5 Astounding Places in the Far North

You may have stumbled across my rather pessimistic post about things to do in Kerikeri. Don’t get me wrong, I do like it here, but you need to get out of here to find the fun stuff, EXCEPT for the following:



Mike’s Mini Putt on Rainbow Falls Road: This has become a pretty trendy place to hang out, especially if there’s a sausage sizzle on. I used to hate mini-golf, but I don’t lose as much now I’ve got small kids!

Rainbow Falls itself after a storm: We spent a scary hour at dusk once watching a German guy abseiling down the side of the falls. As it got darker and darker, and he didn’t progress for ages, we called the police. German guy got down shortly afterwards, and was mightily pissed off to find the police waiting for him. So much for trying to do a good deed.

The Stone Store: It’s the oldest stonstreetparty2 smle building in New Zealand! By European standards that’s not saying much, but the shop itself is worth a visit, and the whole Stone Store Basin is a nice place to spend an hour or two.

Marty’s Golf/Archery Cafe (north of Kerikeri) : Three good things in one. I have to put a plug in for Marty and his gang because they’re seriously nice people and do a great job.

Best Place to Lunch in Town is currently The Rusty Tractor, just off State Highway 10, on Kerikeri Road. Great food and atmosphere.


Best Kerikeri Event is the Street Party following the Half Marathon in November (see photo).




Paihia is on the coast in an area of extra-historical importance, and only 20 minutes drive from KerikerWakas and Wahinei.

This place has:

Beaches – which Kerikeri doesn’t have.

Dolphins, as pestered by the Dolphin Cruises.

Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Free if you have an NZ driving licence, and pretty interesting for an hour or two. This place is heaving for Waitangi Day in February, when you get to have dinner with the PM!

I can recommend Alfresco’s for dinner, right the way down the far end of Paihia, with live music on a Sunday afternoon.




Packed full of history, and still playing on it’s age-old reputation as the Hellhole of the Pacific (it’s really noRussell Sailorst that bad now), Russell is my favourite local place. You have to take a ferry to get there, so it must be good.

Book in with Sign of the Times and dress up for a fun Hellhole photoshoot.

Grab an icecream at Karen & Phil’s Kapai Coffee place (if you time it right, there might be eccles cakes too!), and sit on the wharf to watch the boats come in. With any luck, you’ll see the R Tucker Thompson. Feed your cone to the seagulls.

Visit the Museum and Church for interesting history lessons.

If you’re around in April, and you like a bit of exercise, the Cape Brett Challenge events are seriously gorgeous (and seriously challenging)


3.  HOKIANGAhokianga black and white

Don’t get me started on this place. It would take a lot of words. Instead, I’ll just give you a link to follow.






4.  MITIMITIBeach Cows

It’s a long way, but this place is unlike anywhere else. Mitimiti doesn’t know what an enclosure is, so the animals roam free. This is the only place I’ve ever seen a herd of cows lying on a beach…. just because they want to. Aside from the animal thing, there isn’t much to do other than revel in the dramatic swells of the fierce Tasman Sea, and there are no shops or cafes. For food, go back to Kohukohu, or eat at The Boatshed in Rawene.



5.  MATAURI BAY Scenic DriveSAM_2533

Be blown away by the views on this loop road. There’s a layby above Matauri Bay (after the Te Reo school) where everybody stops to gawp. We still pull over after four years of living here. Matauri Bay has access to the Rainbow Warrior wreck which was towed here to it’s final resting place. There’s a Rainbow Warrior Memorial on top of the hill by the Holiday Park.

Keep following the loop road to gorgeous beaches like Te Ngaere and Tauranga Bay.

End up at Whangaroa Harbour, and eat fish and chips at the Marlin Hotel. If you’re lucky (or unlucky depending on your viewpoint) you’ll be there when they bring the marlins in.

Ask someone about a ship called The Boyd, or visit the tiny museum in Kaeo to learn more about the massacre in Whangaroa harbour (1809).




The best way to visit the Cape (traditional departure point for souls of Maori people on their way back to their legendary homelands, and northernmost point of NZ) is probably on a coach trip leaving very early in the morning. If you drive yourself, it feels like such a long way, with not much of interest on the way up.

When you get there, it’s important to know that it’s forbidden to eat in the vicinity of Cape Reinga. This includes the car park. So, after that long journey, there’s nowhere to get anything to eat or drink, and you can’t unpack your picnic. We had two small children with us, and they weren’t happy with the situation! Luckily there is a beautiful beach ten minutes drive back down the road for just such a top-up. We drove down, ate our picnic there, and drove back again.

Cape Reinga is beautiful, and we were there on a particularly gorgeous day, but is it worth the long  journey if you’re just visiting Northland? I don’t enjoy travelling, I endure it. I would say ‘no’.



If you’re planning a trip to the Far North, please feel free to ask questions.

If you live in, or have visited, the Far North, please add your own recommendations in the comments. Thank you!


(This post is mostly for Graham, who requested it. Thanks for reminding me that I haven’t covered this important information yet, and it also gives me chance to link back to many older posts)



  1. Hi Jo. This is terrific! Thank you so much for this. I love the idea of cows roaming on a beach and Hokianga sounds quite something…I shall put it to a family vote as we will have our first visitors with us at Christmas time.

    • Hi Jo! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you. We have just got back from our first trip to Northland and I wanted to thank you for all of you help. We visited Paihia, Russell, Hokianga, Matauri Bay and Kerikeri. You live in a truly beautiful part of our world. We went dolphin watching in the Bay of Islands, went to the Parrot Place in Kerikeri, visited Waitangi and just generally had an amazing time…so much so that my wife and I are left pondering if this area might be the place for us in the medium term! Which begs the next question…what is the jobs market like in your part of the world? 😃

  2. Happy New Year, Graham! I’m so glad you enjoyed it up here. It has a lot to offer – not so much in the rain though, so I hope you didn’t get too much of that. It sounds like you did the whole package!
    Jobs…hhhmmm… that’s a difficult one. You have to either get very lucky, or do two or three jobs to pull in enough money to live on. Are you or your wife in computing? Far North District Council are often looking for programmers. Top Energy is a big employer too. Also, the hospitals are always recruiting. Seek.co.nz is probably the best website for jobs in this area. Let me know if I can do anything to help.
    All the best for 2015!
    JO x

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s