Northland and Bay of Islands Road Trip Day 5: 90 Mile Beach, Mangonui, Rainbow Falls, Kerikeri Stone Store

Northland and Bay of Islands Road Trip Day  5: 90 Mile Beach, Mangonui, Rainbow Falls, Kerikeri Stone Store

Day 5:  90 Mile Beach, Wild Horses, Taipa,  Mangonui, Rainbow Falls, Kerikeri Stone Store

Day 5 we departed Pukenui to head back to Kerikeri planning for lots of stops along the way.  90 Mile Beach was our first destination.  We’d been told horses roam wild in the recently cleared pine forests on the way to 90 Mile Beach so kept a look out for them and saw several groups right along the edge of the gravel road.  There were even foals and the horses didn’t seem afraid so we were able to easily slow down and take photos of them.


The dusty dirt road leading to 90 Mile Beach.


At 90 Mile Beach we were able to drive our cars right onto the beach.


I was so amazed by the low fluffy clouds sitting just inland from the wide sands of 90 Mile Beach and following the coast as far as the eye can see to the North and South.  I’d never before seen clouds over the land like this which were completely different to the clouds in the sky.  I was so blown away by it and could see why it was named Aotearoa – The Land of the Long White Cloud.


We stopped briefly at Taipa, the place where my Mother-in-law grew up.  We drove to the Peria cemetery (actually we went to the wrong cemetary first and this is where we took the first photo of the cute church below) and were able to find the graves of my husband’s grandparents and great-grandparents as well as the site of the old farmhouse where my Mother-in-law grew up.


Mangonui was our next stop.  Apparently the Mangonui Fish Shop is famous for it’s Fish and Chips so we planned to go there but the parking lot was completely full and we found a park next to a different Fish and Chip shop by the small town centre so went there instead.  Plus being gluten free I wanted to find a place which offers gluten free food and found a nice cafe next to the smaller fish and chip shop which had nice gf quiche and salads.
The historic buildings were beautiful, it’s a lovely wee place to stop and take a break.


After Mangonui, we drove down a winding road to another stunning bay, Taupo Bay. Again, the setting was beautiful and the surf was excellent for boogie boarding.
With the dark green hillsides surrounding this bay and the temperature of the day it felt like we were on a tropical island.


Just on the edge of Kerikeri are the Rainbow Falls.  There is an easy parking lot with toilets and a very short walk to the lookout over the falls.  A further 5 minute walk takes you down to the bottom of the falls where you can swim in the big pool at the bottom of the waterfall.  Kris and our son climbed over the rocks all the way around the edge of the pool and right around in behind the waterfall.  They found a good place to jump in and took turns leaping into the water.  I loved swimming in the pool, close enough to feel the spray from the waterfall on my face.  After a day of travelling and an afternoon swimming in the ocean it was wonderful to swim in a freshwater pool.


Our final stop of the day was at the Kerikeri Old Stone Store and Mission site.  The location of these buildings is picture perfect, next to the river and in a lovely park.  It was nearly 6pm when we arrived and everything was closed so we wandered around the buildings and explored the gardens.


We wandered around the old Stone Store and Kemp House and discovered the oldest exotic fruit tree in New Zealand, a Pear tree planted by Samuel Marsden in 1819, which is located in the middle of the carpark of the Pear Tree Restaurant.


Next to the restaurant buildings at the back of the carpark we spotted an old shed sporting a sign stating ‘Blacksmith’ which looked like it could have been a very early building (although now seems to be used as a shed).
We later discovered it was indeed the original Blacksmith’s Shop which also was home to some of the earliest settlers (excuse my daughter, she is wearing her swimsuit not a top with no pants)!



Northland and Bay of Islands Road Trip Day 4: Cape Reinga, Giant Sand Dunes, Rarawa Beach, Henderson Bay

Northland and Bay of Islands Road Trip Day 4: Cape Reinga, Giant Sand Dunes, Rarawa Beach, Henderson Bay

Day 4:  Cape Reinga, Giant Sand Dunes, Rarawa Beach, Henderson Bay

Cape Reinga is about 70km North of Pukenui.  The one hour drive takes you through farmland with only a couple of places you can stop to buy ice-creams and drinks.
We saw several farmers with their stock coming down the road toward us which was a highlight for me.
Unfortunately for us, on the drive to the Cape there was low cloud completely obscuring the view.  The low cloud had settled in quickly as we drove North so for much of the drive we couldn’t see anything to the left or the right which gave an eerie feeling of travelling along a mountain cliff top with sheer drops on either side (which wasn’t the case).


