You really need to leave a few days to explore Cape Reinga and the beautiful Far North. Journey north to the Aupouri peninsula (which starts at Awanui) and drive to the tip of New Zealand at Cape Reinga (Te Rerenga Wairua) which has great spiritual significance for Maori.
There are some beautiful beaches along the Northland coast as you head north to Cape Reinga from Paihia via Doubtless Bay and the Karikari peninsula before heading inland to Awanui. Take time out to leave the main road and take the road east to Matauri Bay and follow the coast around to Whangaroa harbour.
For a little hidden gem, take the road to Totara North, which is on the western shore of the Whangaroa harbour. Follow the road around and spend time in Tauranga and Taupo bays.
Once you return to SH1, head north to Mongonui and Cooper's beach and then onto Taipa. Shortly after Taipa, take the road out to the Karikari peninsula and view the beautiful white sand dunes. We stayed at the DOC site at Matai bay at the end of the peninsula - we highly recommend it. You camp on the cliffs above the beach which is only a short walk away
Back on the main highway, head to Awanui, and then onto Cape Reinga.
Awanui is the gateway to the Aupouri peninsula. There is only one road in and out heading to the very tip of Aotearoa/New Zealand, Cape Reinga (or Te Rerenga Wairua as it is known by Maori). Cape Reinga is a very spiritual place for Maori as it is where the spirits leave the land to return to Hawaiiki.
Make sure you are fueled and stocked before you head up the Aupouri peninsula - although there is fuel at Waitiki Landing, the tanks were empty the day we travelled.
If you have a 4WD vehicle you can drive down Ninety Mile beach from Waitiki Landing (just 20 km south of Cape Reinga) - if you have a rental vehicle, you will be prohibited from taking it on Ninety Mile beach, so if you want to experience the ninety mile beach drive, we would advise taking a 4WD or coach safari from Waitiki Landing or from Kaitaia (south of Awanui).
Take care if swimming on Ninety Mile Beach - there are serious rips and many people have lost their lives swimming there.
Alternatively, drive south from Awanui to Ahipara via Kaitaia where you can stop to restock and refuel, do your banking or just enjoy the atmosphere of the town.