Northland, North Island

including Bay of Islands and Whangarei

HERO Northland with kids

Northland family holidays

HERO Northland 2

Cape Reinga lighthouse, Northland

HERO Northland 3

Northland, New Zealand

HERO Northland 4

NInety Mile Beach, Northland

HERO Northland 5

Waitangi Treaty Grounds, Bay of Islands

Visiting Northland and the Bay of Islands

Walks and Parks

Walks & Parks

Get Outdoors!

Discover the region's walks, parks, beaches, lakes or rivers.

Beautiful, unspoiled beaches, fishing, historic gum fields, kauri forests – the Far North has it all. With subtropical temperatures, the Far North is often known as ‘the Winterless north', with warm, humid summers and mild winters.

Twin Coast Discovery Highway

This scenic, circular route gives you the opportunity to explore the best of Northland, following one coast up to NZ's tip, Cape Reinga, where both coasts meet, and the other coast back down. The road splits about 2 hours drive north of Auckland.

Whangarei, Paihia, Kerikeri and the Bay of Islands

The Bay of Islands, visited by Captain Cook in 1769, is known as the birthplace of New Zealand and is encircled by 144 islands. The region of Whangarei and the Bay of Islands is an outdoor paradise with its subtropical climate and white, sandy beaches, perfect for a family holiday.


Whangarei is the main city of the region and features the Quayside Town Basin - a marina with restaurants, shops, arts and crafts and a children’s playground. See the largest collection of clocks in the Southern Hemisphere or visit the kiwis in their natural habitat.

South of Whangarei is Bream Bay’s white sand and clear waters where the children can swim safely and enjoy the leisure activities on offer. There is plenty to explore in Bream’s Bay, with its beaches and caves, waterfalls and walkways. Famous for its Scottish heritage, Waipu features markets in the winter at Waipu festival from June to August every year.

Continue up Northland’s east coast and you’ll find stunning coastline, gorgeous, protected inlets, cute accommodation and numerous perfect holiday bases.  Below we introduce just a few of the main townships or beachside communities.


This tiny coastal town deserves its own mention as a special place, super-friendly and with all the ingredients of the perfect, Kiwi summer holiday. Tutukaka is just 30km north of Whangarei and consists of one main waterfront street with laid back cafes and restaurants on one side and a pretty marina and sandy beach on the other. Like so much of the Bay of Islands, the cove is protected and perfect with children with lots of excellent, flat swimming or kayaking spots.  

Look out to sea and not far away you’ll see the Poor Knights Islands – one of NZ’s world-class gems and considered by Jacques Cousteau to be one of the world’s top dive spots. A day out here is a must-do. Check out options with the waterfront business Dive! Tutukaka – if not diving you can still get out to the Poor Knights for the day and check out the amazing arches of these pristine volcanic islands. Other Poor Knights activities include sailing, kayaking and dolphin, seal or orca spotting.


Gateway to the Bay of Islands, Paihia is a pretty, lively beachside town and a perfect base for your family holiday. It’s your start point for Bay of Island adventures including day cruises, sailing, kayaking, swimming with dolphins and reef or wreck diving. Children can participate in most activities (minimum ages may apply, for instance, generally around 8 years for swimming with dolphins).

The town itself has a huge variety of accommodation, cafes, restaurants, live music, supermarkets, bike hire, galleries and craft shops.

If you fancy a day away from the water there are waterfalls, gorgeous family-friendly walks, flat bike tracks, hot pools, Action World adventure playground and plenty more activities.  A good rainy day outing – visit nearby Kawakawa, including a vintage railway, glowworm caves and the world-famous 'must-visit' public toilets!  Waitangi –  other Paihia-based excursions not to be missed include a wander along the foreshore to Waitangi (2 minutes by car), scene of the 1840 signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. There are activity-based tours to keep the kids interested, and a great café onsite.  Admission is free to New Zealanders.


