Itinerary: A week in Northern New Zealand

During the end of August we will be traveling to New Zealand for just over a week.  During the trip we will be traveling round trip from Auckland to the most northern point of New Zealand.  A rental camper-van about the size of a mini-van will be our trusted stead for this journey.  Using a combination of various resources we have developed the following proposed itinerary for our trip to Northern New Zealand.

(Quick note about the pictures.  Since we have yet to go on this trip I have procured these from the internet with credit given.  I will update with my own photos upon our return.)

Getting to New Zealand

Reaching Auckland from the Central United States is quite the adventure.  At the time of our planning the most convenient option a connection from Houston via Air New Zealand for a non-stop 14 hour and 50 minute flight and while other options include going to California for a connection, you are still looking at least 13 hours in the air.  An added bonus for stopping in Houston is the excitement and ease of flying on the 787 Dreamliner, which is a brand new experience for both of us.

Because of time zones, we will leave Houston, TX at at 10:15 pm on Saturday and arrive on Monday at 6:05 am in Auckland. Despite the nearly 15 hour flight and then 17 hour time difference adding to the illusion of time lost, it will actually be about noon in Texas on Sunday when we arrive in Auckland.  Now that everyone has done the mental math about our arrival and departure times, lets move on to the adventure.

A Night in Auckland

Auckland, New Zealand by Dan Freeman,

It would be a little crazy, and very dangerous to tackle a cross-country drive soon after arriving on a 15 hour flight.  In order to acclimate and rest, we will be staying our first night in Auckland, at the Grand Mercure Hotel near the eastern side of the city. It looks very nice and will give us a great place to get refreshed and more adjusted to Auckland time.  In the morning we will start our journey in the Spaceship, the name of the company who rents the camper vans.

Stop 1: Whangarei

After a short 2 hour drive, which in Texas will only get you across the Metroplex, we will arrive in Whangarei.  We have booked a spot at a holiday park, or RV park here in the US.  It has space fora variety of options from tent camping all the way up to hotel accommodations.  It also offers a shared kitchen, and office, along with showers, and relaxing space.  After the stress of adjusting to driving  not only on the opposite side of the car, but also the opposite side of the road, we figured it would be time to relax and recharge.  This stop will also provide time to explore additional side trips if desired.
Whangarei Falls Footpath by Tim Swaan,

A planned stop on the way to Whangarei is in the Warkworth Area.  There is a car park right off the highway that provides a trail head which will provide either a quick hike, or a longer stroll up to a summit to enjoy some spectacular views.  This area is part of trail that travels through New Zealand, but we will just be seeing parts of it on this journey.  Maybe next time we can hike it!

Whangarei is a town of about 50,000 residents and will be the largest town on our road trip, excluding Auckland.  They have many grocery stores to stock up on supplies, and many sites to explore.  We will stay one night in Whangarei before heading north.  While in Whangarei we plan to explore the Whangerei Falls, Pukeni Forrest, and maybe some more waterfalls in the Taheke Waterfall Track.

Stop 2: Hihi Beach

Another 2 hour drive and we will be at our next stop, Hihi Beach Holiday Park near the city of Mangonui.  According to my highly sophisticated Google skills, the population in the Mangonui area is only approximately 2,000.  Some of the homes seem to be large estates tucked away on hillsides so I believe we will find peace and relaxation in this area for sure.  This area is on the south-eastern part of Doubtless Bay.  The holiday park’s driveway sites directly opposite some great views of the bay.  I can definitely see some jogging, or just standing and taking in the views in this area.

Wairakau Stream Crossing, New Zealand Department of Conservation

As we will not have a great distance to travel, we will be stopping along the way to take in some hiking.  At this point we will have a chance to stock up on supplies in Whangarei, so we can set out on some more strenuous hikes.  The Wairakau Stream Track offers 2 hours one way of hiking across challenging terrain, and looks like it may reward with amazing views.  This is just over 90 minutes from our previous stop, and about 30 minutes from our final destination for the night.

We will spend one night of relaxing in Hihi Beach before heading North to Cape Reinga.

Stop 3: Cape Reinga

Another 2 hour drive north and we will arrive at the most northern point in New Zealand, Cape Reinga.  This area is known as the Te Paki Recreation Reserve, and there are numerous DOC campgrounds in this area.  The plan is to utilize the Tapotupotu Camping Area, located east of Cape Reinga and offer many sites and activities.  We will spend two nights in this area, and we have the option of moving sites depending on what we find.

While staying at the campsite we will explore part of the Te Araroa Trail which starts near Cape Reinga and continues across the entirety of New Zealand.  The area also offers other trails, beaches, and activities. Other trails  that we plan to explore include one that goes from Tapotupotu Bay to Cape Reinga, and the Te Paki Coastal Track that heads east from Tapotupotu Bay.
Cape Reinga, NZ by Matthew Waters

Stop 4: Kauri Coast Holiday Park

This will be the longest leg for driving, but should also provide ever changing, and beautiful views.  The drive will start in Cape Reinga, travel through the Raetea Forest, Omahuta Forest, and then turn toward the west coast as we head through the Waipou Forest.  This area is known for the Kauri Trees which are currently struggling from disease so many trails may be closed in this area.

Trounson Kauri Forest

The nearly five hour drive will not allow too much time for side trips on this leg, but we will be sure to make stops for breaks which will all be with a scenic backdrop.  A quick break will allow us to enjoy the Four Sisters Walk, and Te Matua Ngahere Walk both which feature some the largest and oldest Kauri Trees.  We will be staying in a Holiday Park on this stop.  After two days on the beach, it may be nice to have a few more amenities like a shower.  Once we get settled into camp, we can hike up the road and enjoy the Trounson Kauri Park Loop Tracks, and if time permits we may explore part of the Mount Tutamoe Track

Stop 5: Waiheke Island

The trip back from the Kauri Coast will take about three hours.  On the trip back into Auckland there there are a couple of possible stops.  The first stop is the Mount Auckland Atuanui Walkway, and the second is Karekare Waterfall.  With the Kauri Dieback disease affecting this area, many of the trails are closed, but we will only be looking for mostly quick trails to explore on the way back into Auckland.

Once in Auckland we will be turning back in the campervan and headed to Waiheke Island.  The train will take us up to the Auckland Ferry Terminal where we can catch a ferry over to the island.  Our accommodations are just a short walk up the trail.  The island offers some great views, and an opportunity to explore a little off the beaten path.  If we have time and are looking for adventure we may look into part of the Matietie Walk.  We may also get a bottle of wine and relax in our room which will offer great views of sunset and sunrise.

Getting Home

We have an afternoon flight so we will not be in a rush in the morning.  The ferry and bus transit to the airport takes maybe a couple of hours.  If we find in anything in Auckland that we want to revisit we can circle back around on the way out of time and hit up any spots we missed.  Once checked into the airport we get to look forward to the long trip home.

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