best northland nz road trips

Best Autumn Road Trips In The Far North For Over 50s

Travelling in your 50s has a lot of advantages over other times of your life. The wisdom of age, a bit more cash in your pocket, still able to take on lots of adrenaline activities and you’ve probably learned a thing or two about what a decent bottle of wine tastes like.

At the risk of stereotyping, most 50+ travellers are looking for a mix of lazy afternoons. a chance to wander, shop, and take it all in. It’s more relaxing knowing you have booked the major things ahead of time, such as accommodation and your rental car – the rest you are happy to leave alone and see where fate takes you.

Here are our top picks for a memorable Autumn break in the Far North.

Go Bush

For a sheltered, laid back walk – the Northland’s West Coast gives you the Waipoua Forest.

Here you will walk amongst giants as this forest is home to some of the largest kauri trees in the world, including the famous Tane Mahuta, “Lord of the Forest”. You can see lots of native birdlife as well in this beautiful tranquil area.

Looking for something more vigorous? The walk to the Haruru Falls in the Bay of Islands is around 6km long and starts and ends from the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.

Eat, Drink and Be Merry

You are never far away from a loaf of artisan bread, a good strong coffee, the freshest seafood or an award-winning Sauvignon Blanc in New Zealand’s North. Between Mangawhai and Kaitaia (and that’s quite a distance) this region is littered with farmers markets, festivals, restaurants, bakeries, wineries, and orchards selling their fresh produce on the roadside.

The Bay of Islands is particularly flush with food and wine, and a lot of great accommodation options to support it. Kerikeri, Paihia, Russell and Opua are an easy drive from each other. If you arrive in the Bay of Islands by boat, cruise ship or plane the most convenient option is to arrange for your car hire pickup from Kerikeri Airport. The majority of our customers book this way which saves a lot of time fussing about trying to organise your holiday. And because we have lived in the area for a long time, we are sure to have answers to any of your questions.

Golfer’s Delight

Autumn’s mild climate was a huge bonus to avid golfers. Northland has around 24 golf courses from Whangaparaoa to Kaitaia in the Far North. If golf is a real passion of yours, see our golfing blog giving you a bigger picture of what to expect.

Take a Dip

The Bay of Islands has a sub-tropical climate so swimming, diving, and fishing from the Paihia Wharf are all realistic options at the time of year. This area is home to hundreds of tours and Far North Rentals can offer you six of the best at a discounted rate, just by booking through our website.

Autumn is a spectacular time of year to come Northward too. The days are still warm and relatively long, accommodation costs are reduced after the heady rush of summer and the scenery is starting to turn to brilliant yellows, oranges, and reds.

Northland is what you may consider ‘an easy place to holiday’. Rich in history, nature, food, tours and sightseeing – it is easy to experience quality with anything and everything you do here. Some of the most beautiful islands in world, pro golf courses, 5-star accommodation, plus a great climate which produces excellent food and wine. Northland is a win-win destination.

Why not organise a group of you to make it even more memorable (we have car hires and van hires suitable for any group!). With so many options and interests covered, there is something for everyone here in the Far North!

northland nz

What Northland is Today

Northland is buzzing.

With its strong visitor economy, local businesses are centred around the natural beauty of Northland’s water, climate and cultural assets. Northland business, tourism, productivity, living standards and employment have all grown over the past year with a 32% share of the country’s highly-skilled jobs.

February 2017 statistics show the Northland housing market has risen by over 20% compared to the same time last year. More and more New Zealanders are seeing and wanting a “sea change” from the larger cities like Auckland. And even though this house price rise is significant, you can still get a lot of ‘bang for your buck’ as well as a quality lifestyle.

Potential to Expand and Accessibility
Though farming and forestry occupy over half the land there is still great potential for horticulture, manufacturing, and marine engineering to expand. Likewise, Northland is also the perfect place to build on the evolving aquaculture industry (the farming of fish, crustaceans, and aquatic plants).

