Winter on Northland’s Twin Coast Discovery Highway
Courtesy of Destination Northland www.northlandnz.com/visit
Subtropical Northland is a place where twin coasts become one, where two seas meet and where countless expression of nature’s versatility almost beg for discovery. Not that you’ll be the first one there – many others have visited and stayed in this ancient place, the “Birthplace of a Nation” – but by missing the summer crowds you’ll find a very different Northland, one that is still as magical and full of surprises.
Northland’s jewel – the “Twin Coast Discovery Highway” is the world class circular touring route which leaves from and returns to Auckland encompassing all of Northland. The Northland experience is one of contrast between the sophistication of Northland’s East Coast – including the Bay of Islands and Whangarei – and its West Coast forests, beaches and two of New Zealand’s most historic and interesting harbours – the Hokianga and the Kaipara. The Twin Coast Discovery Highway takes it all in and puts you in touch with the region’s profound mystique.
As a winter destination Northland offers more than most would think – apart from being so much warmer than the rest of the country, it’s a wonderful place to explore and experience anytime of the year – and in the winter, you almost feel as if you have the region to yourself as the summer holiday makers depart.
Throughout your Northland travels, the history of the region gives character to the landscape. Quaint white churches, grand old homesteads, tiny wooden cottages, historic pa sites carved into mountain tops and peninsula headlands are poignant reminders of a fascinating past. No visit is complete without a trip to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds – a guided tour by descendents of the treaty signatories brings this history alive (see here for more about the history of Northland)
The First Region of New Zealand boasts the first landing point for both Maori and Pakeha explorers – Kupe in the Hokianga Harbour and Pakeha Captain Cook in the Bay of islands. Crossings Hokianga and a number of cruises in the Bay of Islands help you retrace these watery travels – while on a more sombre note the Dargaville Museum has a fantastical display of the shipwreck history of the kauri coast.
Whether your interest is on top, under, or beside the water, Northland is an aquatic playground with world-renowned diving locations, abundant fishing and exceptional sailing and cruising, as well as many stunning beaches – as intimate or expansive as you desire. Winter time offers a new perspective on the water and in the water – visibility under the water can increase to around 40-50 metres, with different fish life being prevalent and its fun to note that in May and June, the water is warmer than topside.
If even the thought of being on the water sends you into goose bumps, I’m sure you’ll agree that a walk along the beach is invigorating, romantic or just plain good tonic for the soul at any time of the year. (see here for more Things to See and Do in Northland).
And if you prefer greens to blues, the Twin Coast Discovery Golf Trail features over 30 golf courses offering excellent greens, challenging courses and often stunning views. Many of the courses are well known, while some are relatively new to the Northland golf scene and all budgets are catered for.
Between the two coasts are forest and bush – thick, lush, sub-tropical greenery and imposing tracts of native forest. Here, lending true significance to the term ‘awesome’, you find Tane Mahuta, the biggest kauri in the world. Visitors approach quietly in the silent green depths of the Waipoua Forest and no one retreats unmoved. Being in a rain forest through winter offers a new experience – different plant life flourishes, and the forest offers an eerie experience. For those who wish to explore the history of King Kauri from a warmer vantage point, The Kauri Museum in Matakohe is a must-see.
When it comes to indulgence, Northland competes on a global level with its own unique brand of subtropical pleasures. Northland is fast becoming a new frontier for gastrotourists – where the balmy climate north of Auckland nurtures subtropical fruit, gourmet vegetables and award-winning wines. The dining experiences range from fine dining to café, winery and tapas – but all committed to offering distinctive Northland food and flavours. Want to know where to pick your own macadamias, or buy oysters, award-winning cheeses and olive oils direct from the producers? What about a visit to a chocolate factory or a kumara shed or a visit to a farmers market followed by a cooking workshop? Farm gate stalls, artisan producers, food excursions and over 60 other “foodie” stops are all uncovered in the Northland Food and Wine Trail map. (You can download a food and wine trail map here )
Not only are pleasures of the palate abundant, but also pleasures to the eye with breathtaking scenery and exquisite locations to sit and enjoy the regions gastronomic abundance.
To relax and rejuvenate, accommodation to cater to all tastes – and budgets – is readily available. Heavily sprinkled around Northland you’ll find exclusive luxury lodges and upmarket bed and breakfasts designed for discerning travellers who want to experience their surroundings on an intimate level. Many are off the beaten track, hidden in the tropical greenery or set high up above the coastline far from the nearest neighbour. Motels, backpackers, camping and motor home parks are found around the Twin Coast Discovery Highway to provide a warm winter welcome and a place to lay a weary travellers head. A number of spa resorts are also emerging – offering everything from natural mud pools to luxury pampering. (check out the accommodation section here)
All the Northland ingredients are waiting to deliver you an unforgettable and unique winter experience as you journey the subtropical Twin Coast Discovery Highway.
Check out the great deals on autumn and winter escapes at www.northlandnz.com/visit , Northland’s official website. Choose from romantic retreats, pampering packages, golfing getaways or foodie escapes. Special offers on activities and accommodation throughout sub-tropical Northland – where the welcome is always warmer.