A few weekends ago, we did a weekend road trip up North to Hokianga Harbour. In all my years living in New Zealand, it’s an area I’ve never been to before. I haven’t explored Northland much at all so I was really excited for our little weekend away. We managed to fit so much in and I had an amazing time.
Just like our Rotorua trip, I’ll go through all the places we went to in chronological order. Hokianga Harbour is about a 3-hour drive from Auckland and it is towards the west coast of Northland. It’s quite a historic place especially to Māori.
Our first stop on the way to Hokianga Harbour was Baylys Beach which is just after Dargaville. It’s a beautiful long beach that is accessible to cars so you can drive on the sand. The waves were really strong so I don’t really think it’s a swimming beach but it was fun driving along it.
This green VW Caddy was not only our transportation but also our accommodation during this roadtrip. I’ll show how a bit later down this post but it’s a pretty cool vehicle. Great for road trips and camping! We survived through the winding and gravel roads too.
Kai Iwi Lakes
After Baylys Beach, we stopped at Kai Iwi Lakes which was such a pleasant surprise. We’ve both never been there before and on that hot sunny day, Lake Taharoa looked beautiful. It was like finding a tropical paradise in the middle of nowhere. The sand was white and fine and the water was warm. It’s definitely on my list of places to go back to during summer.
After this, we checked out two of the largest known Kauri trees in NZ.
Te Matua Ngahere
Te Matua Ngahere is the second largest Kauri tree. The walk towards this tree is fairly quick (about 10-15mins) and the photos just doesn’t show the scale and size of this tree. I was actually taken aback by it because I thought we had a few more minutes before we reached it and I turned and I was greeted by its massiveness. Its name means Father of the forest. It’s about 29.9metres tall, 16.4m girth and is estimated to be over 2000 years old. Apparently, it has the biggest girth of any tree in NZ. It’s amazing.
Tāne Mahuta is the largest living Kauri tree in NZ. It’s also hard to show the scale of this tree it’s tall. Its name means Lord of the forest. In Māori cosmology, Tāne is the god of forests and birds and is the life giver. This tree is estimated to be around 2000 – 2500 years old. It’s not as wide as Te Matua Ngahere but it is much taller at 51.5m and 13.8m in trunk girth.
Arai Te Uru Reserve
After the magnificent trees, was magnificent views as we stopped at Arai Te Uru Reserve which is the south head of the Hokianga Harbour. The view here is quite diverse. You have the Tasman sea, giant sand dunes and the harbour entrance.
There are a few tracks in this nature reserve and we did the Signal Station track which leads to the scenic lookout. If you’re in this area, you have to stop by this place.
Our last stop for the day was Rawene where we stayed the night at the holiday park. We got fish and chips from Hokianga Takeaways for dinner with the view above and then set up our accommodation for the night.
This caddy is pretty cool. It has a bed in the back and you can attach this tent thing to make more room and extend the back of the car. There are clip in hanging storage too which also block the windows for privacy. I have never slept in a car overnight before but after this experience, I’m into it! It was comfortable, roomy and I didn’t get too hot or too cold. It was a great first time experience for me and I’d do it again. Staying in the caddy beats staying in a tent any day. I hope this trip isn’t the last time we use it like this because the setup and take down were quick too.
Rawene Holiday Park was also pretty nice. It has great views, has a kitchen, unlimited hot showers and a pool.
We woke up the next day, slowly packed up and headed to Boatshed Cafe. It’s right by the water so it has a really nice view. The coffee and food were pretty good too.
Across the road from the cafe is a small shop that sells puzzles and random assortments. At the front of the shop is where we saw Rawene’s own famous cat, Archie. Archie is basically Rawene’s Mittens (Wellington’s famous cat). Archie is super friendly and cute. We had a few good pats with him.
After we’ve eaten, we drove towards our first proper destination, Wairere Boulders.
Wairere Boulders is a private nature reserve with geologically unique rock formations. You do have to pay to get in but it’s worth it. There are multiple tracks in this reserve and we did the boulder loop. If we had more time, we probably would’ve done the lookout and we didn’t know there was also a swimming hole so we could’ve taken a dip. Regardless, I really loved this place.
My photos don’t really do this place justice. The rock formations are so cool. I felt tiny amongst the massive rocks. A place like this will make you appreciate how amazing nature is. The unique boulders were from a volcanic eruption around 2.8million years ago at the site of Lake Omapere resulting in deep basalt layers. Then nature did its thing and the boulders ended up there.
The track is laid out really well as you go through the rocks, bridges and there are random information dotted throughout too. This was probably my main highlight/activity of our trip.
After Wairere Boulders, we did try to find the Koutu Boulders in Oponini but these boulders are by the beach and can only be accessed at low tide. We didn’t want to risk it so we went back and checked out the Waiotemarama Falls instead.
This waterfall is located within the Waima Forest and about 15mins from Opononi. The Waiotemarama Waterfall loop walk is a short 10min walk which is nice. It’s small but walking to it was quite nice as it felt like you’re deep in the forest. There is a much longer track which will take about 2hours.
After the falls, we actually went back to Kai Iwi Lakes / Lake Taharoa. It was our last stop before heading home.
For a weekend road trip, we managed to squeeze in a lot of things but it didn’t feel too busy or exhausting. I think we had a good balance and I really enjoyed it. There is so much more of Northland I haven’t explored but I am glad I’ve ticked Hokianga Harbour off my list. I’d gladly come back here again. It’s a beautiful area and there is more to explore too.
Years ago, I wouldn’t have thought I would be into sleeping in a car / camping but I would happily do this again and one day I would love to have a proper campervan road trip around parts of New Zealand.