Starting with the City of Auckland, Northland covers the area right at the top of New Zealand. It’s mostly small side side towns but also includes Ninety Mile Beach, Doubtless Bay, Cape Reinga and the streak of land called Farewell Spit. Up here the sun is high, the sand is soft and the surf is good.
Waitangi & Pahia
A place of huge cultural significance and a pretty beachfront town too, Pahia is our first stop. The beach lays itself in front of the Main Street, where you’ll find an info kiosk, accommodation and plenty of eatieries. In terms of things to do, Pahia has a few walks into the surrounding hills and plenty of tours on offer. The attraction to the town however, is the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Here, the New Zealand government, in the form of the Queen and the head of a powerful Maori tribe signed a treaty stating that the lands of Maori kiwis and European kiwis was to be shared, that the two cultures are united, and that both will live side by side with kindness and respect. Some say the treaty was in fact the Euro-kiwi government finally giving Maoris rights and releasing their tight grip. Nowadays, the treaty is celebrated by all kiwis, and from what I can see the two cultures have achieved the Waitangi harmony so many countries hope for. Pahia and its treaty grounds are the place to go if you want an insight into modern kiwi culture and some important history too. If your brain is hurting from all the new info, sit on a shady bench, ice cream in hand, and look out over the Pacific Ocean.
One of the little known beauties of the Northland is Doubtless Bay. Just across from Ninety Mile Beach, on the east coast, are great bays like this one. There’s a campsite right on the dunes, and plenty of space for everyone. Cue sea views and vibrant sunsets.
While the beach is soft, flat and gorgeous, the ‘coca cola’ lake behind is mesmerising, refreshing and bizarre. It’s official name is Rotopokaka, but what a name for a lake that is so obviously a pool of Coca Cola. It looks blue from above, where is reflects the sky, but get closer and you’ll see that water is brown, almost black. After rationalising that swimming in a black lake is normal, and that you’re not going to disappear into some sort of black hole, georgraphical anomaly, and appear on some late night documentary on missing bodies of the deep, you’ll discover that the water is actually red, and wonderfully fresh. The colour comes from the leaves and vegetation the water filters through to get to the lake, which is full of tannin (like red wine), that stains the water. What should be pure clear deep blue water, is stained reddy browny black. Really, you have to see it.
Ninety Mile Beach
The 55mile stretch of sand that covers the upper west coast is called Ninety Mile Beach. The easiest access point is from Waipapakauri, but as it stretches so far anywhere in the northern tip can get you there. At the far end is Cape Reinga, the top of New Zealand, and it’s all important lighthouse. Beyond it’s length, ninety mile beach has nothing fancy about it, but it is a nice lunch stop if you have to time.
Ki iwi Lakes
Halfway down the west coast, are the four lakes called Ki iwi lakes. We stopped for a night, not knowing what we were stumbling into. The lakes are tannin free, and so reflect deep blue. And deep they are, the main lake is perfect for a cool off from the sun, but is also a hotspot for water sports. Families come en masse during the summer holidays, to take their boats and children for a spin. Forgetting the boats, the lakes are a natural beauty, fresh and great for your morning shower too.