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Northland & Bay of Islands

Located at the northern tip of New Zealand's North Island, Northland is a land of contrasts, with ancient kauri forests, pristine beaches, and charming coastal towns. This region is not only the birthplace of the nation, with significant historical sites like the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, but it also boasts some of the most spectacular coastal scenery in the country, including the famous Bay of Islands.

Northland's climate, known for being subtropical, means warm, humid summers and mild winters, making it a perfect destination year-round. The Northland weather encourages outdoor activities and exploration, whether you're soaking up the sun on the golden sands of Paihia, sailing through the turquoise waters of the Bay of Islands, or driving up to the iconic lighthouse at Cape Reinga.

Travelling by campervan offers the freedom to explore Northland's diverse attractions at your own pace. From the historic charm of Kerikeri to the Tutukaka Coast, known for its world-class diving spots, there’s something for everyone. Take your pick of great Northland holiday parks and campgrounds along the way, ensuring comfort and convenience as you discover the stunning landscapes of this captivating region. Whether you’re interested in Māori culture, keen on adventure sports, or simply in need of a peaceful retreat amidst stunning natural beauty, Northland provides an unforgettable backdrop for a memorable campervan journey.


Why explore Northland & Bay of Islands by campervan

Exploring Northland by campervan is the ideal way to truly connect with the region's abundant natural beauty and rich history. With the freedom of the open road, you can navigate the diverse landscapes at your leisure. Start your day with a sunrise at Paihia, have lunch in an ancient kauri forest, and end with a sunset at Ninety Mile Beach. 

The ability to spontaneously choose your destinations each day, without the need to stick to a fixed itinerary or check-in times, means you can immerse yourself fully in whatever captures your interest. Travelling by campervan not only offers all the comforts of home, including your kitchen and bed but also supports a self-sufficient way to travel. This is a big plus in Northland, where you might want to spend several days exploring more remote areas. Plus, having your own facilities means you're never too far from a hot meal or a comfortable night's sleep, no matter where your adventures in Northland take you.


Things to do in Northland & Bay of Islands

You certainly won’t be short of things to do in Northland and the Bay of Islands. This popular region is bursting with activities that cater to every interest and age group. Discover Kerikeri’s historic sites, including the oldest stone building in New Zealand. Relax in the laidback setting of Russell, a charming town with a rich history. Adventure seekers can enjoy kayaking along the coast or exploring the underwater world at Poor Knights Islands. For a more leisurely pace, indulge in wine tasting at local vineyards or simply unwind on the pristine beaches of the Bay of Islands. Every corner of Northland promises memorable experiences for all.

Alyssa Tresider
/ Categories: NZ blog

Best beaches in the North Island.

Keen to explore the best beaches in the North Island by campervan hire? From the sun-kissed sands of Auckland beaches to the secluded coves of the Bay of Islands NZ, this guide is your ultimate companion. Whether you're a beachcomber, a water sports enthusiast, or simply in search of tranquil spots for relaxation, our curated list will help fill your travel itinerary with unforgettable coastal gems. 

Pack your sunscreen, grab your towels, and get ready to drive New Zealand's scenic routes as we unveil the top North Island beaches NZ has to offer. 


What’s the North Island known for?

The North Island, Te Ika-a-Māui, is brimming with natural beauty and cultural richness, making it a standout destination to explore by campervan. Known for its dynamic landscapes that range from rolling hills and lush forests to active volcanic zones and geothermal wonders, the island offers plenty of unforgettable experiences. 

But let's not forget the real stars of the show on the North Island: the beaches. Take your pick from miles and miles of coastline, where every beach has its own vibe. On one side, you've got the east coast with its golden sands and calm waters. Then, swing over to the west, and you're stepping onto the rugged, black-sand beaches that are a whole different kind of cool. 

Whether you're into surfing, sunbathing, or building the world's greatest sandcastle, the North Island's beaches have got something for everyone.


The best way to explore the North Island

When it comes to discovering the North Island's vast and varied landscapes, there's no better way than hitting the road in a campervan hire. The freedom and flexibility that come with campervan travel are unmatched, allowing you to chart your own course and spent longer in places that capture your heart. Imagine waking up to the sound of waves at a Waihi Beach camping spot or enjoying a leisurely breakfast parked up at one of the best beaches in Auckland.

Camper and motorhome travel not only puts the best of the North Island's beaches within easy reach but also offers a practical and enjoyable way to experience things to do in New Zealand. With the convenience of your accommodation and transport rolled into one, you can enjoy safe swimming beaches in Auckland without worrying about check-out times or packing up. Plus, the camaraderie of the campervan community adds an extra layer of joy to your New Zealand road trip, making every stop an opportunity to share stories and tips with fellow travellers.


