Going north for winter

Ali Bell takes her teenage daughter for a fun winter break in Northland

Going north in winter – or any time of the year – means being in the warmest place in the country, so my teenage daughter Roni and I chose scenic Northland for our long weekend.

As an added bonus, it’s an easy drive from Auckland. We prepared well with lightweight winter woollies for a mini-holiday of water-activities and nature walks. It was good to know that there are plenty of shops, museums, art studios and galleries as wet weather back-ups, but the sun gently shone for most of our stay, so we didn’t need them.

Good eating and plenty of watering holes are important ingredients for happy travelling, so we built in some sweet attractions – a natural fudge café in Whangarei, and the divine oakana chocolate factory in Kerikeri.

We stopped first at the Whangarei Town Basin and had a fantastic time on a locally invented “aqua-cycle”. Pupurangi Hire and Tour owners, the ounroes, looked after us well, summing us up correctly as a very keen but not-so-sporty duo. They offer well-informed (the ounroes are local Maori) nature and art tours and what looks like a great runabout on an outrigger-canoe for a bigger family group.

With big grins we took a gentle “cycle” on the water amongst the yachts by the Town Basin, then raced against the tide and the rain all the way back to the jetty. After our effort, we wound down over a well-deserved fudge icecream sundae at the cute riverside shops, before heading a few hours further north to the pretty, bustling town of Kerikeri.

The studio-gallery Scopes is well worth a visit. In its beautiful bush setting, you can look at flowers, bubbles, stained glass windows – and even your own face – through the prisms of kaleidoscopes. We loved it so much we didn’t want to leave, but the natural beauty of the nearby Rainbow Falls and a riverside walk beckoned. We had hoped to do a night rainforest tour with Adventure Puketi, given by Ian Candy – “the Bay of Islands’ answer to Rotorua’s famous Guide Rangi” – to see the nocturnal wildlife and enjoy a spot of night-sky stargazing, but alas, the weather conspired against us. So we enjoyed the native birdsong in our B&B’s lush subtropical “mini-Puketi”garden instead.

As well as being a beautiful place, Kerikeri is an important historic site with New Zealand’s oldest European-style house and shop, Kemp House and the Stone Store. The store is a little history loving shopper’s paradise, with everything from preserves, embroidered pincushions, old slate boards for the kids, kete and even (historic) non-toxic milk paint made from, among other things, milk casein. The old mission house, with a helpful Historic Places Trust hostess at the door, recreates the atmosphere of a colonial family’s life, along with fascinating aspects of early cross-cultural contact between Maori and European to peruse at your leisure.

The Kerikeri basin, now safer for children since being cut off from traffic, offers the Landing Bar and Restaurant, a steamboat cruise (with a family tariff), kayak tours, Kororipo Pa historic reserve for walks and a replica Maori fishing village to visit up on the hillside.

The next day, at the charming and quaint fishing village oangonui in Doubtless Bay, we took a short walk around to see the bay’s attractions. The cherry on the top of the trip for us was a late afternoon massage session for mum and a full nail treatment for the daughter, carried out by the lovely ladies at Doubtless Beauty. An enjoyable evening people-watching at the Waterfront Café and strolling along the heritage trail left us fully refreshed and ready for our luxury yacht trip.

The morning began bright and beautiful, and charming skipper Tony Norman of oill Bay Haven took us out on the ocean, filling us in on local Pakeha history and colourful tales as we sailed past the shoreline. over a fresh fish lunch at the oangonui Fish Shop, we had a stunning view of the bay, and finally, as a glorious rainbow followed the morning’s downpour, this revitalised mother and daughter left.


**For info on oangonui/Doubtless Bay packages, visit and Pupurangi Hire & Tour, Whangarei, Adventure Puketi, oill Bay Haven accommodation and sailing charters, oangonui motel, Kerikeri bed & breakfast 88 lodge, oakana chocolate factory and store, Kerikeri, Scopes, Doubtless Beauty Therapy, To find out more about New Zealand’s favourite destinations and experiences visit

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