We left early so we could get to Cape Reinga before the tourist buses began arriving around 11am.  We found a park easily (when we left an hour later the carpark was packed and cars had to wait down the road before they could come and find a park.  There are public toilets at Cape Reinga but nowhere to purchase food, nor are you allowed to eat food there as the parking is at such a minimum they need people to keep moving) and walked the pathway down to the lighthouse.  At this point the cloud was so low and thick we could barely see more than a few metres ahead.


Eventually we saw the lighthouse up ahead.  We waited at the lighthouse lookout and were rewarded as the cloud began to lift and the stunning views out into the meeting place of the Tasman sea and Pacific ocean and the beautiful coastline came into view.


From Cape Reinga we drove a short distance south to the Giant Sand Dunes which are simply gargantuan sand dunes!  You can hire boogie boards for $15 and purchase cold drinks from a truck and there is a public toilet here too.
We ate our picnic lunch, hired a board and headed onto the dunes.
The sand dunes are huge and it is quite a trek to get up them.  The heat was oppressive.  It was about 29 degrees and out on the sand it was like being in a desert.  The sand was too hot for bare feet.
You can choose to boogie board down any of the dunes but of course the bigger ones take longer to trek up each time!
Kris and our nephew went up the highest dune and did two runs down each (too much of a hike in the heat to do more than that) and the rest of us found some smaller dunes (still big though!) which were closer and had some rides down them.
Because of the heat we didn’t spend long on the dunes.


We stopped at Te Kao for an icecream on our drive back to Pukenui.  If you expect to find cafes and eateries along the road to Cape Reinga you will be disappointed so packing your own picnic lunch is a must.

Just before we got back to Pukenui we turned off the main road and drove out to Rarawa Beach.  This is a long wide beach with white sand rich in silica.  The surf was good for boogie boarding and there was a river which had created a lagoon and was warm so the little kids enjoyed lazing about in there.


The earth way up North is red like you’d expect to see in Australia and unlike anything you see elsewhere in New Zealand.  The river which created the lagoon the kids played in was stained an orange colour due to the red earth.


Back at Pukenui we enjoyed the pool once more and went to the only restaurant (next to the Four Square supermarket) for dinner where we had a bistro style fish and chips meal, possibly slightly overpriced, before heading to Henderson beach to explore the rock pools which were full of fish and crabs.


Northland and Bay of Islands Road Trip Day 3: Cable Bay, Karikari Peninsula, Matai Bay, Pukenui

Northland and Bay of Islands Road Trip Day 3: Cable Bay, Karikari Peninsula, Matai Bay, Pukenui

Day 3: Cable Bay, Karikari Peninsula, Matai Bay, drive to Pukenui.

See Day 1 of our road trip here and Day 2 here.

We left Kerikeri, stopping at the supermarket for picnic lunch food, heading up to our accommodation in Pukenui.  We stopped briefly at Cable Bay to stretch our legs.  I would have been happy to sit all day at this beach with it’s beautiful golden sand and rockpools to explore.


We continued on our way turning right onto the Karikari Peninsula, driving all the way to the end of the peninsula arriving at Matai Bay.  This is a lovely calm beach with very gentle waves and beautiful crystal clear water, just perfect for swimming .  There are rock pools to explore too. You will need to bring your own food as there’s nowhere to purchase anything.  We took a picnic lunch.
There are public toilets and showers to rinse off the salt water next to the DoC camping ground.

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We arrived at our motel in Pukenui (Pukenui Lodge Motel) around 5pm and made use of the lovely pool before popping across the road to the well stocked 4 Square supermarket to buy ingredients for dinner (steak and salad making use of the impeccably clean bbq available at the motel).  The motel is basic but had everything we needed and was very clean.  The rates are very reasonable and the hosts are friendly and helpful.  The motel has a fabulous view over the Houhora Harbour.


