Beach Hopping in Northland

Discover Northland’s captivating coastal wonders with a road trip venturing northward from Auckland. We’ve created a four-day itinerary for the ultimate family holiday, comprising everything from hikes in regional parks to swimming and surfing in sandy bays. Remember to check the safe swim status of any beaches you’re visiting to ensure a fun experience for all. 

Rangitoto Island
Day 1: Auckland to Whangaparāoa

Starting in Auckland, pick up your Dollar rental car and begin your journey with a drive to Shakespear Regional Park. A perfect place to spend the day on your way to Northland, Shakespear offers places to picnic, hiking trails and swim-safe beaches for all to enjoy. If you’re looking for a shorter hiking option for the family, the Kanuka Track is a 15-minute trail, winding through forest with native birds aflutter, while the Ōkoromai Track takes up to an hour and you’ll see farm animals and get picturesque views across the Hauraki Gulf. Check for closed tracks before heading out and take plenty of photos to remember your time in the Park. Cool off after venturing the Park with a visit to Army Bay Beach on the Whangaparāoa Peninsula. Let the clear blue waters lift your spirits as you reflect on your outdoor adventure so far and enjoy dinner at a bayside restaurant. For a more secluded spot, Orewa Beach is nearby and offers a long stretch of sand to stroll before turning in for the night. 

Tawharanui Peninsula
Day 2: Beach Relaxation and Mountain Adventures

Wake up early for a two-hour drive to Whangārei Heads. Load up your rental car with plenty of snacks and water, games and activities to keep your family occupied on the drive. If you’d like to split up the route, take a detour to the Tāwharanui Peninsula, the perfect spot to stretch your legs and admire the scenery. Once you’ve arrived in Whangārei Heads, visit Ocean Beach for some sandcastle building and swimming, and explore Mount Manaia, a 420-metre high mountain covered in bushland. If you’re up for the challenge, get your tramping boots ready and climb the 2km trail up to the summit for breathtaking views across Whangārei Harbour. Next, continue north to reach Matapouri, a coastal town on the Tutukaka Coast. Settle in for a picnic lunch as you embrace the beautiful beachy views. Just five minutes east, you’ll find Sandy Bay Beach, a popular spot for families holidaying in the area. Enjoy watching the sunset on the horizon, or visit earlier in the day for an exciting horse riding experience along the shore.

Russel Township
Day 3: Bay of Islands

As you continue your beach-hopping adventure around Northland, drive north to reach Paihia, the gateway to Bay of Islands. Popular for those who love scuba diving and underwater exploration, the Bay of Islands comprises dive sites and sandy beaches, offering plenty of opportunities to dip your toes or dive in headfirst. Explore the town and its family-friendly attractions and have a bite to eat at Letz Cafe before catching the ferry to Russell. For a scenic view of the area, head out on the Flagstaff Hill Track which takes you through native bushland and past wetlands, and get a dose of local history with a guided tour of the Pompallier Mission and Printery. Once you’re back in Paihia, swap sun kissed beaches for cascading waterfalls with a visit to Haruru Falls. Pause for a moment to capture photos of the scenic display and pack a picnic for lunch immersed in nature. To end your third day, head over the Waitangi Bridge to arrive at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Here, you’ll be able to stand where the British Crown and the Maori people signed the founding document of New Zealand/Aotearoa and learn even more about the area’s important cultural history. 

Doubtless Bay
Day 4: Coopers Beach to Taupō Bay

Drive to Coopers Beach, a beautiful long stretch of sands and safe waters, ideal for swimming. Children can enjoy spending the morning building sandcastles and playing beach games, while friends and family relax on the foreshore. Pack some outdoor games, snacks and drinks and turn it into an all-out family affair to commemorate the last day of your road trip. Next, head to Taupō Bay for more beach fun. Get some afternoon exercise in with a walk along the foreshore, then spend some time snorkelling, kayaking, or simply relaxing on the sand. There’s also the Lane Cove Hut to Duke's Nose Peak trail which leads to Kaiaraara Rocks, giving you stunning views across Whangaroa Harbour. From here, you can begin your return journey to Auckland, or if you’d like to extend your stay, consider travelling to Cape Reinga to see the lighthouse and Tapotupotu Beach. 

As the sun sets on your Northland escape, bask in the memories of sandy shores and turquoise waters. From the historic Treaty Grounds to the tranquil beauty of Coopers Beach and Taupō Bay, each moment has been a treasure trove of experiences, with family memories to look back on. 

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