It is likely there will be an increase in government and freight jobs around Whangarei in the future, as Marsden Point looks destined to be the main support for overflow freight, taking pressure off Auckland. Northport has invested in upgrading its facilities over the years to cater for future growth, including the construction of three berths, storage, as well as log scaling and truck facilities.

Opua Marina‘s recent major undertaking of 173 new rental berths was necessary to the growing demand of of ‘boaties’ mooring in the Bay of Islands. And many overseas golf fanatics are happy to pay top dollar in a region which is littered with golf courses from Auckland to Kaitaia.
Part of Northland’s appeal is its accessibility. With airports in Whangarei, Kerikeri, and Kaitaia, getting to all major Northland towns are simple and we offer a vehicle pickup and drop off service from each of these airports.
Some of our government based customers rent a vehicle from Auckland Airport if they need to stop at several Northland towns along the way, while others fly directly into KeriKeri Airport with a vehicle parked and ready for them on their arrival. We make their business trip easy to organise and offer quality serviced cars with a 100% no-breakdown record. With long stretches of secluded roads in the region, this gives our customers real peace of mind for their journey ahead.

Food, Wine, Culture

Festivals and markets have also become extremely popular, especially over the warmer months, exposing small local food and accommodation businesses to a much wider pool of buyers and guests.
The majority of overseas visitors to the region come from Australia. The quality of food, wine, activities, and accommodation in an agreeable climate makes holidaying in Northland a relaxing and beautiful destination, which is close at hand and offers different price points.

According to a recent report by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, some significant tourist opportunities include extra berthage space for cruise ships entering the Bay of Islands and introducing larger planes on the Auckland-Keri Keri route (happening this year).

There is a real sense of pride as locals see and experience genuine positivity in a region moving from strength to strength, as more New Zealanders settle here to make a quality way of life.

Surf NZ

Find the Best Surfing, Kayaking, Snorkeling in Northland

Search the world over and you won’t find any beach better than what New Zealand has to offer. And there are few of them too! Millions of New Zealanders and tourists flock to one of the hundreds of stunning beaches over the summer – and yet none of them are ever crowded and are free to enjoy.

How the locals aren’t born with webbed hands and feet we will never know, but Northland’s Bay of Islands is watersports mad. With 144 islands in the area, this popular holiday destination is spectacular from air, sea, and land. Surfing, snorkeling, harbour cruises, swimming, and kayaking are all there.

If you are looking for a reliable, unlimited km vehicle for your water-bound adventure, our vehicles come with 24/7 AA Roadside Assistance. Not that you’ll ever need it, as we are proud to hold a 100% no breakdown record. That’s real peace of mind when travelling through remote areas and just want to get to the beach.


Northland is New Zealand’s narrowest region, which is fantastic news for surfers who can move quickly between each coast to find the pick of the day.

Ahipara is known for some of the best left-hand surf breaks in the world and will be at the top of any surfers itinerary driving North to Cape Reinga. Matauri Bay 30km north of Kerikeri gets a five-star rating from locals.

Mangawhai Heads has a beautiful safe beach for swimmers as well as the estuary to enjoy lots of other watersports. But for surfers, the left-hand break peeling across the river bar is the place to be. Onlookers can walk to the top of “the head” and watch the surfers roll in. There is a coffee and frozen yoghurt kiosk as well so make a day of it!


Many people hire kayaks independently but joining any one of the local tours is a great way to meeting others, learn about the area and be taken to the best spots around.

Haruru Falls half day trip. Haruru means “big noise” so that will give you some idea of how large they are. Or try the Island Time Tour leaving from Paihia or Russell and takes kayakers to the outer islands. Heading away from Paihia is the truly stunning green-blue waters of Waikare. This is leisurely kayaking so you can take in the amazing views and birdlife.

