The entire area of New Zealand north of Auckland can be explored in a weekend.

Duration2 nights (1 weekend)
Major AttractionsCape Reinga (Northernmost point of New Zealand)
Paihia
Bay of Islands (some great kayaking here!)
90 Mile beach drive
Te Paki sand dunes
Other beaches
Other AttractionsHauru Falls – near Paihia
Abbey Caves
Four Sisters (Kauri trees) – north of Paihia
AccommodationPaihia – Hostel, AirBnB or campsite
SeasonYear round

Major Attractions

Cape Reinga

This is the northernmost point of New Zealand, and a great place to spend an afternoon or to watch a sunset.

Upon arrival, one only has to walk 15 minutes to reach the lighthouse. The area immediately surrounding this is a great viewing spot and is as far north as most people go. The signpost with distances to various world cities is located here, and one can see where the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean meet – the turbulence on the water is immediately noticeable.

Paihia

This little tourist town is located roughly halfway between Auckland and Cape Reinga, and we usually sleep here on both nights. Where exactly one stays is up to personal preference – on two occasions we stayed at the Pipi Patch, a fairly well known party hostel, and on the other, we chose an AirBnB right next to the beach for our group of 10 – both worked out well for us.

The area surrounding Paihia is great for kayaking – we did not do a super in-depth exploration of the area but we did visit one of the nearby islands once.

90 Mile Beach

This is a potential route on the way north from Paihia – and tidal conditions permitting, one can drive on the beach itself for a significant part of the journey.

It is important to note that not all vehicles may be capable of this. We attempted the beach drive once and had to turn back after less than a mile. I did hear of another group renting quad bikes and taking them down the beach – this worked out well for them.

Our attempt to drive down the 90 Mile Beach

Te Paki Sand Dunes

Located at the very north of the 90 Mile Beach, these curiously out-of-place sand dunes make for some great sand boarding – invariably the highlight of the Northland trips.

The dunes themselves span a total height of 100m, and the usual events of the afternoon will involve climbing straight to the summit, enjoying the views for a bit and then boarding down the various slopes several times. On one occasion we partially buried a spare board halfway down the slope to make a sort of ramp. The dunes are expansive – stretching far outside the sand boarding area – and make for great scenery.

One can rent boards from a stand operated by the local Maori tribe – they go at $15 per board.

Other Beaches

Plenty of beaches line the roads throughout the trip – especially north of Paihia. These make for a great spot to spend the afternoon – swimming, sunbathing or exploring.

Ocean Beach

Pakiri Beach

Cooper’s Beach

Other Attractions

Hauru Falls, located near Whangarei, is located on the way north from Auckland.

The Four Sisters – a cluster of kauri trees – are located on a walking trail which can be visited between Cape Reinga and Paihia.

The Abbey Caves – a set of three glow worm caves – can be visited near Whangarei.

There are multiple lookout points on the road north, pictured is one near Cape Reinga.

Typical Itinerary

Day 1Drive north to Paihia
Sleep at Paihia
Day 2Drive further north to Cape Reinga and return on the same day
Sleep at Paihia
Day 3Return to Auckland
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