The top 8 best beaches in the North Island

Ready to discover the coastal jewels of the North Island? From secluded bays to surf hotspots, we've rounded up the top 8 beaches that are a must-visit on your campervan hire journey. Each one offers something unique, so let's dive in and explore what makes these spots truly special.

Image - Instagram: @kristamayphotography


1. Piha Beach

Nestled on the rugged west coast, Piha Beach is a slice of paradise for surfers and nature lovers alike. Famous for its iconic Lion Rock and powerful waves, Piha is one of the most popular Auckland beaches. The dramatic black sand and surrounding lush greenery make for stunning views, whether you're catching a wave or enjoying a picnic. For those who love a good stroll, the nearby walking tracks offer breathtaking vistas and a chance to explore the area's natural beauty.

Where to stay near Piha Beach

For a cosy spot to park your camper, check out Piha Domain Motor Camp. It's the perfect base to explore the beach and its surroundings, offering excellent facilities to make your stay comfortable.


2. Matapouri Bay

Matapouri Bay is a pristine gem on the Tutukaka Coast, celebrated for its sparkling white sand and crystal-clear waters. This tranquil bay is perfect for a range of activities, from kayaking along the gentle waves to exploring the nearby coastal walks that offer stunning views of the surrounding landscapes. The area is enveloped by lush greenery, adding to the sense of escape and connection with nature. For those keen on a scenic stroll, the Matapouri Whale Bay walkway provides an opportunity to explore the coastline's natural beauty, leading to secluded spots that are perfect for a quiet picnic or simply soaking up the serene atmosphere.

Where to stay near Matapouri Bay

Set up camp at Tutukaka Holiday Park, a stone's throw away from Matapouri Bay. This welcoming spot offers all you need for a comfortable stay, making it the perfect place to relax following a day filled with seaside adventures.


3. 90 Mile Beach

Stretching far into the horizon, 90 Mile Beach provides an expansive playground for beach lovers and adventure seekers on their New Zealand road trip. Despite its name, this beach is actually about 55 miles long, but it's no less impressive. Renowned for its vast, unbroken stretch of sand, it's perfect for activities like beach fishing, sandboarding down the massive dunes, or simply enjoying a leisurely drive along the shore. The beach is also a gateway to the stunning Cape Reinga, where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean, offering breathtaking views and a sense of serenity. 

Please note: Apollo campervans are not permitted on the sand.

Where to stay near 90 Mile Beach

Just a short drive from the beach, Ngapae Holiday Park provides a welcoming spot for campervan travellers. With its convenient location, it's an ideal base to explore the vast beauty of 90 Mile Beach and the surrounding area.


4. Hot Water Beach

Hot Water Beach is a unique coastal feature on the Coromandel Peninsula and a must-visit on your New Zealand itinerary. Here, you can dig your own natural spa in the sand during low tide, thanks to the underground hot springs that filter up through the sand. It's an incredible experience to soak in the warm waters with the cool ocean just steps away. Remember to bring a spade, or you can rent one from local shops. For those looking to explore further, the area offers beautiful coastal walks showcasing the stunning Coromandel landscape.

Where to stay near Hot Water Beach

For a comfortable stay close to this natural wonder, the Hot Water Beach TOP 10 Holiday Park is your go-to. It's perfectly positioned for you to make the most of Hot Water Beach's unique thermal attractions and provides excellent facilities for motorhome and campervan enthusiasts.


5. Mount Maunganui Main Beach

At the heart of the Bay of Plenty, Mount Maunganui Main Beach is a coastal haven that's a favourite among both locals and visitors on their New Zealand road trip. With its vast stretch of golden sand and surf-friendly waves, it's no wonder this beach is often bustling with activity. The beach is crowned by Mauao, the iconic extinct volcano at its northern end, offering a scenic walk to the summit with panoramic views of the coastline. Whether you're here to catch some waves, soak up the sun, or enjoy a leisurely walk around Mauao, Mount Maunganui Main Beach has something for everyone.

Where to stay near Mount Maunganui Beach

For beachfront accommodation, look no further than Mount Maunganui Beachside Holiday Park. It's the perfect spot to park your campervan and enjoy easy access to the beach, local cafes, and shops, making your stay both convenient and enjoyable.


6. Raglan Beach

Known for its laid-back vibe and world-class surf, Raglan Beach is a must-visit for those seeking a blend of adventure and relaxation on their New Zealand itinerary. The black sand beach, surrounded by rugged cliffs, offers some of the best left-hand surf breaks in the world. Beyond surfing, the area is crisscrossed with walking trails that lead to breathtaking lookouts and hidden waterfalls, ensuring there's plenty to explore off the water as well.

