Family-friendly hikes in the North Island | Apollo NZ
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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.

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Apollo Campervan branches

Auckland

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.

Christchurch

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. 

Queenstown

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

Auckland

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

 

Christchurch City, New Zealand

Christchurch

 One of the world’s most unique destinations.

 

Queenstown

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

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.

Russell

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

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

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

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.

Tutukaka

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:

Northland

Bay of Islands

 

 

Alyssa Tresider
/ Categories: NZ blog

Family-friendly hikes in the North Island.

Ready for some fun with the family in New Zealand's great outdoors? We've got you covered with some top-notch family-friendly hikes in the North Island. Perfect for when you're cruising around in your campervan hire, these trails are not just walks in the park. They're some of the best hikes in New Zealand for creating those awesome family memories. So, grab your hiking boots and let's hit the trails!

 

What to pack for a family hike

Hiking New Zealand is always an adventure, especially with kids in tow. To ensure everyone has a great time and stays safe, it's important to pack smart. Here are a few considerations worth bringing along:

  • Comfortable footwear: Ensure everyone has sturdy, comfortable shoes.

  • Weather-appropriate clothing: Layers are key, as weather can change quickly.

  • Snacks and water: Keep energy levels up with healthy snacks and plenty of water.

  • Sun protection: Hats, sunscreen, and sunglasses are must-haves.

  • First aid kit: For those little scrapes or bites.

  • Map and compass/GPS: Even on well-marked trails, it's good to have a backup.

  • Insect repellent: To keep the bugs at bay.

  • Camera or binoculars: For those beautiful views and wildlife spotting.

 

A word about Kauri Dieback Disease

Kauri dieback disease is a serious and deadly disease affecting kauri trees, one of New Zealand's most iconic and ancient tree species. Caused by a soil-borne pathogen, it poses a significant threat to these majestic trees, some of which are over 2,000 years old.

How you can help protect our precious kauri trees

As hikers and nature enthusiasts, we play a crucial role in preventing the spread of kauri dieback. When you’re enjoying New Zealand’s hiking trails, please remember to follow these important steps:

  1. Clean your gear: Thoroughly clean all soil off your shoes, gear, and pets' paws before and after visiting kauri forests. Cleaning stations are often provided at track entrances and exits.

  2. Stay on the path: Stick to designated tracks and avoid straying into areas where you could come into contact with kauri roots.

  3. Use boardwalks and cleaning stations: Where provided, use boardwalks and make sure to use hygiene stations to disinfect footwear.

  4. Respect area closures: Adhere to any signage or barriers indicating closed areas. These are put in place to protect kauri and prevent the spread of the disease.

  5. Spread awareness: Educate others about kauri dieback and the importance of following these guidelines.

 

Why is it important?

Protecting kauri is crucial not only for the preservation of a species but also for the broader ecological health of New Zealand's forests. Kauri are keystone species, playing a vital role in shaping their ecosystem. Their loss would have cascading effects on the biodiversity of our forests. By following these guidelines, we can all contribute to the protection of kauri trees and ensure that they continue to thrive for future generations to marvel at and enjoy.

Image: Tourism New Zealand

 

The best family-friendly hikes in the North Island

New Zealand is home to some fantastic trails that are perfect for families. Let's explore a few of the best North Island hikes.

1. Huka Falls Lookout

Located near Taupō, the Huka Falls Lookout offers a scenic walk along the Waikato River. This 3 km trail, taking a leisurely 1.5 hours, winds along the river, leading to the spectacular Huka Falls. Here, the river narrows dramatically, causing a powerful surge of water to flow over a natural ledge, creating a breathtaking waterfall. 

The path is well-maintained and suitable for prams, making it ideal for families. Along the way, you'll find spots for a family picnic, where you can relax and enjoy the surrounding natural beauty. The roar of the falls, combined with the tranquil river setting, makes this walk a memorable experience. It's a great opportunity to teach kids about the power of nature and the importance of preserving our natural waterways.

 

2. Rimu Walk

The Rimu Walk in Pureora Forest Park is a short loop of 1.7 km, taking about an hour to complete. One of New Zealand’s popular family walks, this trail takes you through a forest dominated by majestic tall rimu trees. As you wander along the path, the lush greenery and the chorus of native birds like kererū and fantail create a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of daily life. 

The trail is not only a delight for birdwatchers but also a fantastic educational experience for children, offering a glimpse into New Zealand's unique ecosystem. While the track is not pram-friendly, its gentle terrain makes it an easy and enjoyable walk for young explorers. Along the way, the diversity of the forest's flora and fauna unfolds, offering a perfect opportunity for families to connect with nature and each other.

 

3. Kamahi Walk

Step into the enchanting world of Egmont National Park's Kamahi Loop Track. This 600-metre loop, nestled in the East Egmont area, is a short but magical 15–30-minute walk through what's affectionately known as the Goblin Forest. The track weaves through a mystical landscape, where twisted trees and mossy greenery create an otherworldly atmosphere that captivates both kids and adults alike. It's an adventure straight out of a fairy tale, perfect for sparking children's imaginations and their curiosity about the natural world. 

