Discovering Ahipara and the Twin Coast

Our Northland road trip continues. We only left England 6 days ago but feel like we’ve been away far longer. Three days into our road trip around the far north of New Zealands beautiful North Island and the experiences keep getting better and better. We hadn’t ventured further north than Auckland previously so this was a brand new adventure for us.

Leaving Opononi

After a great nights sleep in the Lighthouse we doubled back slightly to visit the Signal Station at Arai Te Uru. The spectacular views of the Tasman Sea and Hokianga Harbour were well worth the detour and early morning walk. Just us, a couple of bleary-eyed camper-vanners and a brand new day. Fabulous.

Rawene Ferry and the Pac-a-Mac Campers

No time to hang around though as we had a ferry to catch. Only a few miles inland is the tiny town of Rawene and its little 15 car ferry. We made it by the skin of our pants as they shut the gate behind us and the craft left immediately. A nice short relaxing crossing only slightly spoilt by the following scene.

We are walking past a group of passengers waiting next to two white camper vans when one of the men noticed my red sweatshirt and mouths the word ‘Canada‘ to the others. One of the women follows suit but says ‘Canada‘ out loud. A third then steps in front of me saying ‘Canada?‘. Politely I smile and just say ‘Yes, Canada‘. What else can I say? She won’t let it go though. ‘You’re from Canada?‘. Relentless. ‘No‘ I answer. Sharply and incisively she immediately comes back with ‘From the USA then?‘. Ah, a geographical response. Excellent. Again I answer ‘No‘. This completely stumps her and her friends. I assume that they’re wondering if there are any other countries that I could possibly be from. ‘Where then?‘ she blurts impatiently. I politely explain that I’m from England but mid-sentence she cuts me off American-style with ‘so you just bought the T-Shirt?‘. Brilliant deduction Mrs Holmes. Then she turned to Jo who was wearing a t-shirt with Los Angeles on it and exclaimed ‘so I take it you’re not from LA either?‘ As we returned to our car we could see the group of them standing stunned and amazed gawping at us and wondering about my crazy t-shirt-wearing antics.

Kohukohu: So good they named it twice

Well maybe not, just a sleepy little town on the road from the Rawene ferry. It looked like a frontier town from the mid-west that hadn’t changed for a hundred years or more but was worth a stop and a little wander around. However just as we walked to the pier we noticed two familiar white camper vans pull over on the opposite side of the street. As the doors opened we saw four figures stagger out pulling on badly-fitting pac-a-macs and heard one of the females explain ‘It’s those Canadians again ….

Ahipara and Shipwreck Bay

A slow steady drive up through Broadwood and Herekino on the brilliantly named Twin Coast Discovery Highway took us to our next overnight stay, the coastal town of Ahipara. The sun was shining as we pulled over to check the directions to our new Airbnb. Jo was driving and slowly pulled out narrowly missing an erratic white camper van careering past. She hit the brakes as another white camper almost ran into the side of Yantze and we locked eyes with two pac-a-mac wearing numpties blindly following their friends. I’m sure I saw the stout female passenger mouth the words ‘Canadians‘ as they veered into the centre of the road but I can’t be sure.

Ahipara is a tiny community sitting fairly isolated on the west coast of Northland and appears to have a high Maori population. It’s name means ‘a fire at which ferns were cooked’ and it was historically a centre for Kauri tree gum-diggers in the 19th century. We just loved the long sandy beach and amazing views though.

As we motored slowly down into Ahipara heading for the main beach and a picnic lunch we passed a rundown lay-by with two white vehicles badly parked blocking any other cars from pulling in. The sound of pac-a-macs being unfolded and maps being misunderstood was almost deafening!

New Airbnb, New Friends

Sheryl and Bob were our hosts for the next couple of days and their house was just fabulous. We had our own room and bathroom away from the main living space with a lovely balcony overlooking Shipwreck Bay and the beach. their daughter Sophie and her 11 week old daughter were staying and we spent the next two days socialising and chatting with all of them. Lovely people.

