The Bay of Islands in Northland is a top top tourist destination for a reason, it is beautiful. However, it is busy and the beauty of it can only be truly appreciated by boat, which can be a bit expensive if you are not in possession of one. It is still definitely worth a visit and there are plenty of restaurants and things to do in its hub – Paihia. There are plenty of accommodation options here, however, if you are camping and on a bit of a budget I would suggest a quick pit stop on your way further north.
A short ferry ride from Paihia is Russell which is a picturesque little town, the first capital of New Zealand and previously known as the hellhole of the Pacific… It is anything but a hellhole these days and is a nice place to stop for a drink at New Zealand’s oldest pub, the Duke of Marlborough.
If you are in possession of a boat (luckily on one of my trips up north my friend was), then a drive past Russell to Rawhiti and a short boat ride to Urupukapuka Island is a must. There is a basic DOC campground at Urupukapuka Bay, which is a fantastic place to stay for a few nights. It is a beautiful island that is completely pest-free and full of native wildlife and stunning beaches.
While in the Bay of Islands a visit to Waitangi is a must-do for a dose of New Zealand heritage and culture and of course to learn a bit about the history of our wonderful country. It is free for New Zealanders to visit and a stroll around the Treaty grounds and a peak into the Museum is a great way to spend a couple of hours.
A 20 minute drive north and you will hit the lovely town of Kerikeri where you can visit a number of vineyards. Andrew’s favourite is Cottle Hill and he pens this as the place where he first learnt to appreciate wine and received the advice from the owner Mike that its only good wine if you like it. While in the area the lovely Rainbow Falls is also worth a quick visit.
Another half hour drive north is Matauri Bay which is a great place to camp in the area. The Matauri Bay Holiday Park only costs NZ$20 a night and is well set up and a gorgeous spot in the world. Nearby Wainui Bay is also a stunning beach to visit while in the area.
This part of Northland is lovely and it is pretty easy to keep costs down if you don’t fall into the tourist traps of Paihia and stick to camping and beaches a bit off the beaten path. If camping you’re looking at around NZ$50 per day. Add on a bit more if you want to go on a few boat trips or utilise the ferry to Russell.