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By Ben Tutty
January 26, 2017
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A Road Tripper's Guide to the Far North

Where the feet are bare, the sand is white and seafood is abundant.
By Ben Tutty
January 26, 2017
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We're in the midst of a balmy Kiwi summer and there's a couple glorious long weekends on the near horizon. As wonderful as Auckland is, it's time to vacate for warmer climes, where the feet are bare, the sand is white and seafood is abundant.

We're talking about a Northland road trip. It's an Aucklander's rite of passage, and the best place to be when Waitangi and Auckland Anniversary Weekend roll around. If you fancy the prospect of pristine beaches and weather that's a degree or two warmer, read on for a few must-hit spots for your trip up to top town.

Alec McCutcheon

Alec McCutcheon

EAT

Parua Bay Tavern

She's a fair drive up to the tip of the North Island. The length of the journey gives you a decent excuse to stop for a while and enjoy a refreshment or two, served with fresh seafood and a ten out of of ten ocean view. Parua Bay Tavern looks like a typical country pub, until you look out the back. An expansive deck covered in picnic tables sits before a rolling lawn that goes right down to the beautiful calm waters of Parua Bay — one of Whangarei Head's most picturesque spots.

Ake Ake Vineyard Restaurant

Forget to stock up on vinos for your journey north? A tad peckish from all the driving? Kill two birds with one stone at Ake Ake Vineyard Restaurant. Sit amongst the vines on a subtropical Northland night and treat yourself to an organic wine made on sight and a beautiful meal made with seasonal, local produce. You can't go wrong with the market fish or the pork belly if you're struggling to choose.

Mangonui Fish Shop

If you've tripped up to Northland and you didn't go to the Mangonui Fish Shop, your roadie doesn't even count. This place is a Northland institution serving fresh fish and chips right out over the water, in one of Northland's most quaint little historic towns. It's a tad expensive (we're talking $9 for a piece of snapper), so if you're on a budget pop down to Fresh and Tasty Takeaways. They're set in the Mangonui Pub (the northernmost pub in NZ) and serve fish almost as good as the fish shop at half the price. On the other hand, if you're not big on fish and chips, the Thai joint down the road does a top notch curry.

urt

Rangiputa Urts

STAY

Tutukaka

On the road to the far north a stay in one of the beautiful little beach side settlements around Whangarei is a must. Our favourite has to be Tutukaka, one of the most idyllic coastal locations in the country, complete with postcard-worthy white sand beaches, world-class diving spots and a number of pumping surf beaches. If you're after a wave make sure you head out to Sandy Bay — this spot looks like something straight out of a surf movie, and if you head up late in summer you may just get the waves all to yourself.

Mabel's Historic Cottage

150 years ago a tiny coastal town near the top of the North Island was thriving as a whaling and trading town. Fast forward to today and most of the buildings are still standing, and Mangonui's now one of the best places to stay if you're exploring the north. Mabel's Historic Cottage is one of those old buildings still in place, and it's our pick of the places to stay in here. If the old girl was any closer to the water she'd be a house boat. It's five minutes walk to the incredible Mangonui Fish Shop and not to mention central to most of the far north's best beaches.

Rangiputa Urts

Ashore from a shallow harbour filled with crystal clear water, a white beach stretches out in a tight horse shoe bordered by towering pines and a small collection of rustic batches. This is Rangiputa, a wee beach on the tip of the Karikari Peninsula where a certain Concrete Playground writer grew up. Away from all the baches, the beach is usually completely deserted. Down the quiet end of the beach you'll find a rustic urt/teepee available for rent, set just off the white sand among native bush. If you're up for getting in touch with nature this isolated paradise is the ideal getaway.

Wasp Photography

Wasp Photography

BEACH

Kai Iwi Lakes

Just out of Dargaville you'll find a little known fresh water lake, surrounded by bone white beaches and grassy campgrounds. It's easy to spend a few days up here, barbecuing lake side, enjoying the views over the uber-clear light blue waters and perhaps swimming out to one of many pontoons to indulge in a bomb or two. The water is super shallow so you'll be pleasantly surprised at how warm it gets during summer.

Matai Bay

Surrounded by open fields, Maori land, and blooming Pohutukawa trees, Matai Bay looks like something lifted straight off a cheesy postcard. It's a small golden sand cove, before a crystal blue harbour dotted with rocky islands. For a slice of the bay to yourself, hang a left under the boat ramp and walk to the far end of the beach. Otherwise if you're seeking a thrill, wack your way through the bush covering the hill on the right end of the beach and you'll find a stone ledge a few metres high that serves as a perfect diving board.

Puheke

Few beaches in Northland are so easy to access, yet so utterly untouched and pristine. Bring the 4x4, drive down a pothole infested gravel road wide enough for one car and park on the dunes, or drive down the beach if you're feeling super ballsy. Go outside peak season and you'll be the only one on this rugged white sand beach, and climb over the rocks on your right to explore a cave that occasionally fills out with massive bats. If that sounds like a bad time come on the right day and head to the left end of the beach— the surf's often stellar.

Image: Wasp Photography

Published on January 26, 2017 by Ben Tutty

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