Kerikeri is an ideal haven from which to enjoy the best of the Bay of Islands. Only 20 minutes drive from Paihia it boasts plenty of gorgeous bays, quirky cafes, galleries, bush walks, waterfalls and bike tracks.  The town itself is idyllic and steeped in history with New Zealand's oldest building and historic landmarks adding to its charm.  Kerikeri cool activities and places to explore include The Parrot Place, Palmco Gardens, Old Stone Store, Kemp Mission House, Rewas Village, the wonderful Makana Chocolate Factory and the old Packhouse Market.  There are plenty of family friendly accommodation options on offer, in the township and also nestled in the outstanding local countryside.


Ferries between Paihia and Russell depart several times an hour throughout the day. The passenger ferry goes between the two town centres, while the car ferry (10 minutes on the water), goes between nearby Opua and Okiato Wharf, 5km from Russell. The tiny township of Russell is home to yet more pristine and calm sandy beaches, cafes, great fish and chips and plenty of accommodation.


Whangaroa Harbour is a haven of unspoiled beaches and scenic coastline.  It's just half an hour north of Paihia or south of Doubtless Bay and a great base for your boating, fishing or kayaking adventures.  This is really getting into unspoiled and scenic New Zealand and it's well worth slowing the pace and stopping for a while.  You can also access some superb dive spots from here, one of the most famous being the dive to the Rainbow Warrior (not suitable for children).  

Doubtless Bay 

With its 70 kilometres of unspoiled coastline, Doubtless Bay extends from Taupo Bay in the east to the Karikari Peninsula in the west and includes the settlements of Coopers Beach, Cable Bay, Taipa and Whatuwhiwhi. The name Doubtless Bay originates from Captain Cook’s visit in 1769 when he sailed past and declared it ‘doubtless a bay’. Doubtless Bay has something to offer everyone, whether its relaxing on the beautiful beaches, buying some of the local arts and crafts, swimming with dolphins, or watching movies in the tiny Swamp Palace cinema.  If you visit over summer, around Christmas, you may be lucky enough to see the Pohutukawa in bloom all along the beaches, creating one of New Zealand's prettiest and most iconic vistas.
Mangonui – this very cute seaside town is close to some of Doubtless Bay's best beaches, and home to the famous Mangonui fish and chip shop, overlooking the harbour.  Although very touristy, if you get it when it's not too crowded, we recommend a visit... the food is superb and the setting is the perfect fish and chips location!

Ninety Mile Beach and Cape Reinga

Ninety Mile Beach beach is actually a highway but is suitable for 4WD vehicles only, and rental companies don't allow you to drive this stretch of coastline. Therefore it's easier to take a tour to explore its length (tours include sand dune tobogganing, Cape Reinga and lunch and they are cheaper and safer than taking your own car), or wander along parts of it on foot.

Cape Reinga and its famous lighthouse – the northern-most tip of mainland New Zealand, are 100km north of the nearest town, Kaitaia.  Cape Reinga separates the Tasman Sea on its west side and the Pacific Ocean on its east. The name of the cape, the Maori word, Reinga, means 'underworld' and another Māori name is 'Te Rerenga Wairua', meaning the leaping-off place of spirits. Both refer to the Māori belief that the cape is the point where the spirits of the dead enter the underworld.

Western Route, Dargaville and Kauri Coast

This beautiful, scenic drive passes through the amazing Kauri in Waipoua Forest and the tiny town of Hokianga Harbour.


The most northern town in New Zealand, Kaitaia is a busy farming town with its surrounding area supporting industries such as wine and fruit growing. The town is the starting point for coach tours to Cape Reinga and New Zealand’s famous 90 mile beach.  Nearby Ahipara, on the West Coast, is worth a visit for its superb surfing and views back along Ninety Mile beach.

Hokianga Harbour

This region is a great base to explore the giant Kauri, experience a sanddune buggy ride, discover the fabulous beaches and walk/bike trails or take a ferry across the harbour between the wee townships of Rawene and Kohukohu.

