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First time visit to Auckland and Northland

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Sydney, Australia
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First time visit to Auckland and Northland

Hubby and I are visiting Auckland from Sydney after Easter for 5 nights 5 days...I have booked Copthorne Harbour City for 2 nights and Sea Spray Suite, Paihia for 3 nights.

I am looking for suggested must dos in our limited time, which is basically 1 full day and 2 nights in Auckland and then driving up to Bay of Islands for 4 days 3 nights. We may not hire the car till we leave Auckland unless it is necessary to have it before...

One thing that I am trying to fit in is the Waitakere Ranges which we would need a car for but I am not sure how long it would take to drive through and across to at least one beach before heading north...Also wanting to get to Goat Island Marine Centre at Leigh! Could we fit both these things in on way to Paihia?

Look forward to some help! Thank you...

Rarotonga, Cook...
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1. Re: First time visit to Auckland and Northland

Hi Chase,

To fit in both a west coast beach, followed by Leigh, take SH16 from the city through West Auckland and stop off at Muriwai beach mid morning. Continue along this highway until Wellsford, then approximately 1km through the township and SH1, turn right towards Leigh (signposted).

The marine reserve experience is awesome, and should take an hour+ of your time at least. Allow sufficient time if doing the glass-bottom boat trip. Return to SH1 and continue north through Whangarei to Paihia. You should reach the Bay of Islands with sufficient daytime left by day's end. Take regular rest-stops to reduce driver fatigue enroute.

Enjoy Northland!

Sydney, Australia
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2. Re: First time visit to Auckland and Northland

Thanks for that encouraging reply Frangipani! Now I dont feel that doing both is mad! We will make an early start and pace ourselves - I am sure there will me many places to take rest-stops and admire the views! Do you recommend the glass bottom boat - I am not sure whether it will be warm enough to snorkel? What was the highlight of the marine reserve experience for you?

Can I also ask you or anyone else reading this whether self-driving up to Cape Reinga is worth it - will we get any vantage points to see 90 mile beach or much else or is it just a long drive to a lighthouse? How long is the drive?

Sydney, Australia
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3. Re: First time visit to Auckland and Northland

Hi,

Having visited Auckland numerous times over the years -my " go-list " may help you wth other suggestions. I'll leave the driving business to the NZ experts.!

One thing I highly recommend to do in Auckland is to visit Waiheke Island - it makes a fabulous day outing.

tripadvisor.com/GoListDetail-i17750-Trip_Rep…

Auckland Region...
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4. Re: First time visit to Auckland and Northland

If I was driving from Muriwai to Goat Island I would go a different route that should be quite a bit quicker. I also think you will have to be on on the road early to have as much time at your stops as possible.

I would conside rmaking my way back to the motorway and SH 1 after you have been to Muriwai. Otherwise if you do go up SH16 I would go via Warkworth and Matakana by turning off SH 16 at Araparera. Warkworth is signposted before you get to the turnoff and at the turnoff. This way should knock a bit of time off your drive and the road from Warkworth to Goat Island is the most popular route.

I believe you can still hire snorkelling equipment until May. I have had visitors who have snorkelled with wetsuits in late May.

Rarotonga, Cook...
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5. Re: First time visit to Auckland and Northland

Yet SH16 is a scenic drive, with the historic township of Helensville, followed by the lookout stop to admire the views across Kaipara harbour with its rugged sandbar. Saves backtracking back to SH1 after the visit to Muriwai too.

Regarding Waiheke Island - the "island of wines", you catch the passenger ferry from Pier 2 opposite Copthorne Harbourside. Some options for island tours include a ferry and tour ticket combined, or there are specialist tours available on the island including Ananda Tours. Tour-guides meet the ferry at the main wharf, Matiatia. Otherwise there is a good network of passenger buses waiting at the wharf, and taxis as well. Here's a useful Waiheke site - www.waiheke.co.nz

Regarding the Cape Reinga tour, I recommend you take a coach tour for this sector. Specialist vehicles which are constructed to drive 90 Mile Beach. Rental vehicles are prohibited from driving on the beach. It means doubling back on the same road if self-driving. But the road is sealed all the way to the carpark at the Cape. And you can always detour off to Waipapakauri, or over to Cape Karikari if you decide to drive yourselves.

Goat Island offers excellent snorkelling with abundant species seen including snapper. Ive done both the snorkelling and also the glass bottom boat. I'd do both again/next time I'm in the Leigh area.

Cheers!

leeds
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6. Re: First time visit to Auckland and Northland

If you want more time in Paihia and get the breath-taking views of the Northland have a look at Salt Air. fly/drive or helicopter. I did the fly/drive in January on the six seater www.saltair.co.nz/

Sydney, Australia
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7. Re: First time visit to Auckland and Northland

Thanks for all the helpful advice we cant wait to get there - it looks like there is a lot to see and very scenic!

Looking more closely at the map - could we drive through Waitakere ranges and to one of those beaches( which one?) and then up to Muriwai for a look at the birds and 60km beach before heading over to Leigh to Goat Island. A couple of hours there and then head north fairly directly...

Or are the beaches in Waitakere National Park not so amazing? I am imagining "The Piano"!?

Cheers

Rarotonga, Cook...
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8. Re: First time visit to Auckland and Northland

Chase, your day appears to be full-on with a visit to Muriwai and the gannet colony, followed by Leigh marine reserve & Goat Island, before continuing north to Paihia.

Our Northland roads are windy which slows progress, and there are several 80 kpm zones en route. Besides you drive through towns with their 50 kph speed limit. Driving factors alone will decrease the available sightseeing time and based on current daylioght conditions too. Already your plans include 5+ hours minimum of driving time alone; from the city to Muriwai - Leigh - Paihia taking a direct route.

However the Waitakere Ranges are one of the best features of Auckland region. I suggest you head directly to the Arataki Visitors Centre from the city, and to enjoy the Scenic Drive road through regenerating native bush as far north as Swanson before continuing to Muriwai beach through Waitakere village. The views across the ranges and water-intakes/dams to the west coast are awesome. And there is good information at the centre about the clearing of former kauri forests for the timber and kauri gum trades by pioneer settlers.

Karekare beach, Piha and Bethel's beach are all outstanding! But I doubt if you will have time to fit another beach stop into your day. You could leave out the Goat Island visit for the journey south to Auckland after your BOI and Far North trip. It would streamline your coastal interests heading north, and Leigh would then make for a great rest-stop, followed by Matakana area/Warkworth on the journey back to Auckland.

London, United...
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9. Re: First time visit to Auckland and Northland

Another recommendation for Salt Air's fly-in trip to Cape Reinga. It is expensive but worth it, and we were back in Russell for lunch.

Sydney, Australia
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10. Re: First time visit to Auckland and Northland

Sorry brittraveller but though it looks like it would be an amazing experience it is way out of our budget! We will have to be happy with seeing everything from the ground and trying to be more selective!

Frangipani I think I am trying to do too much so I will have to prune it back...You have been very generous with your advice but can I bother you for some more? We are planning to do a day sailing on BOI with snorkeling the next day so might have to miss out on Goat Island this time altogether? We might have to also miss Muriwai...

I am not sure how long it will take driving down West Coast (can you tell me) and what there is to see along the way. We have to get to the airport to return car by 5pm. Can we fit in Matakana/Brick Bay Sculpture Park for a late lunch if we dont stop much - maybe a small detour to Kaiiwi Lakes!