Paddleboarding has really taken off over recent years for all ages and exercise levels. You can take a fitness class on a paddleboard which is a bit like pilates on the water. A great way of honing your balance and muscle strength skills.

Snorkeling and Diving

1/5 hours North of Auckland is Goat Island. The name can be a little misleading as the island is no longer home to goats and the island is very easy to get to without a boat. Simply snorkeling off the adjacent beach and you will be thrilled by the magnitude or fish and marine life to be seen. This is New Zealand’s oldest marine reserve.

Another top snorkeling stop is at Poor Knights Island Marine Reserve, in Tutukaka, half an hour northeast of Whangarei. In fact, it is so good the late Jacques Cousteau recommended it and holds it’s place as one of the top 10 diving destinations in the world.

Both Dive North and Paihia Dive in the Bay of Islands have an excellent reputation for diving courses and excursions.

Activities in the Northland

10 Must Do Activities for Thrill Seekers

Northland has a split personality. On the one hand, it’s full of relaxing cultured activities like golf, vineyards, art galleries, national treasures, and award winning restaurants. On the other hand, it is a hyperactive, thrill seeking, ‘bring it on’ speed demon. Well, they do say opposites attract and in the North this is definitely the case.

After a lifetime of living and working in the area, we’ve picked up a thing or two about which activities get your heart racing and are likely to make you appreciate the slower, calmer activities afterward. Here are our top ten. Hold on!

Parasailing – Bay of Islands

Very popular and tremendous fun is parasailing in the Bay of Islands. This is a great alternative to jumping out of a plane but still having a bird’s eye view of the incredible sights the Bay of Islands is famous for. You’ll go high, and then you’ll go higher still. Go on, you know you want to.

Skydiving – Bay of Islands
Sky. Diving. It’s the order in which these two words appear is what makes it a little unsettling. First, get on a plane, fly up to 16000ft, and then jump out at speeds of up to 200km per hour. Thankfully the scenery will take your breath away before the shock does. This is the ultimate in scream fun.

Scooter Hire – Bay of Islands
Warm summer sun and the breeze in your face. Sounds like a good time to jump on a scooter and blast around the Bay of Islands. You don’t need a special licence, and they can deliver to your accommodation in Paihia, Waitangi, Haruru Falls and Opua for free.

The e-bikes are retro cool too. It’s just like riding a regular bike until you want some help getting up steep hills and then the motor can do all the hard work for you. Now we like that idea.

Swim with the Dolphins – Bay of Islands
Leaving from Paihia Wharf, book yourself on one of the tours that find these intelligent, gentle and inquisitive mammals every day. The Bay of Islands has the warmest waters in New Zealand and once you’ve spotted the dolphins you’ll want to jump in too. Being at one with nature, this is an experience you won’t forget in a hurry.

Helicopter Flights – Bay of Islands

You’ll notice there’s a theme developing in the Bay of Islands and its all centred around scenery and water play. Probably because the area is home to 144 islands. Take in the sights from a helicopter scenic flight starting in Paihia tracking along the stunning peninsula coastline to Cape Brett. There are also packages that include landing on the famous Motu Kōkako (commonly known as Hole in the Rock). One thing is for sure, you can not visit the Bay of Islands without seeing it from the air in some regard.

Surf Academy – Northland
Always wanted to learn how to surf? The Northland coastline was made for it. Petite coves, endless beaches, river mouths, point breaks (a type of wave consistent with a coast with a headland), and reefs are all there. O’Neills Surf Academy will drive you to the best and safest surfing conditions on the day across the 3 coasts. An absolute novice or wanting to improve your skills? These small classes are perfect for both.

Sand Safaris – Ahipara
Grab your friends and hire a dune buggy, or join the guide for a buggy tour over sands, hills, and rough terrain. Lots of fun, 2.5 hours of good honest adventuring, and another unforgettable “must do” in the 90 Mile Beach area.

