The long area of land that stretches some 450 kilometres northwards from Auckland is one of the most important areas in the history of New Zealand. Both the Maori and European settlers landed here, both signings of the Treaty of Waitangi took place here, the quiet little town of Russell was briefly the country’s capital and New Zealand’s most famous tree – Tane Mahuta – has survived centuries of war and settlement to become the largest Kauri tree in the country.
The Bay of Islands is the primary visitor destination in Northland. This incredibly scenic vista of azure blue ocean dotted with over 140 islands is home to innumerable white sand beaches, an array of wildlife, several little towns and a great selection of ways to enjoy it all. Paihia is the bustling hub for the plethora of water-based activities whilst Russell, across the harbour, is a quieter proposition but an equally good base for a stay in the area.
Cape Reinga, the most northerly point of New Zealand, is about a two-and-a-half-hour drive north of the Bay of Islands. One road winds its way up the narrow peninsula which is flanked on one side by the glorious Ninety-Mile Beach and on the other by more weather-beaten and less accessible bays.
Across from the Bay of Islands, the west coast is known as the Kauri Coast, which stretches south from Hokianga and is home to the world’s Largest kauri trees, enticing freshwater lakes and long, golden beaches.
Whether you spend just a couple of days in the Bay, or dedicate longer to this northern part of New Zealand, it’s a great place to soak up a bit of history and the founding essence of New Zealand.