Auckland, the ‘City of Sails’, will often be your first port of call on a New Zealand vacation - and is an ideal introduction to this beautiful country, with its sparkling harbour and volcanic cones dotting the skyline. The picturesque islands of Waiheke and Rangitoto are a short ferry hop away, and the city is surrounded by stunning beaches, rainforest landscapes and heritage spots as you head north to the beautiful Bay of Islands.
Dubbed the ‘City of Sails’ for good reason, you’ll find some excellent sailing and kayaking opportunities on Waitemata Harbour. Downtown Auckland offers world-class restaurants and boutique shopping, yet you don’t have to travel far from the city to discover pretty islands such as Waiheke, just a short ferry ride away, with its thriving arts scene, wineries and unspoilt beaches. Discover Auckland’s wilder side on the west coast: walk through the lush rainforest of the Waitakere Ranges, or brave a canyoning adventure if you’re after a little adrenaline injection. You’ll also discover awe-inspiring black sand surf beaches – the stunning backdrop to the film The Piano – which offer a stark contrast to the modern city.
While you’re heading north to the Bay of Islands, we recommend stopping in the wine country of Matakana, to explore its pristine beaches, local arts and crafts, bustling farmers markets and boutique wineries. The Goat Island Marine Reserve is a top spot for snorkelling, while Pakiri Beach is popular for horse riding along the sand.
Bay of Islands and Northland
The sub-tropical climate makes the Bay of Islands and Northland perfect for blissful beach holidays and leisurely sailing trips. This region is also at the heart of the country’s human history, being rich in both Maori and early European heritage. Hokianga is believed to be the first Polynesian landing place, dating back over 1,000 years, while the charming village of Russell was New Zealand’s first capital and the birthplace of the Treaty of Waitangi, signed in the Bay of Islands in 1840. The pretty town of Paihia nearby is the launch point for scenic cruises around the bay.
You’ll also find the largest remaining ancient Kauri forests here. The famous Tane Mahuta in Waipoua Forest is around 2,000 years old, and is one of the biggest trees you’ll have ever laid eyes on... and it’s still growing! Join a local guide to learn how the sacred trees are interwoven with the spiritual lives of local Maori, and the key role they play in the forest’s ecosystem.
Outdoor activities include diving, swimming with dolphins, kayaking and sand tobogganing, to name a few. Explore the northernmost tip of New Zealand by taking a 4WD tour along Ninety Mile Beach, or venturing along the Cape Reinga Coastal Walkway on foot.