Bay of Islands, Waitangi and Keri Keri – one hour’s drive north of Whangarei

Picturesque Bay of Islands can be reached within 1 hour from Lupton Lodge (Whangarei). The touring routes below include land and water based activities for all ages, budgets and interests. There are both well know tourist activities and off-the-beaten-track alternatives listed to give you a range of suggestions for filling in your day.

This Bay of Islands self-drive tour can be travelled in either direction.

Whangarei to Kawakawa (45 mins)

Head North towards the Bay of Islands on SH1. About 40 minutes into your drive you will see signs pointing right to the Kawiti Glow Worm Caves. These are about 5km off the main road and have guided tours. 5 minutes more and you arrive at Kawakawa. Take a slight detour left off the road into the Kawakawa township to see the Hundertwasser Toilets – you’ll instantly understand why they have made it to tourist attraction status. You can also ride on an historic train through town (restricted times). 16km North of Kawakawa (towards Paihia & Russell) you can go Quad Bike riding (advance bookings essential).

Kawakawa to Paihia (15 mins)

Follow SH11 towards Paihia for 15 minutes. There are lots of different activities available for water lovers in Paihia. Swim with dolphins, take a high-speed boat trip to Hole in the Rock or cruise around the islands… catch the passenger ferry to Russell, kayak or parasail, or just wander along the shore towards Waitangi. The main wharf in the centre of Paihia is the starting point for all cruises. If you have kids the 35 Degrees South Aquarium Restaurant near the wharf will offer you the most restful lunch on your holiday – most kids become transfixed watching the fish swim past your table. You can hire kayaks and book parasailing at the kiosk at the southern end of the beach.

Parking is available on Marsden Road or next to the main Wharf (short term). There are cafes, shops and a bank in the centre of Paihia.

Paihia to Waitangi (5 mins drive)

At the end of Paihia beach you may find a large Waka (Maori Canoe) and a team of Maori Warriors ready to take you on a journey across the sea. Further along the beach, at the far end of the waterfront, is the Sugar Boat Restaurant, which was brought to the Bay of Islands by Kelly Tarlton, originally to become a museum. Continue over the one way bridge to Waitangi. At Waitangi Treaty Grounds you can learn about the Treaty of Waitangi, take a nature walk, see a Maori Cultural Show or play a game of golf… all with great views over the Bay of Islands.

You can walk to Waitangi from Paihia in around 30 minutes.

Paihia to Kerikeri (20 mins)

After you leave Waitangi drive back towards Paihia then turn right at Puketona Road (roundabout). Over summer there is an Adventure Park 200m up on your left. Stop off to see the panoramic Haruru Falls and if you are really brave try a spot of Sky Diving from Watena Airfield. Turn right at Puketona Junction onto SH10. On your right before you reach Kerikeri are the Living Nature factory shop and Cottle Hill Winery.

Kerikeri is the culinary centre of the Bay of Islands. Marsden Estate, Ake Ake Vineyard and Cottle Hill Winery offer tastings and delicious lunches. The Kerikeri Bakehouse is also a great place for a casual lunch or Cafe Blue has an outdoor playground and lots of grass to run around on for kids. Along Kerikeri road visit the various Kauri (wood), ceramics and art galleries. Not to be missed is Makana Confections’ chocolate factory!

Every Sunday morning the Bay of Islands Farmers Market is held in the main carpark (Mondays on long weekends).

At the far end of Kerikeri is the Kerikeri Basin. Here you will find Mission House and Stone Store, steamboat rides and Rewa’s Maori Village. You can take a walk to Rainbow Falls from the carpark opposite the Stone Store.

Puketi Forest and Waimate North Mission Station are both within 20mins drive of Kerikeri and worth the side journey.

Kerikeri to Whangarei (75 mins)

Return south to Whangarei via Kawakawa. Just south of Puketona Junction on SH10 is the Mahoe Cheese factory and Fibres Gallery. For guests of Lupton Lodge, don’t forget to turn right off SH1 towards Kamo/Whangarei Falls. Take Station road (left at the lights) followed by left at the T-Junction to get onto Ngunguru Rd.

Bay of Islands Driving Tour 2 - Whangarei to Russell (Bay of Islands) via Oakura/Helena Bay/Whangaruru Harbour (the Old Russell Road coastal route)

More Northland driving itineraries and day trip suggestions

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