If you ever find yourself in Auckland with a day or two to spare, why not jump in the car and take a short road trip drive to somewhere out of the ordinary ! From the majestic falls of Whangarei to deep sea fishing in Tutukaka, you’ll never have a reason to say you’re bored again! Plus, short breaks are good for your health!
Whangarei (158 km – 2hr 45 mins)
Less than three hours’ drive north of Auckland lies the sub-tropical paradise known as Whangarei. Whangarei Falls are a definite must see while you’re here and are perhaps one of the most iconic waterfalls in the country, gracefully standing at approximately 26 metres tall. Many come here to bask in the picturesque surroundings with a picnic, while others opt to utilise the areas various walking and hiking trails. The popular ‘Sands Road’ walking trail is about 4.8km and will take around three hours to complete – positioning you onto the Hatea River Walkway before looping back around towards the falls.
For nature lovers, the Whangarei Quarry Gardens are a must see with breath taking views from wherever you stand. Set over 60 acres, this place comprises of lakes, waterfalls, hiking trails, forest paths and plenty of beautiful gardens ranging in different styles. Due to the heavy rainfall and warm weather the area receives, the gardens have become the ideal place to create a subtropical ecosystem that allows some of the country’s most exotic plants to thrive. The Arid Garden features cacti that enjoy the heat, while the Bromeliad Garden flourish from the damp moisture that the air and soil provide. Before you leave, make sure you pop into the Quail Café for a bit of refuelling!
A fan of history? The Whangarei Museum is full of it. Founded in 1890, this historical hub has had more than one hundred years to collect and cultivate a collection of artefacts. These accurately tell the story of the earliest settlers in the country and how Maori traditions first came about. The museum also houses a large collection stone, wooden and bone relics that the Maori people used in the past, showcasing their man-made technology.
All you need now is a place to rest your head while you’re in town.
Tutukaka (187km – 2hr 50m)
Comprising of white sandy beaches and rocky shores, Tutukaka is located along the stunning Northland coastline and is the definition of natural beauty. The town provides the perfect pit stop for those looking for a great place to do some fishing, diving or any other water related activity you’ve got in mind.
“Dive! Tutukaka” are the New Zealand’s largest dive charter company – these guys take you all the way up to Poor Knights Islands and let you plunge to the depths below in a selection of areas that feature the coolest fish, coral, sponges.
With plenty of beaches, soft sands and temperamental waves, Sandy Bay is your best bet for some aqua action! The waters here are great for a casual swim or a quick snorkel, which is why Sandy Bay is so popular, especially in the summer. If you’re not looking to get wet, the shore is the ideal place to prop up a chair, take in the serenity and chill out with a great book.
We couldn’t let you visit Tutukaka without mentioning Schnappa Rock, one of the best seafood restaurants in the city. Just across the way from Quality Hotel Oceans Tutukaka, you won’t find finer mussels here in such generous portions. A favourite of most visitors is the classic fish and chips – hapuka fish cooked lightly in batter before being surrounded by thick and golden potato pieces. Don’t worry, we’re salivating too.
Hamilton (125km – 1 hr 30 mins)
If you’d rather head south of Auckland, Hamilton, one of Mother Nature’s most prized locations, is your best bet. The Hamilton Gardens here are legendary, with many travelling from all around the world to walk through its tranquil paths. The aim is to transport guests to the gardens corresponding inspirations, from the Italian Renaissance to the Japanese Garden of Contemplation.
Hamilton is also famous for their zoo, one of the most diverse and interactive in the world. If you’ve ever wanted to see a Sumatran tiger or a white rhino up close, we recommend booking a ticket right now. With safari rides, feeding pens and the largest free flight aviary in Australasia, the Hamilton Zoo is a great place to entertain the kids, or even your inner child! Speaking of zoos, here’s a few more from around the country that are worth a look.
Fans of sport will want to check out Waikato Stadium, where there’s a rugby game every weekend. The HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series is due to commence next year, but before that, grab some tickets to one of the Rugby League World Cup matches. The Samoa v Tonga game in November is bound to be one for the history books!
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