Self-Drive Northland Itinerary
Filled with breath-taking beaches, picturesque waterfalls, and rich kiwi history, the Northland Region is an unforgettable travel destination. And, with the Easter holidays only a couple months away, it’s an ideal time to start planning that Autumn roadie, up north!
To help you get the most out of the area while having the freedom to explore at your own pace, we’ve compiled a self-drive itinerary made up of Northland’s unmissable spots.
So, get excited and get ready to make some epic road trip memories!
Day One: Auckland to Kai Iwi Lakes
- Distance: 212km
- Travel Time: 2hr 55min (via State Hwy 1 and State Hwy 12)
Neighbouring Northland is the Auckland Region, making it a superb starting location for your trip. From our Auckland (Mt Roskill) Depot, it’s about a 3-hour drive to the crystal clear Kai Iwi Lakes. Alongside some awesome road trip games, the journey itself will be packed with excitement due to the number of potential stops you could make along the way. Depending on the time you have available, pitstops could include:
Long Bay Regional Park
The park is perfect for a beachside picnic or to stretch the legs with a scenic stroll along the coast. There are several walking routes to choose from including the Nature Trail (30-mins return) or the Coastal Track (3-hours return). It’s also located conveniently near Long Bay New World (Supermarket) or the local Foursquare if you need to stock up on supplies.
Renown for its cheese, ice cream, and yoghurt, the Puhoi Café is well worth visiting. The location itself is also a beauty, surrounded by grass and adjacent to the Puhoi River.
Dome Valley Forest
Get amongst the fresh air and nature with a 3-hour return track surrounded by Kauri Grove. With plenty of stairs, it’ll undoubtedly count as your workout for the day!
A short 200m track across the Ahuroa River will lead you to the magnificent Piroa Falls.
Famous for growing kumara (sweet potato) since 1970, the Kumara Box in Dargaville makes for an interesting (and educational) pitstop.
Once you arrive at Kai Iwi Lakes, the Pine Beach campsite is a delightful camping ground to settle in for the night (or longer if you have more time). The popular camping area is located on the eastern side of Lake Taharoa, providing stunning views, easy swimming access, and convenient proximity to the beginning of the Kai Iwi Lakes Coastal Track.
Day Two: Kai Iwi Lakes to Opononi
- Distance: 80km
- Travel Time: 1hr 20min (via State Hwy 12)
After soaking up the rays at Kai Iwi Lakes, you can drive 50-minutes to the iconic Tāne Mahuta Tree. A short 5-minute walk offers an up-close viewing of New Zealand’s largest known living kauri tree. Across the road, usually sits the quaint Tane Café. Identifiable by cheerful tunes, and a campervan style kiosk, the café provides a convenient opportunity to fuel up with some baking, coffee, or a real fruit ice cream.
From here it’s about a 25-minute drive to Waiotemarama Waterfall Loop Walk. The bush trail takes you to a tranquil area made ultimately peaceful by the sound of the falls.
You can then head back out towards the coast, with an 11-minute drive to Pakia Hill Lookout. The large car park viewpoint area offers breath-taking scenes of Opononi and the Hokianga Harbour. A few minutes drive down the road is Arai Te Uru Reserve, which marks the start of the Martins Bay Track (10-mins return) and Signal Station Track (30-mins return). Both absolutely stunning, once again, highlighting the beauty of the area.
Let the views continue by staying at Opononi Beach Holiday Park (only a 6-minute away from the Reserve). The lovely, spacious area is opposite the harbour and provides panoramic scenes of the water and dunes.
Day Three: Opononi to Cape Reinga
- Distance: 250km
- Travel Time: 3hr 30min (via State Hwy 10 and State Hwy 1)
It’s about a 3.5-hour drive up north from Opononi to the iconic Cape Reinga Lighthouse. In addition to the Lighthouse Walk, there’s plenty of other incredible sites to see (such as Tapotupotu Bay and the Te Paki Coast Track). And, of course, it wouldn’t be a trip up north without sandboarding!
The Te Paki Sand Dunes will have you feeling like you’re on an exotic dessert with some steep hills to have some serious fun! And, you don’t need anything fancy to enjoy the sandy slopes; a simple boogie board does the job well.
(P.S. If you don’t have time to travel to Cape Reinga, you can still enjoy some sandboarding action by taking the Hokianga Express Charters across the Hokianga Harbour in Opononi).
For camping options in Cape Reinga, Tapotupotu Campsite is an absolute winner!
Day Four: Cape Reinga to Kaeo
- Distance: 149km
- Travel Time: 2hr (via State Hwy 1 and State Hwy 10)
A 2-hour drive back down the coast will lead to Mangonui. Home to some of the best fish and chips in New Zealand, the Mangonui Fish Shop is a great lunch spot. Perched over the water, it provides epic harbourside views and a chance to chill out and soak up the scenes.
Next up, for those wanting to get a sweat going, Duke’s Nose Track offers a Long Bay look-alike! To access the trail by foot, you will need to enter via the Wairakau Stream Track. All up, it’s about a 3-4 hour adventure. Well worth it for the views!
For a shorter trail option in the nearby Kaeo Region, St Paul’s Rock track (1-hour return) provides stunning views of the Whangaroa Harbour.
After all that walking, it’s time to relax. And, what better way to do so than setting up camp in Tauranga Bay Campsite. The secluded yet lively spot offers beachfront sites looking right over the water (the ideal recipe for a picture-perfect evening!).
Day Five: Kaeo to Whangarei
- Distance: 109km
- Travel Time: 1hr 30min (via State Hwy 10 and State Hwy 1)
The 2-hour drive from the Kaeo area to Whangarei is filled with endless adventuring opportunities. Pitstop options include:
From Rainbow Falls to the Honey House Café, Kerikeri offers a lovely escape from the road to indulge in nature and food.
Check out the famous public toilets designed by Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. The unique, colourful structure makes it a novel trip to the loo!
Once arriving in Whangarei, go-to activities include visiting Whangarei Falls and climbing Mount Mania (2-hours return).
Day Six: Whangarei to Auckland
- Distance: 158km
- Travel Time: 2hr 20min (via State Hwy 1)
As you near the end of your roadie, it’s about a 2.5-hour drive back to Auckland City. But, don’t worry, there are still lots of cool places to stop before you conclude your trip. Awesome pit stops include:
Trek along the 2-3 hour Mangawhai Heads Coastal Walkway before enjoying some hand-crafted sugary treats at Bennetts of Mangawhai (including Easter goodies).
And, if you didn’t stop at Puhoi or Long Bay on your way up, now’s your chance!
Ready, set, roadie!
We hope our self-guide itinerary has given you an idea of things to do on your Northland road trip.
If you have any questions or are keen on booking an Escape Rentals campervan, get in touch with us on 0800 21 61 71 or check out our campervan prices and deals.
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