Roadtripping in the North (Bay of Islands + Waterfalls)

When I first embarked on my solo trip to New Zealand, a road trip was never on my list because I have decided against renting a car. The winter roads and the short daylight times would make it difficult to navigate, and so is the long driving hours as compared to back in Singapore. But sometimes in travels, you will never know what to expect. In this case, Claire, my host, kindly gave us the keys to her spare car, and off we went for my first road trip in New Zealand.

The 8-hour road trip including various stops for lunch and short hikes, took us from the tiny town of Waipu (near Whangarei) to the famed Paihia at the Bay of Islands. A drive from Auckland to Bay of Islands is around 3.5 hours, so if you set off early from Auckland, this road trip map could work as well.

The route we took is:

Waipu –>  Paihia –> Kerikeri –> Kawakawa –> Whangarei –> Waipu  (as circled in the map below)

Screen Shot 2014-06-18 at 5.03.30 AM

Setting off, we decided to head all the way first to Bay of Islands, before making the slight stops on our way back. Aptly termed as the “Winterless North”, it was 18degrees when we arrived there, even though winter has officially set in, and it was drizzling at that time. Interestingly, in 2006, Paihia was found to have the 2nd bluest sky in the world after Rio de Janerio. Unfortunately, luck wasn’t on our side, and all we saw were gloomy skies. Paihia is famous for its dolphin sights tour, but due to the huge clouds, we decided against it.

Land of the dolphins, Paihia.

Land of the dolphins, Paihia.

Gloomy skies doesn't seem to affect this seagull.

Gloomy skies doesn’t seem to affect this seagull.

There aren’t plenty to see in Paihia if you are not heading to see the dolphins or towards Russell, the first ancient capital of New Zealand. So, we headed to the i-site to garner some information, and after roaming a little at the pier, drove towards Haruru falls (up towards Kerikeri).

While not the most impressive of waterfalls, Haruru still attracts visitors due to its unique horseshoe shape. I personally prefer tall waterfalls, because of how impressive it looks. But being the first waterfall sighting in New Zealand, Haruru serves well as a teaser to the magnificent sights in store for me.

Horseshoe waterfall

Horseshoe waterfall

Driving up towards Haruru, you will pass by the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, where the Maori chiefs first signed an agreement, the first founding document of New Zealand. Children up to 17 visit for free, while adults pay $25 to go in. I’ve heard that it is a fine tour, but with other destinations on our road trip list, we gave it a miss.

While Haruru falls was the only waterfall on our to-see list, we sighted another waterfall on our way to Kerikeri, and in we went for our next waterfall adventure.

Lookout from Mt. Bledisloe on our way to Kerikeri

Lookout from Mt. Bledisloe on our way to Kerikeri

A short 5 mins walk took us to Rainbow Waterfalls, a 21 metre waterfall just off Waipapa Road. This was more of what I imagined a waterfall to be, and after Haruru, it is interesting to see another different type of waterfall.


Rainbow Falls from the bottom

Rainbow Falls from the bottom

We bought some two full bags of mandarins in Kerikeri on Claire’s orders, and after a short lunch picnic (kindly prepared by Claire), Kawakawa was next on our list. And it is in this cute little town, where we acted like any other tourists, and went round taking photos of toilets.

And as if two waterfalls were not enough, as we drove down to Whangarei to make our way back to Waipu, we decided to drop by Whangarei Falls just before darkness set in at around 6pm. Like Rainbow Falls, Whangarei Falls is a curtain waterfall, standing at 26 metres tall.

Whangarei Falls

Whangarei Falls

3 waterfalls, 2 bags of mandarins, and 1 wonderful road trip. Oh New Zealand, what a beautiful place you are proving to be!


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