Surf a Sand Dune – 90 Mile Beach
The beautiful fine golden sands at 90 Mile Beach is the perfect spot to grab a free sand rider board and go hurtling down the dune at speed. People of all ages and fitness levels have done it, loved it and return to the top of the dune to do it all over again.

Action Village – Whangarei
Want to shoot something? Then do it legally at Action Village in Whangarei. Along with paint balling you’ll find clay shooting, archery, flying fox, rifle range, laser tag, and mini golf.

The best part is using the paintball tanks. These miniature tanks are the only one of its kind in New Zealand and look they’ve come straight out of WW2.

Finish off an exhausting day enjoying a hangi (traditional Maori cooking method steaming food underground) or prepare your own food in the BBQ area.

Adventure Forest – Whangarei
A Qualmark Endorsed Visitor activity and Enviro-Bronze medalist this is a top attraction for the whole family. Tight ropes, wobbly bridges, nets and swings offer a great workout, improved balance, and confidence. Be rewarded at the end of each course zooming down an awesome flying fox when you can scream as loud as you like (this is usually the Mums and Dads).

There’s a lot to think about. Hire a 4-12 seater vehicle from us to get through it all – with the option to pick up and drop off at different locations.

Kerikeri Market

Kerikeri Hub of North

Hitting the Road From Kerikeri Airport

In Kerikeri, you can find warm weather, a relaxed lifestyle and a healthy economy full of opportunity and promise.

Home to some of New Zealand’s oldest buildings, top tourist attractions, award winning wines, internationally acclaimed golf courses, beautiful coastal surroundings and a thriving art and craft following, makes it very easy to stay a little longer and very hard to leave at all.

Maori welcomed missionaries to the Kerikeri Basin back in 1819 and so began New Zealand’s bi-cultural society. Kerikeri’s Kemp House (built circa 1821-22) and the iconic Stone Store (1832-36) play an important part in New Zealand’s history.

Home to manufacturing, fishing, forestry, agriculture and government departments it’s no wonder there are four flights to Kerikeri Airport from Auckland Airport every work day. This gives businesses the opportunity to be in The Bay of Islands in under an hour making it convenient, accessible and simply good business sense.

Many of our customers like that they can touch down at Kerikeri Airport knowing one of our rental cars will be waiting for them so they are ready to maximise their time in the Northland. Alternatively, if you need to make several stops along the way, simply pick up one of our vehicles at Auckland Airport and drive your way to Kerikeri via the Eastern arm of the Twin Coast Highway. Our different vehicle pick-up and drop-off points across Northland (Kerikeri Airport, Kerikeri, Paihia, Opua, Russell, Kaitaia, and Kaitaia Airport) offer customers great flexibility.

Northland is home to two of NZ’s busiest ports of entry with 550 international arrivals in 2012, 460 of them in Opua and 90 in Whangarei. Between Christmas 2016 and April 2017 the Bay of Islands will see around 39 cruise ships in Opua– and this doesn’t include the super yachts. That’s a lot of people, and numbers like this have meant tourism growth in the Kerikeri area developing quality motels, lodges, bed and breakfasts, hostels etc.

Many New Zealander holiday makers enter The Bay of Islands via the Marina in Opua – half an hour drive from Kerikeri. Recent development has increased the marina to 450 berths with full-service marine facilities, bringing in thousands of boaties and a boosted economy every Summer.

Prone to the finer things in life, locals like their fresh food and are serious about their coffee.

On Saturdays, the Old Packhouse Market is a great place to people-watch and wile away the hours sipping your coffee or locally grown orange juice listening to some homegrown entertainment. Fast forward to Sunday at the Farmers Market which has been offering produce from Northland growers and producers since 2004. Kerikeri is also littered with cafes and restaurants and vineyards such as Fat Pig Winery, or Marsden Estate offering onsite quality food to accompany those delicious wines.

Once you’ve had your full of terrific food, there are some great spots in Kerikeri to walk, swim, run and cycle.

