New Zealand Road Trip – Driving north of Auckland, things to know

New Zealand Road Trips

I’ve lost count how many times I’ve driven the Auckland to Northland route. Growing up in Hokianga and eventually moving to the big smoke of Auckland, it was a frequent journey with my friends for long weekends and holidays. This New Zealand Road Trip back then would take around 4 1/2 hours, with the development of highways, tunnels and roads over the years Google Maps tells me it’s only 3 1/2

Since returning in 2015 we’ve done the trip as a family a few times, it’s a bit different with two kids under 5 rocking out to the Moana movie soundtrack, compared to our music in my youth.

You’ll notice when you’re truly out of Auckland, the road narrows from 2 lane highway passed the tunnel into single lane, at times bumpy country roads. This doesn’t deter drivers from reducing speed, nor does it discourage ambitious drivers from over taking. If you’re doing this trip, there’s a few things you need to look out for

Logging Trucks, Milk Tankers, Cattle Trucks etc

Northland is home to many farms. We also have some of the biggest pine forests. Northlands economy is on a roll which is great for the region, but keep eye peeled for the drivers who think their driving an 10 tonne Ferrari

Ever seen an 18 wheeler logging truck overtake two milk tankers? up a hill ?. I have. I’ve even been passed by one and I was going 110 km/h !

Keep to the left in passing lanes UNLESS YOUR PASSING

It’s quite simple really. Overtake the desired car in front of you and IF you can continue ie. have the momentum to execute another pass, then do so. What I’ve seen happening is cars overtaking then staying in the right lane, for no reason. Following cars then have to slow down behind said car. IN THE WRONG LANE. No one knows when the end of the passing lane is, so when it does end we have a situation of 2 wide going into one lane !

Wellsford is still a great place to stop

The nicest rest rooms, not bad food and two petrol stations. What more does someone on a New Zealand road trip need? It’s a good midway break between Auckland and Whangarei

The Brynderwyns

This narrow part of the journey is a favourite of mine, not least for the winding off camber, blind corners. (Other notable dander areas Dome Valley and on the way back watch out around the passing lanes in Puhoi.) It really feels like you’re driving in the bush up the Brynderwyns and once at the top, the view is sick. This is when you know you’ve arrived in Taitokerau/Northland

New Zealand Road Trip

East Coast v West Coast Divide

Going straight at Kawakawa instead of turning left into the town, will take you to the pearl of Northland. Bay of Islands isn’t called that, I just made it up. On the East you’ll find Paihia, Kerikeri, Russell et. al it’s all stunning. Blue water, Great restaurants. Big boats sit side by side in the water. Million dollar mansions nestled in this picturesque, quaint part of New Zealand. It’s the place where our founding document; Te tiriti O Waitangi was signed, sealed and disputed. One can feel the English influence in buildings and architecture here and great place. From here you can carry on your New Zealand road trip up toward Mangonui

Contrast that to the West side, my neck of the woods toward Hokianga. Turning left through Kawakawa over the three bridges and beyond. The landscape still stunning, rolling hills and green lush fauna. The divide in wealth on this side is abundantly clear. Moerewa and Kaikohe are two towns that have felt the affects of the ‘brain drain’ and lack of investment. I suppose me and my friends are, in some ways directly responsible. We left high school and moved away, taking our brains with us. Although I’d argue at 17 my brain wasn’t much use to anyone. Still, the two areas are chalk and cheese and can’t see it changing anytime soon

Kaiwaka Sells Dutch Cheese

Speaking of cheese.. with a Dutch wife Kaiwaka is always a place to stop off and get some supplies. Great for you Europeans missing a bit of class to go with your great New Zealand wine

 Apparently Winston Peter came out recently saying he’ll build a railway network connecting Northland with Auckland…. if he get’s into power – can’t see it happening sorry and sounds like another pie in the sky idea, but would be great if 1) if it get’s built and 2) if we can pay for it
If you’ve got a story to tell on a New Zealand road trip, or have some more tips, let us know in the comments below

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Nicholas Manarangi

After 10 years away Nick and his family are returning to New Zealand. Leaving their busy London lives behind and exchanging it for new challenges in Auckland. Motivated by family and a change in lifestyle.

Nick's Dutch wife is mostly concerned about the quality of NZ chocolate and cheese.Hope we don't disappoint.
connect here

Nicholas Manarangi

After 10 years away Nick and his family are returning to New Zealand. Leaving their busy London lives behind and exchanging it for new challenges in Auckland. Motivated by family and a change in lifestyle. Nick's Dutch wife is mostly concerned about the quality of NZ chocolate and cheese. Hope we don't disappoint.