Where to stay near Raglan Beach

Raglan Holiday Park provides a friendly base for beachgoers and surf enthusiasts. With its close proximity to Raglan Beach and the town's charming cafes and shops, it's an ideal spot to experience the best of Raglan's coastal lifestyle.

Image: Tourism New Zealand

7. Whitianga Beach

Nestled in the heart of the Coromandel Peninsula, Whitianga Beach offers a tranquil escape with its long stretch of soft, white sand and calm, clear waters. It's an ideal spot for families and those looking to enjoy a relaxed day by the sea. The beach is a gateway to exploring the nearby Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach, two of the Coromandel's most famous attractions. For a leisurely day, take a stroll along the Whitianga waterfront or explore the local shops and cafes that add charm to this coastal town.

Where to stay near Whitianga Beach

Just a short walk from the beach, Mercury Bay Holiday Park offers a peaceful setting for your campervan or motorhome. With its convenient location, it's the perfect base to explore Whitianga and the surrounding natural beauty of the Coromandel.


8. Orewa Beach

Just north of Auckland, Orewa Beach stretches for three kilometres along the Hibiscus Coast, offering a wide expanse of sand perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and long, leisurely walks. The beach is known for its safe swimming conditions, making it a popular choice for families. The Orewa Estuary walkway provides a scenic route for walkers and cyclists, offering picturesque views of the estuary and surrounding wetlands.

Where to stay near Orewa Beach

For those looking to stay close to the beach, Orewa Beach Holiday Park provides a fantastic beachfront location. With easy access to the beach and local amenities, it's an excellent spot for those looking to enjoy the best of Orewa's coastal lifestyle.


Ready to explore the North Island? 

From the surfers' haven of Raglan Beach to the tranquil shores of Whitianga, the North Island is a beach lover's dream. Apollo campers are here to make your dream holiday a reality. 

With a wide range of campervans and motorhomes to suit every traveller's needs, we've got you covered. Book your campervan hire with Apollo today and start planning your journey to the North Island's best beaches. The sand, surf, and sun await!

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Popular Northland & Bay of Islands road trips & itineraries

Northland and the Bay of Islands, situated at the northern tip of New Zealand's North Island, are ideal for campervan explorations rich in history, natural beauty, and adventure. With numerous scenic routes that lead to secluded bays and vibrant coastal towns, the journey itself becomes as captivating as the destinations. Well-equipped campgrounds along the way make it easy to park up and soak in the scenery or enjoy starlit nights away from hustle and bustle.

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Apollo Campervan branches


Departing from Apollo Auckland, you’re perfectly positioned for a half-day drive to Northland & the Bay of Islands. This route ensures a seamless blend of scenic beauty and local culture, culminating in the stunning landscapes of Northland.


The drive from Apollo Christchurch to Northland & the Bay of Islands sets you up for a scenic multi-day journey across the South Island, including the picturesque ferry crossing at the Cook Strait, and into the North Island. 


Keen to make the most of your road trip and explore as much of New Zealand as possible? Book your camper with our Queenstown branch and take your time heading northward over an epic 10-14 days taking in some of the great southern highlights along the way. 

Auckland City Skyline


New Zealand’s multi-cultural hub of food, music, arts and culture.


Christchurch City, New Zealand


 One of the world’s most unique destinations.



Breathtaking scenery and adrenaline-pumping adventure activities.


Helpful tips for visiting Northland & the Bay of Islands


Climate and seasons in Northland & the Bay of Islands

Northland and the Bay of Islands are renowned for their mild, subtropical climate, making them inviting destinations throughout the year. The warm Northland weather is perfect for enjoying the region's stunning coastal areas and rich cultural heritage.

  • Summer (December to February) in Northland are warm and humid, with temperatures usually ranging from 22°C to 26°C. This season is ideal for exploring the beautiful beaches, engaging in water sports, or simply enjoying the vibrant outdoor lifestyle with alfresco dining along the waterfront. Summer is also a popular time for tourists, so expect a lively atmosphere, especially in beach towns.

  • Autumn (March to May) sees slightly cooler temperatures and less humidity, making it a perfect time for hiking and outdoor activities without the intense heat of summer. The scenery remains lush, and the less crowded attractions allow for a more relaxed exploration of the region.

  • Winter (June to August) brings cooler weather, with daytime temperatures typically between 15°C and 18°C. The cooler days are ideal for visiting historical sites and museums or enjoying some of Northland’s renowned cultural festivals. Winter in Northland is generally mild, allowing for year-round outdoor activities.

