tutukaka Coast north of the regional capital, Whangarei.
Auckland and Northland also share rich human history, from the arrival of Maori to the European settlers that followed. Their stories entwine throughout land and sea, and are retold at museums and significant historic sites such as Waitangi – ‘birthplace of the nation’.
- New Zealand’s biggest metropolis, Auckland
- sublime coastal scenery
- towering kauri forests
- Bay of Islands cruises
- marine life encounters
- landmark historic sites
- Cape Reinga, New Zealand’s northernmost lookout
wine, artisan foods, fresh produce and seafood
Suggested Self-Drive Experiences
Central North Island
Days: 6, Auckland to Auckland via Taupo
Take in the landscapes of New Zealand’s North Island on the Britz Central North Island itinerary – a 6-day self-drive road trip through Rotorua, Taupo and WaitomoFind out more
Days: 5, Auckland to Auckland via Waipu
North of New Zealand's largest city of Auckland you'll find the Bay of Islands and the Far North, with history, golden beaches, incredible wildlife and ...Find out more
Twin Coast Discovery
7–14 days, Auckland to Auckland (via Northland)Find out more
A road trip around Northland is one where the ocean is a constant companion, encountered in an almost endless number of ways. The signposted Twin Coast Discovery highway follows the more developed east coast, and the quieter west; both are laden with detours, historic sites and hidden gems
WHAT TO SEE & DO
Arts & culture
Auckland is the country’s cultural powerhouse, expressed in such institutions as Auckland Art Gallery and Wallace Arts Centre, as well as scores of smaller galleries. It’s also reliable for live performance and family-friendly festivals, as listed on AucklandNZ.com.
The cultural scene gets lower key and craftier beyond the city boundaries, but Northland has no shortage of artists and performers of one kind or another. Notable stops are Whangarei Art Museum, Helena Bay Gallery, and No1 Parnell in Rawene.
Beaches & bays
Lucky Auckland has beaches within 15 minutes’ drive of downtown, with the most popular wild, west coasters such as Piha and Muriwai still less than an hour’s drive away. Northland, however, is unrivalled in the beach stakes, nationwide. The pin-up is Ninety Mile Beach, actually just 88km and therefore surpassed by 107km-long Ripiro Beach to the south. But size isn’t everything. Northland’s beauties come in every shape and form, from golden arcs fronting grassy reserves, to wild, black-sand stretches backed by massive dunes. Campsites can be found next to many, encouraging socialising with like-minded folk as well as sunrise and sunset walks.
A Bay of Islands cruise is a must-do in Northland, with a variety of vessels offering classic Hole in the Rock tours as well as fishing, family-friendly and wildlife trips including dolphin swimming. Kayaking is also popular, as are diving and snorkeling from Paihia and within Northland’s two marine reserves – Goat Island and the Poor Knights. Famously lauded by Jacques-Yves Cousteau, the latter can be explored on day-trips run from Tutukaka near Whangarei.
Hauraki Gulf Islands such as wine-soaked Waiheke and volcanic Rangitoto make for memorable day-trips from Auckland’s downtown ferry terminal, too.
Housing excellent exhibitions on natural and human history, Auckland’s War Memorial Museum provides visitors with a fascinating introduction to New Zealand history, and has plenty to keep children occupied. Such knowledge will greatly enhance exploration of Northland, a region steeped in historical significance. A young country this may be, but the stories retold at places such as the Waitangi Treaty Grounds (‘birthplace of the nation’), Russell (‘hellhole of the Pacific’), the Catholic mission station at Kerikeri are nonetheless vivid and compelling. Matakohe’s remarkable Kauri Museum evokes the trials and triumphs of pioneer life, framed within the tragic felling of Northland’s mighty forests.
