Fiji? Bahamas? Why no, this is New Zealand.
Up in the northern regions of NZ, there is a very special place with all the magic you’d imagine Fiji to have, but without the touristy buzz.
Clear, turquoise waters, pristine white sand beaches, rolling waves perfect for boogie boarding and body surfing, and sea life aplenty- just a 4.5 hour drive North of Auckland.
It is pure, unspoiled beauty. Not many know about it, yet- but its reputation will surely get out.
Located on the tip of the Karikari Peninsula are two separate, rounded bays that, together, comprise Maitai Bay.
There is a great little DOC (Department of Conservation) campsite located right at Maitai Bay which we highly recommend. Their basic (composting toilets, cold showers, and running water) facilities are very well maintained. We found the campsite to be fairly chill and quiet, and the other campers very friendly.
While lying on the beach one afternoon, we overheard some fellow beachers talking and a woman said that the beach we were on was nicer than the one she visited in Fiji. (Apparently, to experience the really nice beaches in Fiji, you have to go out to one of the smaller islands.)
The bays of Northland are brimming with sea life, making them prime areas for snorkeling. You’ll have to bring up your own gear, as we didn’t see any places to rent from. (Thanks Brandon and Kristen for lending us your sets.) There is also excellent boating and fishing in these waters.
If you’re anything like me, a beach and some sunshine are (pretty much) all I need to make a vacation complete. So when the weather is amazing, Northland is an ideal place to be! The downside, however, is that if the weather is not on your side, the region of Northland doesn’t offer a TON of other attractions.
Here’s a few suggestions, though, of other things to do in the area:
Taste the beautiful wines at Karikari Estate Vineyard while taking in breathtaking views of the stunning peninsula.
Head over to the nearby town of Mangonui for some of NZ’s best fish & chips. Mangonui’s ‘World Famous’ Fish Shop is an extremely well run establishment, and they have a lovely covered seating area where you can enjoy your meal overlooking the water.
We ate there twice while on holiday. It is. That. Good.
It is advised that you bring your own coffee beans and coffee making devices with you up North, as a good cup of coffee is hard to find in this region.
Brendon has been thoroughly enjoying and taking advantage of the excellent portability of his Aeropress coffee device. Coffee was made right on the beach on several occasions. If you get desperate, however, there is a mobile espresso cart next to the dairy/petrol station near Tokerau Beach.
If it’s a rainy day, dodge the rain in the shelter of your car and take a day trip down to the Bay of Islands. We met up with some friends in Paihia, and spent a couple of hours perusing the shops, stocking up on fresh produce at a local farmers market, and admiring the beauty of the bays. Paihia also offers lots of options for day trips and water adventures such as dolphin tours, if you’ve got the cash. Or if you’d like to explore the water on your own, why not call up Tony and rent yourself a kayak.
Another roadtrip that is very feasible from the Karikari Peninsula is to go all the way up North to Cape Reinga. We did this roadtrip last summer. You’ll need to factor in about two hours of driving each way, and make sure your vehicle is full of petrol. Well worth the drive to explore this region of special significance to the Maori.
I absolutely love NZ’s Northland. Out of all the regions we have visited in NZ, this one is surely my favorite. As a girl who grew up in the landlocked prairies of Alberta/Saskatchewan, the contrast of turquoise blue waters with the white sand is a stunning sight that my eyes never grow tired of.