Self Drive Northland | Avis Car Rental

Northland Self Drive Holiday

The top of the North Island is a semi-tropical wonderland, with coasts famous the world over, historical sites and the foundations of a nation to explore. This is an area rich in cultural significance and activity. In the Maori tradition the land, the people and the stories are intertwined. Visit the northernmost tip of the island to see the place where Maori believe spirits depart for the afterlife, or head to Waitangi to learn about the Treaty that to this day is central to New Zealand society. Boaties, beach bums and all with a love of water will enjoy the Bay of Islands and the many immaculate beaches. Northland is a place that deserves special exploration.





Kaitaia is the last major stop on your way north, but it would be a shame if you simply passed through. Kaitaia is one of New Zealand's oldest towns, and has Dalmatian, Maori and European history aplenty. Visit the Far North Regional Museum where they have Kiwi, gumdigger and Moa exhibits. It was gumdigging that brought the Dalmatians to the area. Head 20 minutes north of town to see a Gumdiggers park that recreates how they lived. The Dallies would share their spoils and cook and live communally, while those from the British Isles lived in a man-alone fashion. Their sense of community helps make this a friendly and welcoming area to this day. Kaitaia is also home to perhaps the best restaurant in the north -Beachcombers. Like many things in the north it is tidy without being flashy, and their food is reasonably priced and fantastic.


Cape Reinga

Cape Reinga is the northern tip of New Zealand. The Maori know it as Te Rerenga Wairua - the leaping-off place of the spirits. The belief is that spirits travel up the country to the gnarled 800 year old Pohutukawa tree at the end of the point and from there they make their journey to the underworld. It is a place of reflection and wonder. Standing at the end you see the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea crashing together in front of you. Be sure to get a picture by the famous lighthouse and the signpost that tells you the distance and direction to cities all over the world. Cape Reinga is 80 minutes from Kaitaia, along State Highway 1 to the very end.


Take a tour up Ninety Mile Beach

While this beach is technically a highway, you can't take your rental car so park up and grab one of the excellent tours available. Also, this beach is not actually Ninety Miles long, being 55 miles or 88 kilometres. The straight sandy beach takes you from the start of the Aupouri Peninsula right up to Cape Reinga. Keep an eye out for the wild horses that roam the forest bordering the beach, and your tour guide should have a boogie board on hand for you to slide down the impressive sand dunes that you will encounter. This is also a great surfcasting fishing spot.



Waitangi Treaty Grounds

No visit to the north is complete without heading to Waitangi. This is the beautiful spot where the Treaty of Waitangi, the nation's founding document was first signed. Head to the visitor centre to get an understanding of what led to the signing and for how the breaches and restitutions around the treaty shape modern New Zealand. The guided tour is highly recommended to learn the significance of the meeting house, ceremonial waka (canoe) and the flagstaff marking the spot that the signing took place.

Waitangi Website



Russell is a dignified, historic and respectable town today, but 200 years ago it was known as the hellhole of the Pacific! Kororareka, as it was known, was a trading outpost where whalers, sealers and many Europeans would come to get timber, food and comfort from the locals. It was a lawless, scandalous place and after it was ransacked by the Maori chief Hone Heke in 1845 it was largely deserted. Today it is a centre for fantastic recreational fishing and a lovely place to visit, with heritage buildings, cafes and restaurants on offer as well as that rich and troubled history.



Kerikeri is home to New Zealand's oldest European house and stone building. The Mission House of 1821 and Stone Store of 1832 might not count as "old" in certain parts of the world, but for this young country they are quite special. There is also a replica Maori fishing village nearby, so in one area you can get a feel for what was before, how the European buildings and way of life must have been alien to the Maori, and how quickly the tribes adapted to take the best of what was on offer. Today Kerikeri is the centre of an artisan food movement, so be sure to explore all the treats being locally produced at one of the great cafes.



Paihia is the setting off point to get to the Hole in the Rock - the famous maritime attraction of the Bay of Islands. Take a boat tour to see this and the other points of beauty on the coast appreciable only by sea. The Bay of Islands is a boaties' paradise, with beaches, coves and islands aplenty to alight at and enjoy a picnic. Perhaps you could even enjoy a freshly caught snapper or freshly collected scallops - both are abundant in the warm waters. Whether you love to swim, enjoy the history or eat at one of the many excellent restaurants, Paihia is a lovely town to visit.



Hokianga Harbour

Hokianga Harbour on the west coast of the north is a great driving destination with the large harbour holding many treats for an explorer. Visit Opononi, a sleepy seaside village famous as home to Opo the dolphin that in 1955-56 captivated the nation by playing with swimmers. See Tane Mahuta or "Lord of the Forest" - the largest known Kauri tree in the country - and call in on historic Rawene, with Clendon House providing a window into how life was for the settler families. There is great coffee to be had, lovely locals and the dramatic backdrop of the sandy headlands on Hokianga's north shore.


Kawiti Glow Worm Caves

Five minutes before Kawakawa you can find a glow worm cave that is maintained by descendants of a revered Maori Chief. The karst landscape, stalactites and 200-metre long cave -complete with thousands of glow worms - makes this a natural wonderland, but it is the link to the past and the respect for tradition that the hosts give you that makes this a special visit. The Kawiti family are kaitiaki, or guardians, of the caves, and they invite you to discover a little about the history of the region during their excellent guided tours.

Kawiti Website


Hundertwasser Toilets

The town of Kawakawa, 20 minutes south of Paihia is famous for something a little out of the ordinary: the public toilets. They were the last building that Friedensreich Hundertwasser, the Austrian born architect, artist and ecologist completed before his death. He was famous for his large projects internationally, and his lengthy fight against the straight line. On a trip to New Zealand he fell in love with the pace of life in the north and bought land nearby. This toilet block was his gift to a town he loved. Visit to see the riot of colour and variety of materials pulled together - without any straight lines - in this piece of very functional art.



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Auckland Penrose Car Hire Gisborne Airport Car Hire Hamilton City Car Hire Hamilton Airport Car Hire
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