The walk, though short, is rich in sensory experiences, with the forest's unique textures and sounds providing a delightful backdrop. While the track is not accessible for prams, its easy terrain makes it suitable for young adventurers eager to explore this magical part of New Zealand's natural heritage.

 

4. Manginangina Kauri Walk

The Manginangina Kauri Walk in the Puketi and Omahuta Forests of Northland is a wonderland for families. This easy, 350-metre return walk takes about 15 minutes and is accessible via a boardwalk, making it suitable for buggies. 

The highlight of this walk is the awe-inspiring view of towering kauri trees, a sight that will leave kids and adults in awe. A boardwalk makes the walk is easy for all ages, and the surrounding forest provides a relaxing backdrop for a family outing. Remember, there are no dogs allowed on this track, and while it's a short walk, it's always good to carry water and snacks. 

 

5. Mangapohue Natural Bridge Walk

The Mangapohue Natural Bridge Walk in the Waitomo area is a journey through a stunning limestone gorge, leading to a 17-metre-high natural arch. This 700-metre return track, taking about 20 minutes, is not only easy and fascinating for families but also a window into New Zealand's geological past. The natural bridge, formed over millions of years, captivates children with its grandeur and the story it tells of the earth's ever-changing landscape. 

Along the path, you'll traverse boardwalks and staircases, enhancing the adventure. While the track isn't suitable for prams and lacks facilities, its natural beauty and educational value make it a must-visit for families interested in geology and natural history.

 

6. Tokaanu Geothermal Walk

At the southern end of Lake Taupō lies the Tokaanu Geothermal Walk, a fascinating journey around a natural thermal area. This short walk is a wonderland for kids, offering an up-close view of steaming hot mineral pools, spluttering mud pots, and lush native bush. The easy and accessible path makes it perfect for families to explore the wonders of geothermal activity safely. This NZ walk provides an educational experience, allowing children to learn about geothermal processes in a fun and interactive way. 

After exploring the geothermal features, families can relax at the nearby Tokaanu Thermal Pools, where the therapeutic waters offer a soothing end to the adventure. The pools are a great way to unwind and reflect on the natural forces that shape our planet.

 

7. Redwood Memorial Grove Track

The Redwood Memorial Grove Track in Rotorua’s Whakarewarewa Forest is a fun escape into a forest of giants. This 2 km walk, taking about 30 minutes, allows you to wander through a grove of breathtaking Californian redwoods, planted in 1901. 

These towering trees, standing alongside underplanted European larch, create a canopy that shelters a diverse range of native plants and birds. The track, featuring a boardwalk over an old thermal pond, adds an element of historical intrigue, reflecting the area's geothermal activity. 

This walk is not just a stroll but an immersive experience in a unique ecosystem where families can enjoy both the beauty and tranquillity of nature. It's an ideal spot for nature photography, bird watching, and simply enjoying the peacefulness of the forest.

Image: Tourism New Zealand

 

Where to stay in the North Island

When you're exploring the North Island in your campervan, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to family-friendly holiday parks and campgrounds. Here are a few of our top picks.

Taupo TOP 10 Holiday Park

Taupo TOP 10 Holiday Park is a fantastic choice for families travelling by campervan. Located in the heart of Taupō, this park offers a variety of facilities, including a heated swimming pool and a kids' playground, ensuring fun for all ages. The park's location makes it an ideal base for exploring the local attractions, and the campervan sites are well-equipped to provide a comfortable stay.

 

Rotorua TOP 10 Holiday Park

Situated near the stunning Blue Lake, Rotorua TOP 10 Holiday Park offers a peaceful yet convenient location for campervan families. The park is just a short drive from Rotorua's city centre, which means easy access to the area's famous geothermal attractions and Māori cultural experiences. The park features excellent facilities, including a playground and barbecue area, making it a great spot for a family stay.

 

Port Waikato Holiday Park

Port Waikato Holiday Park is a picturesque choice for those seeking a coastal experience. Located close to Sunset Beach, it's perfect for families who love the beach and want to enjoy activities like fishing and surfing. The park offers various campervan sites and is known for its friendly atmosphere, making it a great spot for a relaxing family holiday.

 

Whananaki Holiday Park

For a unique Northland experience, Whananaki Holiday Park is an excellent option. Situated beside the longest footbridge in the Southern Hemisphere, this park offers easy access to beautiful beaches and excellent fishing spots. It's a great place for families who enjoy outdoor activities like kayaking and exploring walking trails.

 

New Plymouth TOP 10 Holiday Park

Located in the heart of New Plymouth, New Plymouth TOP 10 Holiday Park is an ideal base for exploring the Taranaki region. The park is close to Mount Taranaki and beautiful beaches, offering a mix of mountain and coastal experiences. With facilities like a heated pool, spa, and playground, it's a great spot for families travelling by campervan.

 

Explore on your next holiday with Apollo

From the enchanting trails of the Huka Falls Lookout to the unforgettable beauty of the Rotorua Forest Walk, your Apollo campervan is your ticket to a holiday filled with exploration and family bonding. Ready to get your hiking boots on and take an adventure your family will cherish for years to come? 

Book your campervan hire with Apollo online today and set the wheels in motion for an extraordinary road trip across the North Island.

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