Furthest North You Can Go

We’d planned on getting all the way to the far north of North Island from Ahipara as it was probably a two hour trip either way so an early start saw us make the easy traffic-free journey the next day. Our destination was Cape Reinga, which I will tell you about next time, but we just had to make a few diversions on the trip. All alone the west coast is the famous 90 mile beach but we decided against visiting as it’s really a driving beach and there are so many other scenic ones enroute. Interestingly 90 mile beach is just 55 miles long and got it’s name when missionaries measured distance by the time it took their horses to cover it. They didn’t take into consideration that sand is tougher and slower to walk (or trot) through.

Tapotupotu Bay

One of the most beautiful beaches we’ve ever visited with one of the most difficult names to pronounce! Sunshine, sandwiches, paddling, we could have stayed all day long. It was absolutely stunning.

Te Paki Sand Dunes

We’d heard of Te Paki so detoured down another unsealed, bumpy, gravel-strewn road to the bizarre sand dunes to see what all the fuss was about. Unbelievable. From the lush green countryside of Northland we were suddenly in the middle of the Sahara Desert!

Huge sand dunes over 100 metres high sit on the edge of 90 mile beach and attract thrill seekers all year round. They hire out short surf-boards for you to surf down the massive dunes. The only downside of course is that you have to climb the dunes before you can surf down and it’s a killer. As we arrived we decided to walk up and watch the surfers but it required a climb up a 60 metre high almost vertical sand hill. Virtually killed me! Jo was smarter and took a sensible route up a shallower hill but once I’d started it was impossible to stop as it was so steep and the sand was constantly shifting. Plus the sand was roasting hot burning our un-sandalled, pasty, English feet.

Once up there were incredible views of the dunes and of the crazy 20-somethings body-boarding down the steep slopes. Loads of screaming and bad-language but loads of fun.  We weren’t tempted if you were wondering.

Henderson Bay

Our final stop off was recommended by Sophie and we visited the beautiful Henderson Bay. Not much to say, just look at the photos. Stunning.

JWalking Northland Adventure

Our whole Northland trip has been so much better than we ever imagined so far. The weather has been great, which is surprising at this time of year, and the scenery spectacular. Plus we’ve been paddling and walking on a different beach every single day which is immense. Let’s hope it continues that way.

12/11 – 13/11/2017


  1. Okay, what crazy person wears a T-Shirt with Canada on it. Oh yes, an English man visiting NZ 🙂 Funny 🙂 Pleased to hear you are enjoying yourself. That damned ferry cost us a fortune as our converted bus/motorhome went over a few inches and the price went up about $40, so that was our memory of that trip! Northland has not changed much. Unfortunately, the dollars aren’t spent up there by the Govt or local councils, not enough employment equals less productive people. Yes, we were just saying how our first week back to Europe has felt much longer than a week!! Keep enjoying you two. Good post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Northland in good weather is beautiful. I just hope you don’t experience it in a storm as it can feel wild and remote (same with Coromandel if you make it there).
    What a strange experience you had with the campervanners (who I assume were also tourists visiting from another country?). I had my brother visiting recently and did a road trip round the south island with him and we saw the same faces and vehicles over several days in several locations. Our tourist season is starting to pick up now for the summer. Fingers crossed you don’t bump into them again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • They were definitely tourists, Americans, and weirdly we keep looking out for them everywhere. You’re right about Northland being beautiful, we’ve loved everywhere we’ve been so far. The beaches are all fantastic. Only got a couple of days left up here unfortunately but it’s been fabulous.


  3. You’re probably doomed to run into the pac-a-macers everywhere in NZ now. Good point though, why don’t we just go around in t shirts emblazoned with ‘Maidstone’ or ‘Tunbridge Wells’ on them? Oh, yes…

    NZ looks brilliant, though.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s well known that you can get 4 seasons in one day over there but from those photos it looks you have visited 4 continents in one day. Obviously the pac-a-macs will be a pain in the arse but you seem to have done well to find such wonderful and secluded spots. Fabulous stuff mate. Very jealous.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We keep looking for the pac-a-mac campers everywhere but thankfully no contact. The whole area of Northland is like a secluded paradise with so many amazing places tucked away on both coasts. It’s fantastic.


    • We’re having a brilliant time thanks. There’s not a massive amount in Ahipara but it’s ideal as a base for exploring the far north all the way up to Cape Reinga. We spent two days in a lovely Airbnb but could easily have stayed another day.


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