Northland and Bay of Islands Road Trip Day 2: Matauri Bay, Paihia, Waitangi Treaty Grounds

Northland and Bay of Islands Road Trip Day 2:  Matauri Bay, Paihia, Waitangi Treaty Grounds

Day 2.  Matauri Bay, Paihia, Waitangi Treaty Grounds

Read Day 1 of our Northland and Bay of Islands Roadtrip here.
On Day 2 we drove around 30 minutes through remote farmland from Kerikeri to Matauri Bay for the morning.  The main road up North heads through the middle of the Island and to get to the beaches you need to take winding roads through farmland which finally turn to gravel roads through bush which open out to the most stunning beaches.


Matauri Bay has great surf for body surfing and boogie boarding and we kept our eyes pealed for dolphins as some had been spotted there the day before but didn’t see any.  Our kids had hours of fun boogie boarding and splashing in the waves.


The climb to the Rainbow Warrior memorial on top of one of the headland hills by the bay (camping  ground end) is well worth it for stunning views of beautiful bays, beaches and islands in every direction.


Later in the afternoon we drove the 20 minutes from Kerikeri to Paihia in the Bay of Islands where we visited the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.  Entry costs $25 per adult and kids under 18 are free.  The entry cost includes a guided tour, entrance to the museum and a cultural performance.
We really enjoyed the guided tour but unfortunately arrived too late in the day to take both the tour and view the cultural performance.  We had just enough time to go through the museum and take the tour before closing time at 6pm.


On our way back to Kerikeri we stopped in Paihia for Movenpick icecream and sushi.




Northland and Bay of Islands Road Trip Day 1: Drive to Kerikeri

Northland and Bay of Islands Road Trip Day 1: Drive to Kerikeri

Drive from Auckland Airport to Kerikeri

Many New Zealanders take their summer vacation (or holiday as we say in New Zealand) over the Christmas and New Year period and start back at work in the second week of January.  This is the peak holiday time in New Zealand so travelling later in January will avoid this peak holiday rush.
School doesn’t go back until the end of January or early February so a lot of families will still be away on holiday throughout the month of January.  The weather remains warm throughout February and into March.

Our family (my husband Kris and I with four of our children aged 7, 10, 13 and 14) decided we’d take a Road Trip around Northland and the Bay of Islands, a region only Kris has been to before (many years ago), together with Kris’s sister and her family in the second week of January.

Day 1: We began our road trip to Northland and the Bay of Islands in Auckland.
We flew into Auckland airport around 3pm and Kris’s sister and her family were there to meet us (with a vehicle for us) so we loaded up the car and set off by 3.30pm.

The drive to Kerikeri from Auckland airport takes around 3 hours.


There are several small towns you can stop at along the way but as with the rest of Northland I was surprised at how sparsely populated the area is so the majority of time is spent driving through farmland (once you leave Auckland city that is).


We stopped in Waipu for dinner. The restaurant my sister-in-law wanted to take us to was absolutely packed (on a Monday night!) so we ended up getting Fish and Chips for everyone except me.  I popped across the road and ordered a yummy Indian Biryani since I am gluten free.


We pulled in for another brief stop in Kawakawa to have a look at the famous Hundertwasser public toilets.  It is hard to see but there is actually a tree growing up through the roof (notice the tree trunk in the photo below?) so you can see the top  of the tree over the roof which is planted in grasses.


There were some neat mosaic murals and art works along the street including this neat New Zealand native birds couch in Kawakawa.


In Kerikeri we stayed with my Brother-in-law’s family.  All the kids slept in tents while the adults slept in the house.  It was so hot and humid at night, I think the kids may have slept better outside since it was a bit cooler than inside!


Kerikeri has a very sub-tropical feel to it, both in temperature, humidity and the variety of plants growing such as banana palms!  Everything was so lush and green.  This was my first time north of Auckland so it was a real eye-opener to see how tropical it is.
Our trip took place during the second week of January so was mid-summer and temperatures were around 29 degrees celcius each day, dropping to around 19 degrees overnight.