Food & wine
There’s plenty of interesting, delicious food and drink throughout cosmopolitan Auckland and in notable pockets north. As well as four wine regions – Waiheke Island, West Auckland, Matakana and the Bay of Islands, there are numerous craft breweries and a raft of artisan producers making everything from cheese to chocolate to real fruit ice cream. Unsurprisingly, seafood is prized, with the likes of snapper and oysters served up by fancy restaurant and fish & chip shop alike. Northland produce includes kumara (sweet potato) and avocadoes, widely available from roadside produce stalls and farmers’ markets. Keep change in your pocket and your eyes peeled to eat inexpensively and well out of your Britz campervan kitchen.
A low-key coastal settlement between Whangarei and the Bay of Islands, Whananaki boasts the Southern Hemisphere’s longest footbridge, which spans a picturesque estuary. The holiday park here is friendly and great for families, while the nearby Otamure Bay DOC camp features a quintessential combination of shady pohutukawa trees and golden sand.
Those detouring off the Twin Coast Discovery to take the faster SH1 route miss the magical, mysterious Hokianga, a convoluted harbour surrounded by secluded settlements moving to the beat of their own drum. Pick up the rhythm by lingering in Kohukohu and Rawene, the two tiny towns bookending the cross-harbour vehicle-ferry journey.
Kai Iwi Lakes
It’s an 11km detour off the Kauri Coast highway to this trio of distinctive lakes, the most amenable of which – Taharoa – is fringed with regenerating bush and two campsites. Swimming in the lake is a treat, with warm water, a sandy bottom and extensive shallows for children and tentative types.
New Zealand is lauded for its dedicated and innovative conservation projects, and this gem of an island in the Hauraki Gulf is great place to learn about them. Just a 75-minute cruise from downtown Auckland’s, Tiritiri Matangi is a forested eco-sanctuary alive with birds (including many rare species) and lined with walking tracks for every age and ability.
- Campervan travel is easy outside of downtown Auckland, with clear road signage, dedicated campervan parking in many places, and excellent visitor information services.
- The holiday park closest to the Auckland Britz depot is Manukau Top 10, but there are six more holiday parks within an hour of the city centre, and around 40 more throughout wider Auckland and Northland.
- Auckland has 26 regional parks, many of which have basic but beautiful campsites.
- Northland also has nine DOC campsites, including three off the road to Cape Reinga.
- Outside of January and Easter, when New Zealand holidaymakers stream in, campsite bookings are usually not required. Campervan travellers can therefore follow a flexible itinerary.
- Being at the upper reaches of New Zealand, these two regions enjoy a sub-tropical climate so you can expect some lovely warm weather, the odd mosquito and sunburn if you don’t wear a hat.
Auckland & Northland Quick Facts
In the lower part of this region you'll find Auckland, New Zealand's biggest and most populated city. Almost completely surrounded by water, the aptly-named 'City of Sails' is a thriving multicultural metropolis. It is a city of a million people of all nationalities, but you are never far from nature or excitement.
A short ferry journey away is Waiheke Island, with fantastic wineries, cafes, local art, and a relaxed pace of lifestyle.
As you travel further north, you'll find that you are never far from the ocean. The west coast is untamed, with black sand beaches and wild surf. On the east coast, by contrast you'll find sheltered white sand beaches with rolling sand dunes, and plenty of private havens.
The love affair with Auckland spans a thousand years. Maori called this land ‘Tamaki makau rau’, a maiden with 100 lovers. It was a place desired by all, fought over for the riches and beauty of its terrain, an enchanting stretch of land lorded over by 48 volcanoes, bound by harbours and the idyllic islands of the Hauraki Gulf.
Today Auckland is still loved and desired by all who visit.
Its natural beauty is astonishing – a cloak of verdant green peaks and forests, sparkling blue waters, shimmering golden sands, surrounding a glittering silver cityscape.
Auckland is cosmopolitan and cultured, with museums and art galleries, thousands of restaurants and cafes; animated with diverse languages and ethnicities.
Auckland is stylish, with a sharp eye for fashion, art, fine wine and cuisine; and sporty, with a passion for the ocean that has earned it the nickname; ‘City of Sails’.
At night, Auckland shines, in a sea of city lights and buzzing restaurants and theatres.