  • Spring (September to November) revitalises the region with early blooms and warmer weather, gradually heating up towards summer. This is an excellent time to witness the vibrant flora and fauna as the landscapes burst into life, making it ideal for photography and nature walks.




What to pack?

Preparing for your campervan road trip in Northland and the Bay of Islands means packing smartly to fully enjoy the region's mild, subtropical climate and rich outdoor and cultural offerings. From sunbathing on pristine beaches to exploring historic sites and sailing in the bay, here’s what to bring:

  • Outdoor gear: The diverse environments, from the sandy beaches of the Bay of Islands to the forested walks of Cape Reinga, call for versatile outdoor apparel. Opt for lightweight, breathable clothing that will keep you comfortable during the warm days, and don’t forget a few layers for cooler evenings — perfect for cosy nights under the stars. Durable walking shoes are essential, whether you're planning to trek through the forests or stroll around the historic towns.

  • Campervan add-ons: Enhancing your campervan setup can significantly improve your travel experience. Consider packing a portable barbecue for enjoyable seaside grills. You may also like to hire extra camping chairs and a table when you book your Apollo campervan to create a comfortable outdoor living space wherever you park. These additions are perfect for relaxing after a day of adventure or for enjoying a meal with a view.

  • Sun protection: The Northland and Bay of Islands region enjoy plenty of sunshine, making thorough sun protection crucial. Include a high-SPF sunscreen, UV-protection sunglasses, and a broad-brimmed hat in your packing list. This will ensure you can safely indulge in the outdoor activities that the region is famous for, from kayaking across clear waters to lounging on the beach.

For more helpful ideas, check out our guide to what to pack for your campervan road trip.



Attractions and day trips in Northland


Waitangi Treaty Grounds

The Waitangi Treaty Grounds are a must-visit for anyone interested in New Zealand's history. As the site of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, it offers a deep dive into the nation's past through engaging exhibits, guided tours, and cultural performances. The beautifully maintained grounds overlooking the Bay of Islands also provide a peaceful setting to reflect on New Zealand's foundational document.


Paihia is the vibrant heart of the Bay of Islands, known for its lively waterfront filled with cafes, shops, and galleries. It's the perfect base for exploring the surrounding islands by ferry or enjoying water sports like kayaking and parasailing. The town's relaxed atmosphere and scenic beauty make it a favourite spot for both locals and tourists.


Once known as a rowdy 19th-century whaling port, Russell has transformed into a charming seaside town. It's rich with historic buildings like New Zealand’s oldest church, and its quaint streets, waterfront promenades, and excellent restaurants offer a picturesque step back in time.

Cape Reinga

At the northern tip of New Zealand, Cape Reinga offers breathtaking views where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean. This spiritually significant site for Māori is accessible via a scenic drive, with opportunities to see the iconic lighthouse and the famous pohutukawa tree that marks the 'leaping-off' point of spirits into the afterlife.

Ninety Mile Beach

Despite its name, Ninety Mile Beach is actually about 55 miles long and serves as one of the country’s most stunning natural highways. It’s perfect for a day of adventure, offering activities like sandboarding down massive dunes or just enjoying a leisurely drive along its vast, sandy stretch.


Kerikeri is known for its fertile soils and beautiful orchards, but it's also rich in history. Highlights include the Stone Store and Kemp House, the oldest stone and wood buildings in New Zealand. The town also hosts vibrant markets and has a thriving arts scene, making it a delightful destination for culture and cuisine.


Mangonui is primarily known for its historic waterfront lined with heritage buildings that now house charming cafes and shops. This small fishing village is famous for its fish and chips, offering fresh seafood with a view. It’s an ideal spot for a relaxed day soaking up local flavours and sea breezes.


Whangarei, the northernmost city in New Zealand, offers a mix of cultural and natural attractions, including the acclaimed Whangarei Falls and the Town Basin marina filled with galleries and cafes. It's a great starting point for trips to the nearby beaches and lush native forests.


Known as the gateway to the Poor Knights Islands, Tutukaka offers some of New Zealand’s best diving and snorkelling experiences. The marine reserve's clear waters are teeming with colourful sea life and are perfect for underwater adventures. Above water, Tutukaka’s coast is dotted with secluded bays and pristine beaches to explore.


Where to stay in Northland & The Bay of Islands with a campervan

When it comes to finding the perfect spot to park and rest in Northland & the Bay of Islands, there's no shortage of picturesque, comfy campgrounds. Here are a few worth checking out:


Bay of Islands



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