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Bay of Islands & Northland/New Zealand

Introducing Bay of Islands & Northland

For many New Zealanders, the phrase ‘up north’ conjures up sepia-toned images of family fun in the sun, pohutukawa in bloom and dolphins frolicking in pretty bays. It’s uttered in almost hallowed tones, as if describing a mythical place. From school playgrounds to work cafeterias, owning a bach (holiday house) ‘up north’ is a passport to popularity.

Beaches are the main drawcard and they’re present in profusion. Take your pick from surfy or sheltered, massive or minuscule, fashionable or forgotten, and from sand that’s golden, grey, pink or blindingly white. There are beaches suited to all sorts of aquatic pursuits imaginable, including splashing about in the nuddy. Visitors from more crowded countries are flummoxed to wander onto beaches without a scrap of development or another human being in sight.

Northland’s reserves shelter the most spectacular remnants of the ancient kauri forests that once blanketed the top of the country. The remaining giant trees are an awe-inspiring sight and one of the nation’s treasures.

It’s not just natural attractions that are on offer: history hangs heavily here as well. The country was colonised from the top down by successive migrations from Polynesia and a strong Maori presence remains to this day, adding an extra dimension to any visit. The Bay of Islands was also the site of the first permanent European settlement, as well as the signing of the Declaration of the Independence of New Zealand by local chiefs in 1835 and the Treaty of Waitangi five years later. Northland is unquestionably the birthplace of the nation.