I've got the rest of a 7-week tour of New Zealand planned, but need a little guidance for our 5-night trip through Northland. We are a family of two adults and two kids (ages 10 and 8). We plan to stay in holiday parks, self-cater breakfasts and dinners, and will have a rental car.
We can do Northland at the beginning or end of our trip. The first choice would put the Northland portion of our trip in late November, the second choice in early January. The second choice would mean we will likely have to hire a second rental car, as we would be flying from the SI back to Auckland and will have to leave our first rental car in the SI. Any recommendations for which would be the better choice?
Here's what I'm thinking (assuming we do Northland first):
Day 1: Arrive Auckland at ~05:30. Pick up rental car. Grocery and other necessary shopping. Maybe One Tree Hill or Mount Eden? Overnight Auckland area.
Day 2: Drive to Whangarei. Explore. Overnight Whangarei.
Day 3: Drive to Tutukaka. Perfect Day Cruise. Drive to Russell. Overnight Russell.
Day 4: R. Tucker Thompson cruise. Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Drive to Doubtless Bay. Overnight Doubtless Bay.
Day 6: Drive to Hokianga. Sand dunes tour. Waipoua Footprints twilight tour. Overnight Omapere / Opononi.
Day 7: Drive to Matakohe via Kai Iwi Lakes or Baylys Beach. Kauri Museum. Drive to Auckland. Overnight Auckland area.
1. Little nervous about driving in Auckland proper on our first day, since this will be our first time driving on the left. Recommendations for traveling through Auckland to Northland? Recommendations for a holiday park near / around Auckland for our first and last nights?
2. Recommendations for must-do activities in Whangarei with kids? Recommended short walks and/or beaches?
3. Lots of one night stays in this plan, but can't see another way to fit everything in? Is it worth going to Doubtless Bay for one night, given we won't have much time there due to the BOI cruise on our arrival day and the Cape Reinga tour the next day? Maybe we should just drive straight to Apihara from Russell and spend 2 nights there instead?
4. I've seen several recommendations for touring Northland in the reverse order i.e. west coast first, then east coast. Not sure what the advantages might be for a clockwise tour vs counter-clockwise tour?
Thanks very much in advance!