After ‘Six splendid days relaxing at the Bay of Islands‘, we took the delightful coastal route north for an hour and a half to Doubtless Bay, another area of outstanding natural beauty, with its huge rocks and small uninhabited islands dotting the Pacific Ocean. With three nights based in the pretty seaside town of Mangonui, we explored NZ’s Far North, called Northland; it’s forested, subtropical and framed by both the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea. The area is historically and spiritually important for the Maori people who believe that their spirits travel up Ninety Mile Beach and descend into the underworld (reinga) by sliding down a root into the sea, then travel underwater to the Three Kings Islands, where they surface at Ohaua, the highest point of the islands, and bid their final farewell before returning to the land of their ancestors, Hawaiiki-A-Nui – this is mythical. It’s amazing to look out from the historical lighthouse at Cape Reinga and see the spectacle of the light green Tasman Sea meeting the dark of the Pacific Ocean, creating whirlpools which can be seen in the photo.
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The first day, we explored Mangonui and marveled at the views of the harbour and the waterfront from an adjacent hill. Next day, we visited the Karikari Peninsular, walking both of the white sandy beaches at Matui Bay. The walking on the hardened sand and the sea breeze was so relaxing and followed by a picnic with stunning views of Cape Karikari. In the afternoon, we returned to Mangonui and walked Coopers Beach in both directions. That day, we had about five hours of beach walking. We had planned to swim off Coopers beach but the sea was too cold and so we chickened out! The third day, we took a tour to Cape Reinga, the Northern most tip of New Zealand, followed by a visit to the sand dunes at Ninety Mile Beach. Here we were offered the opportunity of sandboarding down the dunes; needless to say. we declined the offer. We returned back via Ninety Mile Beach, in our four-wheel drive vehicle. We were not insured to take our hire car on the beach and it can be dangerous due to quicksand. There have been many incidents of vehicles sinking into the sand and the local farmer using his tractor to tow them out, suitably recompensed for his services.
Mangonui is lovely, small and compact but the eating options were quite limited and people tend to eat rather early in these small resorts; however, we had an excellent vegetarian Indian meal. So we were pleased to break our journey south to Auckland with a night in Whangarei, Northland’s regional capital and especially liked the Town Basin, with its trendy cafes and lively restaurants around the marina – this was totally different to our experiences in the quieter parts of NZ. Next day, we returned to Auckland, our final stop in NZ – this will be featured in the next blog, so stay with us!