Auckland to Paihia

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Waitangi HillWaitangi Hill

If you're traveling from Auckland to Paihia to the beautiful Bay of Islands, you're in for a treat. Take the Twin Coast Highway and travel up the east coast and back down the west coast of Northland (or vice versa - we did east coast first).

Northland and in particular, Waitangi and Russell, is very important in New Zealand history - this is where the first European settlers established communities and where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between Maori and pakeha in 1840. But there's more than history here; there is breath-taking scenery and a balmy sub-tropical climate - what more could you ask for in a vacation.

Spend some time in Paihia so you can explore the Bay of Islands and visit nearby KeriKeri and Russell.

Auckland to Whangarei

Auckland DomainAuckland Domain

Leave the hustle and bustle of Auckland behind as you cross the harbour bridge and head north on SH1 and make your way up the Hibiscus coast. There are so many beautiful beaches along here, you have plenty of places to stop and have a break.

There is the new Northern Gateway Toll road now that means you can bypass Orewa and the seaside towns, so if you are in a hurry, go via the this toll road. The toll road ends before Puhoi. We would advise paying the tunnel toll by phone or internet later in the day rather than stopping en route to pay - you have 5 days to pay. To pay online or for more information, click here.

The roads become less busy as you drive north and there are plenty of detours you can take if you have the time - for example, leave South Highway 1 (SH1) and visit Whangaparoa or Snell's beach or Pakiri beach. You will have to return to SH1 to reach Whangarei.

See and Do

  • Visit the hot pools at Waiwera - Waiwera means hot water in Maori and these are great natural hot spring waters
  • Take a detour from Warkworth and visit
    • Snell's beach on the Mahurangi Peninsula overlooking Kawau Bay
    • Sandspit Harbour - take a boat over to Kawau Island and visit Mansion house, the home of Governor George Grey (built in the 1860's)
  • Visit the Waipu museum
  • Visit the Waipu caves and view the limestone formations and glow worms

Eat and Drink

  • Visit the Waipu museum
  • Visit the Waipu caves and view the limestone formations and glow worms

Stop Awhile

  • Visit the Waipu museum
  • Visit the Waipu caves and view the limestone formations and glow worms

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Whangarei

Whangarei means "harbour of whales" and referred to the "meeting of chiefs" that occurred as Maori waka (canoe) traveled along the Northland coast. This is the largest city in Northland and there is much on offer, so if you have time, explore a bit

See and Do

  • Wander along the Town Basin - you will find beautiful arts and crafts (Burning Issues Gallery) and hand-crafted jewellery (Steve Haywood)
  • Go diving in the off-shore Poor Knight Islands - a world famous dive site
  • For thrills, visit the Adventure Forest - fun for all ages over 7 years, including treetop aerial circuits
  • Visit the Zion Wildlife Park - made famous by the "Lion Man"
  • Visit the iSite visitor centre to find out more options

Eat and Drink

  • Fine dine at the Killer Prawn on Vine St - leave space for one of the Kiwi ice-cream desserts!
  • Visit the Saturday morning Growers Market for the very best in fresh produce
  • Delight in handmade fudge at the New Zealand Fudge Farm Cafe in the Town Basin

Stop Awhile

  • Take in the harbour views at the many parking spaces around the harbour
  • Stop by the Hatea River and relax
  • Stay at the Whangarei Falls Holiday Park
  • Drive to the Whangarei Heads and stay at Ocean Beach

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Whangarei to Paihia

RussellRussell

You can take SH1 directly to Paihia, but consider leaving SH1 for a couple of worthwhile detours if you have the time.

  • head eastwards shortly after leaving Whangarei and head towards Tutakaka, head up the coast to Matapouri and then to Hikurangi to join SH1 again to make your way to Paihia
  • at Whakapara head eastward to Oakura Bay and then continue on to Russell and use the vehicle ferry to take you over to Opua and then it's just a short drive to Paihia

See and Do

  • Take the Perfect Day Ocean Cruise from Tutakaka - described as the best aquatic adventure in New Zealand, you cruise out to the Poor Knight Islands, world famous as a subtropical dive site. You can swim with dolphins, sea kayak, dive or just enjoy the show from the "fish-cam" sea camera. You also visit the world's largest sea cave, Rikoriko

Eat and Drink

  • Stop at one of the roadside cafes
  • Look out for fresh fruit and vegetable stalls on the road

Stop Awhile

  • Whananaki North Motels and Holiday Park
  • Take a break at Whangaruru Beachfront Motor Camp in Whangaruru Harbour

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Paihia

Waitangi BridgeWaitangi Bridge

You really need to spend some time in Paihia - it is the gateway to the spectacular Bay of Islands. Paihia is used to campervans and there are even special parking lots set aside for large motorhomes and campervans. Park up and wander around the village or better take some time out to get on the water!


See and Do

First visit the iSite on Marsden Wharf and check out all the possibilities - there is loads to do here

  • Visit the Treaty House in Waitangi - the admission pass is valid for 2 days. This is a very important place in New Zealand history and there is lots to see and learn and the grounds are beautiful to walk around
  • Take the ferry to Russell - the vehicle ferry leaves from nearby Opua. In Russell, visit Pompalier Mission - the first Catholic mission in New Zealand established in the late 1830's
  • Take one of the many boat trips into the Bay of Islands - we went sailing with the She's A Lady. It was great to stop at a secluded beach and have it to ourselves for a few hours
  • Visit the Haruru Falls
  • Play golf at the Waitangi Course - it is amazing course with spectacular harbor views
  • Take one of the many walks in the Opua Forest

Eat and Drink

  • Have a meal at Only Seafood in Paihia
  • Have lunch in Russell's waterfront Kamakura
  • Kelly Tarlton's Shipwreck museumon river near the Waitangi bridge had a restaurant when we were there in late 2008

Stop Awhile

  • Take the time out to drive to the top of the hill in Waitangi and just soak up the views over the golf course
  • Waitangi Holiday Park - situated on the river and a short walk to the Waitangi bridge
  • Haruru Falls Resort - spectacular views of the falls and not too far to drive to Paihia for coastal fun

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