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North Island destination queries

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North Island destination queries

My wife and I, both fit and in our fifties, are visiting North Island for 3 weeks next March, this being our second trip to NZ. Whilst we will visit, or revisit, the obvious highlights (Rotorua, Taupo, Coromandel), I'd like some guidance on the following :

1. Is it worth driving from Opotiki to Gisborne via the coastal route (Te Araroa). We like rugged coastal scenery. Are there any particula must-see sights along that route or as detours from it?

2. We will be going up to Northland for the first time, staying a couple of nights at Paihia. Is there anything on the way from Auckland to Paihia that we ought not to miss? What about north of Paihia - is 90 mile beach worth the trip, or is there anything else that is better?

3. We want to visit Mt Taranaki for the first time. Is New Plymouth the best place to base ourselves? Is the coastal drive via Mt Egmont good to do?

4. We visited Wellington on our last visit, and whilst we would not be averse to visiting it again, is there anything between Napier and Wellington, via Masterton that would make the journey particularly worth doing?

5. Last time we drove from Turangi, via National Park to Wanganui over a couple of days, visiting Whakapapa. Do you recommend the route South from National Park via Ohakune and Highway 1 to Bulls instead, or even from Turangi via Hway 1 to the East of Mt Ruapehu?

6. If we did make it from Auckland to Wellington, I see that we could catch the train back to Auckland. Is the route a scenic one and worth travelling?

This may well be our last trip to North Island, so we want to make sure that we don't come away with regrets that we missed anything that was really special

Auckland, New...
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1. Re: North Island destination queries


Going north of Auckland is an experience all of its own and there is so much to see.

Suggest that you travel the west coast north and the east south. This is because the views are better and you are also driving on the scenic side of the road. Very easy to stop off and take photos, go exploring or just to take some time out.

IN my opinion not to be missed are the Matakohe Museum, the Kauri forests with Tane Mahuta and a morning boat trip in the Bay of Islands. There have been very good reports about www.footprintswaipoua.co.nz and they have a night tour where you may see the kiwi.

Closer to Auckland there are the black sand beaches and the gannet colony at Muriwai.

I have not done the rail between Auckland and Wellington for many years but guests tell us that it is very scenic and a wonderful experience.


Rarotonga, Cook...
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2. Re: North Island destination queries

Northland - don't miss the pretty seaside settlements on East Coast heading north. Detour off the main highway at Warkworth to explore the Matakana-Leigh region. Sensational scenery, and lots to do. The ferry trip to Kawau Is is very enjoyable.

Drive through Mangawhai Heads and Waipu Cove to Whangarei city. Both popular surf beaches, with lots of shore birds. Whangarei is set on the Hatea River, a delightful spot with cafes and qaulity crafts. The small clock Museum-I Site is especially interesting. From the city, drive through Glenbervie to Tutukaka. BUT, stop off at the Whangarei Falls - most photogenic in NZ. Tutukaka is the dive capital of NZ, with the offshore Poor Knights Islands being the big attraction. Dive! Tutukaka operate A Perfect Day cruise to this offshore marine and land reserve. Dolphins will frolic alongside the vessel. Maybe use Tutukaka as your base for first night stay, before arriving Paihia for the 2nd night. Very different atmosphere and scenic appeal.

The detour to Tutukaka meets State-highway 1 again at Hikurangi. If possible, exit again a little further to Helena Bay and perhaps the best continental coffee stop in Nth Is at Helena Bay Gallery!. If you misssed don't worry, there are many sights around the Bay of Islands to see/do.

The Cape is extraordinary - meeting of the oceans! The Hokianga Harbour is awesome as well. See the giant kauri trees in the Waipoua Forest, then continue through Dargaville and Ruawai to Matakohe Museum. Time permitting it's well worth a visit. But with only 2 days in the north, you will have to streamline do'ble interests, given the short time available to return south. There are kauri giants in Puketi Forest close to Kerikeri. Lovely orchards and wineries around Kerikeri, historic setting also.

New Zealand
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3. Re: North Island destination queries

If you like "rugged coastal scenery" then you must do the East Cape. It is a fantastic drive, remote, rugged and beautiful scenery. You will not regret it and don't rush it.

Feed the stingrays, see penguins etc-


The road fron Gisborne to Napier is another great drive, make sure you visit Mahia Peninsula.

Visit the Morere Hot Springs-


I wouldn't go any further than Napier unless you travel to New Plymouth via Napier and Palmerston North.

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4. Re: North Island destination queries

Thanks for all your comments, there's a lot of research I'm going to have to do on all the places you've all mentioned. Picking an efficient route to/from Auckland ( after we've visited Northland) that takes in Coromandel, East Cape, Napier, Rotorua, Taupo, Tongariro NP and Mt Taranaki will be a challenge - any comments on using the Wanganui River Road rather than the main highway?

Next March seems a long way off but that leaves lots of time for planning!!

Victoria, Texas
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5. Re: North Island destination queries

Good Luck on the planning!!

Maple Ridge, Canada
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6. Re: North Island destination queries

Hi, the Wanganui River Road is very scenic but very twisted. It is a while since I travelled it but remember that large sections are unsealed. If you don't mind gravel and lots of bends then it is well worth the trip. Allow quite a lot more time than using the highway. Although if you travel from Raetihi to Wanganui you will be going through the Paraparas. This is also scenic but curvy, although sealed as it is the main route between Raetihi (or Ohakune) to Wanganui.

New Plymouth is a good base for Taranaki, it is the major city in the province.

Don't miss going to Russell in the North, you can catch a 10 minute passenger ferry from Paihia or use the vehicle ferry from Opua (10 min drive from Paiha). Russell is far more quaint than Paihia.

Ninety mile beach is great but be aware that it is quite a drive from Paihia, big day trip possible though. If you can make it all the way to Cape Reinga it is a good place where the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean meet.

Happy travelling.

Dunedin, New Zealand
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7. Re: North Island destination queries

fIf you don't mind driving back, getting all these spots (Coromandel, East Cape, Napier, Rotorua, Taupo, Tongariro NP and Mt Taranaki) will be quite easy - out of Auckland, head for Coromandel and then down to Rotorua, go east to Whakatane and then its just south from there to Opotoki, East Cape and on to Napier. My only suggestion: if you see a side road heading towards the coast, take it!

If you're still keen on Wellington, plan for a stop in the Martinborough area - lots of wine and some places of interest to foodies - and over the Rimutakas into Wellington.

Or you could skip Wellington - from Martinborough (or Napier), head back towards Palmerston North and up through Wanganui to Mt Egmont. New Plymouth isn't far from the mountain, and has a few more things going for it than the local towns - some very nice cafes and the museum, and one of the most scenic multistory carparks in the country: it is built right on the coast.

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8. Re: North Island destination queries

Thanks for the recent comments. I had not realised that the River Road was unsealed- that probably rules it out with a rental car.

New Zealand
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9. Re: North Island destination queries

Yeah, stay off unsealed roads with Rentals.It's often other vehicles in passing throwing the gravel up that is the problem.

New Plymouth for a Taranaki base is perfect.It's waterfront is beautiful with a 7 Km walkway from the harbour northwards.Well worth a walk at late evening or early morning.

And if you have time take the drive up to the Visitor Centre at North Egmont Village and do some of the walks there.Great views.

Cheap accom at the Camphouse there if you want to spend a night there.

It's a place many tourists miss.Possibly the only place in the world where, if you start out early morning, you can summit to the crater lake of an active volcano, and then that late afternoon, be swimming at a great beach.

10. Re: North Island destination queries

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