Auckland to Bay of Islands – The Scenic Route

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by Hertz AU - 21 August 2018

If you’re ready for an adventure with picturesque coastline views and pristine beaches, take yourself on a journey within New Zealand’s North Island after exploring all that Auckland has to offer.

Stop 1: Orewa

From the hustle and bustle of Auckland, pick up your rental car and drive 30 minutes north to the charming coastal town of Orewa. If you’re a fan of swimming, surfing, kayaking, windsurfing, or all of the above, Orewa offers an abundance of outdoor activities along its 3km beach. Enjoy the Millennium Walkway, or take a short drive to Wenderholm Regional Park and the Waiwera Thermal Resort.

Stop 2: Mangawhai Heads

After exploring a bit of Orewa for an afternoon, drive one hour north to Mangawhai Heads. Spend the night or make this a part of your first day trip. Experience the unique terrain including dramatic sand dunes, a naturally occurring harbour, sand spit, and an oceanfront that boasts ideal swells for surfing. Mangawhai has also become known for its art and food scene, with strong architectural pieces, buzzing local markets and gastronomic variety.

A 20-minute drive north transports you to Waipu, where you can sunbathe on Waipu Cove, relax in the rock pools, or visit the glow worm inhabited Waipu Caves full of stalactites and stalagmites.

Stop 3: Whangarei or Tutukaka

Drive another 1-1.5 hours north and stop off in Whangarei or Tutukaka. Grab a bite to eat or find a place to stay on the next leg of your trip. Head to Whangarei Falls to take a dip in the cool, refreshing waters or explore Mount Parihaka for top-notch panoramic views. Enjoy the boutique shops by the quayside in town before moving on to your next destination.

If you decide to head inland from Whangarei, in 30 minutes, you’ll cruise along the Tutukaka Coastline. Explore the Poor Knights Marine Reserve and the white sandy beaches. This coastline offers world-class scuba diving and snorkelling, with crystal clear waters and an abundance of wildlife. Here’s where you’ll catch the best GoPro footage of your underwater adventures.

Stop 4: Oakura

Drive just over an hour and hop up the coast to Oakura. Take advantage of the nearby Whangaruru Harbour and the sheltered bay, offering a stress-free place to kick back and relax. This quick pit stop offers a variety of bushwalks and short hikes along the coast – a great place to decompress.

Stop 5: Bay of Islands

From Whangarei or Oakura, travel another 1-1.5 hours north to reach your final destination. The Bay of Islands has a number of locations to discover. Paihia is a popular place to stay when exploring the area. Visit Waitangi to learn about the local Maori culture and the treaty signed in 1840 between The British and 500 Maori chiefs.

From Paihia, embark on a day-long excursion by boat or kayak to explore all of the islands and unspoiled wildlife. Take some time to discover the small town of Russell (20 minutes by ferry) for a laid-back expedition. Enjoy the ocean views, leisurely walks and a quaint café culture. As the country’s first seaport, the historic setting and architecture gives this town a tranquil yet romantic atmosphere.

A 20-minute drive from Paihia sits Kerikeri. While visiting the Bay of Islands, KeriKeri is the perfect place to satisfy your tastebuds with incredible cuisine, locally grown fruit and a plethora of orchards. Known for its character and charm, explore the town and then stop by Rainbow Falls or Puketi Forest for a taste of nature.

Depending on how much time you have to spare on your travels, a rental car allows you to create your Bay of Islands road trip as you like. If you decide to travel onward from Bay of Islands, explore the splendours of Cape Regina at the northern-most part of the North Island, and slide down the west coast to the Kauri Coast or Hokianga. Or, you may want to try heading south from Auckland to explore the southern section of the North Island with attractions such as Lake Taupo, Tongariro National Park, Wellington, Egmont National Park, and more.