Rainbow Falls is a big draw-card with an easy walking track (even with a pushchair) to the spectacular falls – a popular swimming hole and great for kayakers as well. Every Spring we see the Kerikeri half marathon bringing together around 2000 runners, walkers and wheelchair athletes.

But of course, the “must do” sport for anyone new to the region is to just jump into the water. It’s the warmest you’ll find in the entire country so no excuses for not dipping your feet in!

So if Kerikeri sounds like your kind of place, get packing and start booking.

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Need a rental car for your trip?

Far North Rentals offers high-quality and reliable vehicles, 24/7 roadside assistance and competitive rates.

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Top Reasons to Visit the Beautiful North

Many of us will remember caravan holidays, Dad in his stubbies, travelling around New Zealand in the back of a Falcon (without seatbelts – not such a great idea in retrospect).

We all dream to “get away” over summer and the AA Travel website is a great place to plan a road trip anywhere in this beautiful country. Simply type in your starting point, enter what kind of attractions interest you and hey presto, a list of road trips pop up, including distance and expected travel time. This is a long way from the days when the map was thrown into the boot of the car or jammed into the glove box, with at least one essential page missing.

Some of the best road trips can be found between Auckland and Northland with ample small towns such as Mangawhai, Tutukaka and Waipu Cove to spend a night or two and then carry on north to another exciting region of sunny Northland.

At Far North Rentals, we offer quality cars and vans that are serviced regularly to avoid any holiday hiccups – because the last thing you want on a road trip is an unreliable vehicle! Plus, our competitive pricing and excellent services see customers coming back to us again and again.

So let’s get started with a typical Northland road trip where there is something for everyone.

The Bay of Islands

The Bay of Islands is a must if you’re looking for an aquatic playground. Harbour cruises, spotting dolphins, parasailing, scuba diving, kayaking, fishing, and of course a great swimming spot or two amongst the 144 islands.

Opua Marina has extended the number of berths to help ease the influx of boaties over Spring and Summer and now offers 450 berths, clubs, the boat haul-out yards and extensive marine services.

If you are more of a land lover, Kerikeri has art galleries dotted all over its landscape, citrus and kiwifruit orchards and you will never be far from a great café or award-winning winery. However, Kerikeri is most famous for the oldest buildings in New Zealand, Kerikeri Mission House and the Mission’s Stone Store where the first European settlers made New Zealand their home back in 1819.

Of course, Waitangi is one of New Zealand’s most important historic sites where Maori and European came together to sign the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. A vast peaceful estate, the Treaty Grounds contain the Treaty House, a Maori Meeting house, one of the largest waka (Maori war canoe) in New Zealand, a gallery, and an excellent visitors’ centre

Sunsets never look as good as they do from Russell, a historic settlement with New Zealand’s oldest licensed pub and Christ Church, the country’s oldest place of worship. Russell is easy to get to with passenger ferry services from Paihia happening every half an hour and the car ferry from Okiato to Opua scheduled every 10 minutes.

The perfect way to take in the Bay of Islands at ground level is to a hire a scooter or electric bike for the duration of your stay. Easy to park, easy to ride and a great way to get between the main townships of Waitangi, Russell, and Paihia or neighbouring Kerikeri.

Kauri Coast and Hokianga Region

Opononi and Omapere are a great base for discovering New Zealand’s largest kauri forest, Waipoua Forest. Here you will find ample accommodation options in all price brackets and some great eateries. Waipoua Forest is home to the famous Tane Mahuta, our largest kauri tree which is now approximately 2,000 years old and still growing! Tane really is something to behold as this magnificent tree is just over 51 metres in height with a trunk girth of almost 14 metres. Yep, that’s big alright.

The Kai Iwi Lakes (30 minutes North of Dargaville) is a popular family destination, especially those with young children as they can enjoy the shallow, crystal clear fresh water for lots of water play while Mums and Dads relax on the golden sands.

