The Twin Coast Discovery Highway is a scenic driving route in New Zealand that runs from the east coast of Northland to the west coast. The highway covers a distance of approximately 800 kilometers and takes travellers through some of New Zealand’s most beautiful and historic areas.
Starting in Auckland, the route follows State Highway 1 to the town of Wellsford, where it then branches off onto State Highway 16 towards the west coast. From here, the highway travels through the stunning Waipoua Forest, where travellers can see the ancient kauri trees, some of which are over 1,000 years old.
Further north, the highway takes you through the Bay of Islands, a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful beaches, crystal-clear waters, and abundant marine life. Visitors can take a boat tour to see dolphins and whales, visit historic sites such as the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, or simply relax on one of the many beaches.
The Twin Coast Discovery Highway also passes through the remote and rugged landscape of the Hokianga Harbour, a place of great cultural significance for the Maori people. Here, visitors can see the towering sand dunes of Opononi and take a tour of the historic Hokianga Harbour.
Overall, the Twin Coast Discovery Highway is a spectacular driving route that showcases some of New Zealand’s most beautiful scenery and cultural sites. It is a great way to explore the Northland region and experience the unique culture and history of this part of New Zealand.
Auckland to Hokianga via Dargaville
Embark on a journey northward from Auckland towards Opononi to kickstart your adventure. Along the way, you can explore antique shops and craft stores in Maungaturoto and Paparoa, or pay a visit to the Matakohe Kauri Museum.
Experience the awe-inspiring Waipoua Forest, which is home to the magnificent Tāne Mahuta, also known as the “God of the Forest” in Māori legend. This living kauri tree is the largest known to stand today and is named after the Māori god of forests and birds.
As you carry on, reach the Hokianga Harbour, which was the first landing site for the Māori in Aotearoa, New Zealand. Take in the breathtaking view of the sand dunes, which you can sandboard down after a short ferry ride.
Hokianga to Kaitaia
As you make your way, explore the charming fishing village of Rawene, stop by the local art galleries, and enjoy a cup of coffee at the Boatshed Café before boarding the car ferry to Kohukohu.
Travel through the rustic New Zealand countryside and journey back in time as you head north towards Kaitaia, the main hub of the subtropical north.
From Kaitaia, you can book a coach tour to Cape Reinga/Te Rerenga Wairua and Ninety Mile Beach/Te-Oneroa-a-Tōhē or visit Te Kōhanga/Shipwreck Bay, which is aptly named for its many shipwrecks, some of which are still visible during low tide. This area has also become a popular surfing destination, with long rides and left-hand breaks.
Kaitaia to Paihia via Doubtless Bay
Continue your journey to the breathtaking Doubtless Bay, where you can relish in a delightful lunch at the Mangonui Fish Shop.
As you travel towards Kerikeri, you will pass by orchards and roadside stalls selling seasonal fruits. Keep an eye out for signs that lead to artists’ studios, which adds to the creative persona of the region.
In Kerikeri, you can explore galleries, cafes, vineyards, and captivating historical sites such as the Stone Store and the Mission House. Additionally, the surrounding area offers excellent bush walks, with Rainbow Falls being a perfect picnic spot.
Wrap up your day by spending the evening in Paihia, which is located in the heart of the Bay of Islands.
Devote a day to exploring the Bay of Islands
Paihia, a lovely resort town, serves as an ideal starting point for your exploration of the Bay of Islands.
Embark on a cruise to the outer islands, indulge in a dolphin swimming safari, or take a ferry to the picturesque township of Russell/Kororareka.
At Waitangi, you can visit the historic Treaty House, which commemorates the inception of New Zealand as a nation and offers an opportunity to experience Māori culture.
Paihia to Whangarei
The Tutukaka Coast, situated near Whangārei, has earned recognition from National Geographic Traveller as one of the world’s top coastal destinations.
Moreover, Tutukaka serves as the entryway to the Poor Knights Islands, a safeguarded marine reserve renowned for its clear water and abundant marine life. Jacques Cousteau hailed the Poor Knights Islands as one of the top ten diving sites. For a travel map of this area, click here.
Take a scenic drive along the Whangārei Heads route as it meanders through bays surrounded by pohutakawa trees, offering breathtaking views of the rugged and beautiful beaches.
Whangarei to Auckland
Travel back to Auckland along the scenic coastal road, taking your time to appreciate the stunning beaches that line the way, including those at Ruakaka, Waipu, Bream Bay, and Mangawhai. Consider making a stop at Matakana to visit the bustling Saturday markets, or indulge in a delicious lunch at a nearby winery.
Upon returning to Auckland, end your journey with a sunset kayak adventure to Rangitoto Island, or take in the breathtaking cityscape from the summit of Mount Eden as the city’s lights twinkle in the evening sky.
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For more information on Northland’s Twin Coast Discovery Highway visit https://www.northlandnz.com/visit/northland-journeys/the-twin-coast-discovery-highway/