10 free things to do with kids in Christchurch

  1. Botanic Gardens
    Located in Hagley Park, the Botanic Gardens have plenty to keep kids occupied.  Walk, scooter or bike around the perimeter of the park, walk through and picnic in the gardens, play on the playground and in summer splash in the paddling pools.
  2. Canterbury Museum
    Located on the edge of the Botanic Gardens, the Museum is housed in a beautiful stone building dating from 1870.  The museum has natural history and human collections on display as well as a programme of changing exhibits and events.  There is a cafe upstairs as well as further exhibits so do explore all levels.
  3. Margaret Mahy Playground
    This playground has proved to be a big hit in Christchurch.  Kids of all ages will enjoy exploring the playground and water play area. There are picnic tables in the shade next to the river where you can spot eels and fish!
  4. Sumner Beach
    Kids will love the cave under Cave Rock and the little pools created around the rocks when it’s low tide.  Walk along the wide promenade to Scarborough Park at the cliff end where there is a playgound with a paddling pool and toilets.
  5. Riccarton Bush
    Putaringamotu is the sole remnant of ancient native forest on the Canterbury plains.  The Kahikatea trees here are up to 600 years old.  The loop track in Riccarton Bush only takes 10-15 minutes to complete and there is the historic Dean’s cottage and Riccarton House to look at as well as the river with ducks and plenty of grass area to picnic and play on.
  6. Wigram Airforce Museum
    Discover New Zealand’s military aviation history at the Wigram Air Force Museum.
    Kids will enjoy the exhibits and interactive displays.
  7. New Brighton Pier
    Take a walk down the New Brighton Pier, watch surfers and people fishing then wander along the beach below the big pillars.  The new playground is great with splash and paddling pools, a water play area and playgrounds.
  8. Bicycle riding
    Bottle Lake Forest or Macleans Island offer gentle mountain biking trails or for little ones Westburn Bike Park offers hour of fun on bikes or scooters with it’s mini road layouts and Kendal School Bike Track is great for kids to develop their cycling skills.  Many parks have skateboard and bmx tracks.
  9. Christchurch city libaries
    Check out the Christchurch city libraries website to see what is on offer at your local library. You might be surprised at the different classes offered.
  10. Find a park
    Christchurch has so many great parks.  Pack a picnic and a soccer ball and head out to discover some new parks and playgrounds.

Lake Roto Kohatu

Lake Roto Kohatu


Looking for a place to cool off on these hot Christchurch summer days?
Try Lake Roto Kohatu.  This lake is situated in North West Christchurch in the Sawyers Arms Reserve and is a popular recreational area for water sports.
Roto Kohatu is made up of two lakes, Tahi and Rua.  Tahi is the western lake and is leased to the Jetski club for their sole use.  Rua is the eastern lake and is often used for dragon boating, sailing, fishing and swimming.

The Roto Kohatu Reserve is accessed off the end of Sawyers Arms Road.  There is a carparking area but if the gate is open you can also continue driving up the gravel road, over a hill and then down to the lakes.  It is about one kilometer to the lake (past the first Jetski lake).  You are not able to drive in a complete circle around the lake as there is a barrier at the main swimming area at the very end of the road but you can access this main swimming area from either side of the lake.


It doesn’t have typical sandy lake shores but does have multiple little ‘bays’ where you can find some shallow areas for kids to splash around in, and some little wooden jetties which you can jump off into deeper water.  There is a rope swing for the adventurous and for the athletic it seems a popular place to swim ‘laps’ across the lake.


Roto Kohatu is a man-made lake.  It was once a quarry and was filled in and repurposed as a recreational reserve.  Roto Kohatu meets water quality standards and is tested regularly over the summer months.


We took Fish and Chips for dinner and walked alongside the lake until we found a quieter spot to eat our dinner and dip our feet in the water.


We went on a very hot Friday night and found there were a lot of boy racers hooning around the lake roads kicking up a lot of dust.  There were also several groups of young adults playing loud music and drinking and we noticed a lot of rubbish scattered about.  I didn’t see any rubbish bins around.
There were several young families with little children enjoying splashing and swimming in the lake so we didn’t feel entirely out of place!
I also noticed the noise from Jetskis on the other lake and a few planes flying overhead so between them and the boy racers it wasn’t exactly peaceful but that could have been mainly due to the fact we went on a Friday evening.

Don’t make the mistake we did while exploring the area; we took a road going along the back side of lake Tahi and reached a locked gate. There was no way to turn around so we had to reverse all the way back to the fork in the road taking care not to reverse into a ditch on one side or the lake on the other!


It was pleasant although not peaceful and nice if you’d prefer a fresh-water dip to an ocean splash!