Waipoua Forest and the Kauri Kings

The highlight of the Western Route is the great Kauri forests with the giant Kauri known as Tane Mahuta as its King – you'll be filled with disbelief at its immense size! The giants are just a short drive and then a few minutes walk through the forest.  The highway has signposts along the way indicating good walks to some of the most amazing Kauri.  The biggest of all - Tane, is only 5 minutes walk off the highway.  


Dargaville dates back to the late 1800s and its history is reflected in the number of 19th century buildings in a town of some 4,800 people. Known as New Zealand’s ‘Kumara Capital’ and producing two thirds of the country’s kumara, Dargaville is also the main centre for the Kauri Coast and its timber industry.


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Our favourite destinations…


New Zealand’s economic heart and biggest city is also an exciting family visitor destination, situated on a sunny harbour with city beaches just minutes away from the CBD. Orientate yourself by heading down to Viaduct Harbour, wandering the waterfront, checking out the super yachts or enjoying the waterfront restaurants. Nearby is the must-visit Sky Tower along with excellent and kid-friendly museums and tons of exciting activities!


Wellington is New Zealand’s capital. Here you will find New Zealand's parliament buildings, including the 'Executive Wing', more well-known as 'The Beehive' due to its distinctive shape. Another icon to look out for is the Wellington Tram, which was the main means of public transport between 1878 and 1964.


With a population of around 400,000 Christchurch, in Canterbury, is the South Island ’s largest city, yet much of it has the feel of a small town. Perhaps that’s why it’s known as the Garden City but with the expansive Hagley Park, Botanic Gardens, Port Hills, River Avon and numerous beaches the city certainly has an open, relaxed feel that’s hard to beat.


With its well-deserved reputation as New Zealand’s activity adventure capital you’ll never run out of activities and things to do in Queenstown, but you may run out of time! With breathtaking scenery, activities and festivals, cafes and restaurants, skiing and snowboarding, shopping and wineries, this lakeside alpine resort rates as one of the world’s top vacation destinations for all ages and seasons.


Rotorua sits on the shore of Lake Rotorua, one of sixteen lakes in the area formed by hundreds of thousands of years of eruptions from the Taupo Volcanic Zone. The area is renowned for its geothermal activity and top of any activity list is to see the bubbling mud pools that are around the region for yourself. The Waimangu Volcanic Valley offers a first hand insight into the devastation caused by the 1886 eruption of Mount Tarawera and is a great place to discover steaming volcanic craters and bubbling, spitting  pools of mud!

Nelson and Golden Bay

The Nelson and Golden Bay regions, at the top of the South Island, boast enviable sunshine hours, glorious sandy beaches, safe swimming spots, lots of wildlife to look out for, and Abel Tasman National Park - an absolute must to explore, on foot, by kayak, your own craft or watertaxi.  Nelson is home to a vibrant arts and crafts community with a fabulous Saturday market, and is close to award-winning wineries and family-friendly bike tracks to take you around the coast.

Hawkes Bay

Napier was rebuilt after the 1931 earthquake and is now known as NZ's Art Deco City.  The Art Deco influence has created a unique city – nowhere else can you see such a varied concentration of art deco style. With over 2,200 sunshine hours a year, Napier is a year-round holiday destination with countless activities to entertain the kids – there's days of entertainment on Marine Parade alone, plus numerous other family-friendly trips and activities.  Add to that the beaches, walks and flat cycle paths, outdoor cafes and entertainment, and you have a perfect holiday destination!


Beautiful, unspoiled beaches, fishing, historic gum fields, kauri forests – the Far North has it all. With subtropical temperatures, it's often known as ‘the Winterless north', with warm, humid summers and mild winters.
Gateway to the Bay of Islands, Paihia is a pretty, lively beachside town and a perfect base for your family holiday. It’s your start point for Bay of Island adventures including day cruises, sailing, kayaking, swimming with dolphins and reef or wreck diving.