This part of the world is truly spectacular and if you have the time then it is well worth the long drive north. After all that driving you will bee in need of a snack so stop in at Mangonui Fish Shop for some fish and chips. Yes it is always pretty busy and yes it is a bit overpriced, but the food is good and you get great views over Doubtless Sound. Watch out for the seagulls who are very overconfident and may steal your food.
Only half an hour north of Mangonui is the incredibly beautiful Matai Bay. During the school holidays this place fills up super quick so I would recommend coming outside of that period. The campground is big and and the upper part of it gives you great views of the bay. There’s a few rocks to go fishing off (not that we were very successful) and the water is beautiful to swim in.
Our next stop was at Rarawa Beach, which in my opinion was the best place we visited on this trip. The reason for this is that it is so quiet and secluded, there is hardly anyone around and you truly feel like you have got away from the world for a while. We stayed here a couple of nights in the DOC campsite which was cheap and well set up. The beach is not as conventionally beautiful as Matai Bay, however, it has a white sand ruggedness that is another kind of spectacular. With no one for miles on the beach, you could be forgiven for thinking that you are on a deserted island.
Heading further north, after about 45 minutes, you will see a a turn off for the Giant Te Paki Sand Dunes. This a fun place to stop for some sand boarding down the dunes. If you don’t have a body board already, then there are a lot of places around that will rent them to you for a cheap price. We found that twice up and down was enough to satisfy our tastes due to the grueling climb through the sand to get to the top! Once at the top of the dunes it is worth going for a little walk to get some great views over to Ninety Mile Mile Beach. Ninety Mile Mile Beach is exactly what it sounds like, it is a vast, deserted beach, that you can even drive on. A walk down to the beach itself is also worthwhile while in the area.
No trip this far north would be complete without visiting Cape Reinga, the northwesternmost tip of New Zealand. If you want to camp up here then the DOC campsite at Spirits Bay is the place to stay. Unfortunately due to time restrictions we couldn’t do it on this trip, but it is on our list for the next! Cape Reinga is a great place to check out the views and see the rugged coastline of the north.
The far north is probably my favourite place in New Zealand and going camping up here is something we try and and do every summer. The DOC campsites are cheap to stay at (NZ$11 – NZ$15 per night) and costs are further kept down by cooking your own food at the campsites – not hard when fresh seafood is so accessible! Overall you’re looking at about NZ$50 per day.