Surprisingly, the Kauri Museum is only 90 minutes North of Auckland and has won awards both locally and was named “Favourite North Island Attraction” from a major Australian travel company. Though this must-see museum tells the story of early settlers working the land, their business ethics are the way of the future, becoming the world’s first museum in the World to obtain CarboNZero Certification (a world-leading sustainable operation).

Hokianga Harbour is where time slows down and where you can find boutique accommodation, Koutu Boulders, and the very charming town of Rawene with its historic buildings, art galleries, and good cafes.

Wherever to choose to go in Northland no two days need ever be the same, but you are due a real break there is no end of fantastic beaches and scenery to take in from the comfort of your beach lounger – day after day.

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Need a rental car for your trip?

Far North Rentals offers high-quality and reliable vehicles, 24/7 roadside assistance and competitive rates.

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Top Fishing Spots in New Zealand’s Bay of Islands

With 144 islands in the area, New Zealand’s Bay of Islands is spectacular from air, sea, and land.

Sheltered waters, a 450 berth marina, comfortable climate year round and a large variety of sea life make this the perfect holiday destination for water lovers. This beautiful cluster of islands is thought to be the birth of New Zealand when Maori first arrived many hundreds of years ago, followed by sightings from European settlers in 1642.

With four flights from Auckland to Kerikeri every day, getting to the Bay of Islands is simple. From Kerikeri Airport we can greet you with one of our reliable, affordable vehicles so you can start your Bay of Island fishing adventure straight away. If you prefer to take your time there are many charming towns dotted along the way from Auckland to the Bay of Islands, they always have great food and coffee to order and are full of history.

Kids can swim with the dolphins, fish from the Paihia wharf, swim, waterski, snorkel and explore the bays by kayak. For adventurous types, there’s parasailing, diving and jet ski hire. Paihia, Waitangi, Opua, Russell, and Kerikeri are the main towns and are easily within reach of each other by car, bike, ferry services or boat.

But we’re here to talk about fishing. So let’s get to it.

NZ Fishing World’s presenter Forsyth Thompson has fished New Zealand waters from the deep south to the far north and kindly shares his favorite Bay of Island spots with exact coordinates here.

For a more recent account of where to go and what you’re likely to catch, check out Reports and Weather from the NZ Fishing World website for safe fishing conditions. The Bay of Islands is known for its calm waters, but we urge you to never take the weather at face value – it can change and change quickly.

If you are new to the area or don’t have access to a boat a chartered fishing trip is a great introduction to the area. The captain will take you out to successful stretches of water – and the scenery is not too bad either. Fishing trips include lakes, rivers, streams, salt water and game fishing.

Charter fishing tours usually operate around Poor Knights Islands, Urupukapuka Island (the largest of all the islands) Cape Brett and Rawhiti. There are even kayaks for hire which you can fish from around the Cavalli Islands.

If game fishing is your passion or something you’ve always wanted to try, the Marlin season is between February and March, a small window of time to secure the big ones! Charter boat trips are equipped with everything needed and their local knowledge will save you time when it comes to catching the striped, black and blue Marlin.

Light tackle fish include Kahawai (great for sashimi and raw fish salad), Snapper, Trevally and Kingfish are your main catches. The Kahawai, Snapper, and Trevally are plentiful from December until June, while Yellowtail Kingfish are available all year round. Hapuku and Tarakihi are at their best from June until February so fishing enthusiasts have something great to catch for dinner throughout the year.

Snapper is easily the most popular fish to catch in the Bay of Islands. If you’re not sure how to cook it, Paihia has a few eateries in town who will cook it for you at a minimal cost. Coupled with home cut chips and a glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc you have a meal fit for royalty!

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Need a rental car for your trip?

Far North Rentals offers high-quality and reliable vehicles, 24/7 roadside assistance and competitive rates.

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