The Northland Region in New Zealand is often referred to as the ‘Winterless North’ – it is the farthest north of the 16 NZ regions and the warmest. You could call it the People-less North as well since it’s not a widely populated part of the country. It has 168,300 people all up with 55,000 of them living in the largest city in the region (Whangarei). Kerikeri is the second largest with just 7,000 people and the towns get smaller from there pretty quickly.
Northland is the European starting point for modern New Zealand and Maori legend calls it the birthplace of the country. Being so warm means that you can grow things in Northland that don’t grow as well in the rest of the country – avocados, olives, citrus and lots of kumara. We stopped at one of the un-manned stands and bought some avocado on our trip. They have a case that you drop your coins into and you pick what avocados you want and off you go. We made guacamole out of them a few days later and it was yum.
I’ve only been to Northland once so far but I’m in love! Conveniences are few and far between but the town of Kaitaia is bigger than you would think and has restaurants and even a few fast food places. There is a lot to do in the region including:
- Tane Mahuta, the largest kauri tree in New Zealand and Lord of the Forest. Tane Mahuta is one of many kauri in the Waipoua Forest.
- Ninety-mile beach – an 88 kilometer stretch of drivable beach. It isn’t the longest beach in New Zealand but it is a fun experience and very very popular in the summetime.
- Hokianga Harbour – an awesome harbor north of the Waipoua Forest. There’s a car ferry that operates during the day to shuttle drivers back and forth across the harbor.
- Poor Knights Islands – I have yet to go diving here but it was raked by Jacques Cousteau as one of the best dive spots in the world! It’s an uninhabited nature reserve and is known for clear water and lots of sea life.
- Cape Reinga – Cape Reinga is not the northernmost tip of New Zealand but it is close and it is where Highway 1 ends. It’s a beautiful drive and fun to feel like you reached the end of the earth.
- Te Paki Sand Dunes – you don’t hear much about the sand dunes so we were a bit surprised to find them and didn’t plan ahead. Bring a boogie board if you’ve got one as they are immense and apparently great fun to ‘surf’. There are also several places that rent boards for tourists use on the dunes.
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