It is New Zealand’s largest city, and more than one million people call it home. It’s guaranteed you, too, will fall in love with Auckland.
Population: ||1.4 million, New Zealand’s largest city|
Climate:||November to April 18-25 ºC, May to November 12-17 ºC|
Cultural Mix:||Largest Polynesian City in the world. 13% Pacific Island, 12% Maori, 61% European|
Famous For:||Three harbours: Waitemata, Manukau and Kaipara|
Forty-Eight: Volcanic Cones
Two mountain ranges: Waitakere and Hunua
The Hauraki Gulf: with more than 50 sub tropical islands
Transport:||Auckland International Airport: New Zealand’s largest and busiest airport|
Getting from the Airport to City
Auckland International Airport is a 21Km for the city centre
Taxi: The airport to city taxi fare is approximately $50NZ. Ranks are situated at the western side of the International Terminal.
Airbus: Airport to major city hotels. Departs every 20 minutes during the day, every 30 minutes during the evening from the front of the terminal. Adult fare one-way $13.00 return $22.00
Northland is unique. No other region in New Zealand offers so many exciting, diverse and easily accessible visitor experiences, all set in a superb, natural sub-tropical environment.
‘Northland Naturally’ is our regional theme and it introduces you to a Northland that is beautiful, unspoiled and wonderfully rich in history and culture.
‘Northland Naturally – First Region of New Zealand’, expresses a dynamic combination of natural resources joined with the warmth, spirit and determination of a proud and resourceful people.
With numerous islands and a myriad of secluded beaches, ancient kauri forests and lush native bush, every bay, shore and forest has a story to tell. It has to be seen to be believed.
The culture, history and natural maritime beauty of the region are matched with world-class recreational facilities and accommodation, including breathtakingly positioned coastal lodges. You can enjoy fine Northland harvested food and wine, award winning arts and crafts and internationally renowned fishing, diving and boating right across the region.
Population: ||The region has a population base of more that 140,000, spread through cities, towns and communities on a land area of 13,800 square km.|
Climate:||Northland is a sub tropical climate zone, with warm humid summers and mild winters. A typical summer has long spells of sunshine with warm balmy evenings. January and February are the hottest months. Winters are mild. Summer high temp average 24ºC or 75ºF and winter low average 7ºC or 45ºF.|
Cultural Mix:||The Polynesian explorer, Kupe, made the first landfall on the shores of the Hokianga Harbour and many Northland tribes people trace their ancestry back to him.|
The eighteenth century saw the arrival of European migrants from England, France, Scotland, Dalmatia, Ireland and Wales to establish missions here or work in the kauri industry and agriculture.
- Waitangi Treaty Grounds – signing of the treaty
- Russell – 1st Capital of NZ
- Kauri Forests – largest, oldest trees
- Hokianga - arrival of Kupe
- Cape Reinga – departing point for spirits
- 90 Mile Beach
- Bay of Islands - Hole in the Rock, 144 islands, aquatic paradise, Stone Store, Kerikeri Mission Station, arts, crafts, fruit
- Hundertwasser toilets in Kawakawa
- Poor Knights Islands – world renowned diving
- Kauri Cliffs Golf
Northland is perfectly suited to self-drive holidays. The traffic is light and the roads are well maintained. For those who don’t wish to drive themselves, major coach companies serve the entire Northland region, providing links to all centres.
There are three Northland airports, situated in Whangarei, Kerikeri (Bay of Islands) and Kaitaia. Air New Zealand operates regular flights to and from Auckland. Charter flights are available by arrangement with several companies.
Kiri Te Kanawa, Keith Urban, Nesian Mystik
Ralph Hotere, Milan Mrkusich, Chris Booth, Virginia King, Robyn Kahukiwa, Cliff Whiting, Richard Parker, Manos Nathan
Hone Tuwhare, Glen Colquhoun, Briar Wood
Paul Jobin (Pure Tastes), Brenton Lowe (a Deco)