- The remote forested coastal hike on day 1 and 2 near the Bay of Islands
- Open coast kayaking at Whangaroa
- Two nights of isolated camping at the very tip of New Zealand
- Driving along 90 mile beach and Te Paki.
Tuesday. East coast beaches - 1km/1 hours hiking
Depart Auckland and follow the east coast northwards. A quick stop to supplement supplies for the next six days before following crazy coastal back roads to Taupiri Bay. Set up our camp here just above the beach on a private camp. If the weather is wet there is an option of using a classic rustic kiwi bach (NZ holiday house) instead. Have a swim or explore this lovely coastline. Red-tinged pohutukawa trees (NZ Xmas tree) cover hidden coves and swimming beaches. If the sea conditions are calm there is excellent snorkelling here too.
Wednesday. Bay of Islands - 9km/6 hours hiking
Tumble out of sleeping bags and leap into the sea; refreshed, break camp and hike northwards. Climb up through regenerating native bush to the ridge tops looking down on hidden sandy coves and rocky headlands. Catching your breath, gaze out across the bright blue Pacific Ocean. Pass huge steel pots and ruins of the old whaling station. These stations all over New Zealand are a sad reminder of the many humpback and southern right whales hunted here. Many of New Zealand's first Europeans were here for sealing and whaling rather than our beautiful natural environment! Lunch at a cute cove of turquoise water, secret beaches and funky palm trees. Descend from Pukehuia - at 345m the highest hill and best viewpoint in the Bay of Islands. The track ends at a perfect bush-fringed bay of lapping water and moored yachts. Sweat from the exertion is washed away by the clear water. A short drive to the historic township of Russell where you can catch the passenger ferry across to Paihia, while your guide drives around to meet you. A brief stop here, the main tourist centre of the Bay of Islands, before driving north to the campsite at Tauranga Bay and welcome hot showers.
Thursday. Whangaroa Kayaking - 10km/4-5 hours kayaking
Optional and highly recommended guided kayaking (NZ$95). Using a mix of single and double sea kayaks the group launches off a private beach and kayaks along this uncluttered coastline past red volcanic headlands, island outcrops and sandy beaches. After passing through sea caves you will reach the sheltered waters of Whangaroa harbour with its mangrove forests. Lunch on a beautiful beach before returning. After kayaking, stories grow and expand with our stomachs over fish and chips at the famous Mangonui Fish Shop. Those not kayaking have free time at the Tauranga beach campsite until early afternoon, ask your guide about other options. Later, head to the twin coves campsite of Matai Bay.
Friday. Ninety Mile Beach, Cape Reinga - 2km/2 hours hiking
Another swim and snorkel, and off again; this time a fascinating drive up the endless hard packed sands of Ninety Mile Beach. Te Paki's massive sand dunes loom and you can jump out and impress each other with out of control fat-air-antics on sand-boards. Continue onwards setting up camp at a beautiful sandy cove. Later, have the option of a cliff-top walk, or a drive, to the edge of the world at Cape Reinga where the Pacific Ocean meets the Tasman Sea. Watch the sun setting in the western sky from this (almost) northern tip of New Zealand.
Saturday. Cape Maria Van Dieman, Kauri forests - 4-12km/3- 4 hours hiking
Set off to explore a less visited part of the cape's coastline. Crossing Te Paki Station leads you to the surreal iron stained sand dunes of Cape Maria Van Diemen. Climbing high you will enjoy grand views of this incredible piece of New Zealand landscape. Wander along an expansive stretch of empty beach before returning for lunch. In the afternoon the group leaves the Far North and begins the journey southwards passing through Kaitaia, across the Hokianga on a car ferry, and on to the Waipoua Forest. Tane Mahuta, New Zealand's biggest Kauri tree, makes you feel humble as you curl up in your tent. Frequently we hear the screeching call of the endangered North Island Brown Kiwi; whose numbers are sadly dwindling each year.
Sunday. Kauri forests - 2km/1 hour hiking
This morning you will walk the Trounson Kauri Reserve to bask in the shadows of these huge trees. An intensively managed mainland conservation 'island' surrounded by a sea of farmland, Trounson is one of the healthiest forests in the country providing refuge for many threatened species. This reserve is also home to a well-nurtured and protected (from predators) population of kiwi. Arrive in Auckland at approximately 3:00pm.
Tides: This tour is effected by tide times and sea conditions - particularly on Ninety Mile Beach. Plan B is to go in a different or reverse order, but very occasionally your guide may be forced to skip something altogether.
High Season: If you are doing this trip between Christmas and mid January expect to see more tents, sun-scorched folks, and ice-creamed kids at campsites. When it all goes too mad your guide may choose different campsites on night two and three to keep us all sane.
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