Category Archives: Outdoor adventures

the perfect holiday spot

After our Far North holiday the previous year we were very keen to explore more of Northland so based ourselves at Pataua at the Treasure Island campground. Pataua is divided by an estuary that only has a pedestrian access footbridge between them so when you are driving there make sure you know if you are going to Pataua North or South.


Pataua is a stunning spot with great surf beaches and a fun estuary. The kids had a great time at the campground but we found it a little noisy after dark but I guess that’s what you get at the peak period.


When we weren’t enjoying the beaches at Pataua we were exploring the nearby area. Just down the road from Pataua is one of New Zealand’s best short walks as rated by the Department of Conservation; Mt Mania. It might be short but it’s pretty much a vertical track with lots of steps – its worth it though for spectacular views out over Whangarei harbour. Allow a bit of time at the top as there are lots of views to be had and rocky outcrops to explore.

Mt Manaia, Whangarei, Northland
Mt Manaia, Whangarei, Northland

On the way back around the harbour we spotted a wee jetty in Taurikura Bay, created by a lava flow, so of course we had to get out and have a look. Quite amazing what nature can create.

Taurikura natural jetty, Whangarei Harbour

Then after a day spent relaxing at the campground we set off for Tutukaka over quite a windy back road to spend the day at the Poor Knights marine reserve. I had heard rave reviews about the trip out to the Poor Knights with Dive Tutukaka LINK but when I looked into it before we headed away I wasn’t sure my husband would be so keen on the $500 price tag. As it turns out he thought it was a great idea and it was our family Xmas present.

I love boats and being out on the ocean. It was a stunning day for a boat trip along with an informative commentary from the captain. Once we arrived at the marine reserve it was all go with all snorkels, wetsuits, flippers, kayaks and paddle boards provided.

My kids have never snorkelled before but they took to it like the little fish they are. What a delight it is to swim with so many fish ( I can just never figure out how the fish know it’s a reserve and safe to hang out there ). The water was crystal clear and the visibility was amazing. Once we had snorkelled, paddle boarded and kayaked to our hearts content it was back on board for some lunch and hot soup. Even on a sunny day those crystal clear waters can be chilly after a while.

Then we upped anchor and the captain drove the very large boat into the world’s biggest sea cave and around the island giving us stunning views along with a very interesting commentary.

And then it was time to head for home which ended up being fun in itself as the sea had got up and we were treated to waves splashing over the bow. It was only after I was fully drenched that I noticed everyone else had moved inside.

Poor Knights Perfect Day

My son rates this as one of the best days of his life which could be partly because the crew gave him so much one on one attention but mostly because we are truly blessed to live in such a stunning country.

Overall, the stay in Pataua was a great mix of relaxing and adventuring.

Other things we have done in Northland.

Cycling the Twin Coast trail with and without kids

Mountain biking at Waitangi mountain bike park.

Seeing two oceans meet

seeing two oceans meet

We’ve been going to Paihia for years to visit my in-laws but hadn’t really spent much time exploring the Far North so we decided to venture further North over the Xmas break. We based ourselves at Whatawhiwhi on the Karekare Pennisula in the full service campground. There is a Department of Conservation campground further out the Peninsula at Matai Bay but you cant book ahead which makes planning a stay a little difficult.

Matai Bay, Nortlhand

I always find it hard once I am settled in to a campground and the kids are happily playing to get in the car and drive, especially when the drive to Cape Reinga was 2 hours. Oh well, its not often you get to see two seas meet head on and Cape Reinga is a magical spot to visit so we dragged the kids away from their campground friends and headed North. It was a relatively easy drive and we were lucky we set out early to get there before the crowds who arrive in buses that depart from Paihia. Thankfully we got to enjoy the magic of the upper most point of New Zealand in relative tranquillity but could not believe how many people were arriving as we were leaving.

Cape Reinga, Northland
Cape Reinga, Northland

We spent a good amount of time soaking up the atmosphere and reading the information boards. There are some walks in both directions on the coast but we had more places to explore on the way home so no time for walking on this visit.

From the Cape we drove to the Te Paki sand dunes. Bring your own boogie board or hire one there and be prepared for a wee walk across the hot sand dunes and then an almighty climb up a steep dune to get a good ride. I’m not so good with heights so I must admit it was with some trepidation that I pushed myself over the edge but there is nothing like watching your kids do something to make you brave. It was a bit hot for too much physical exertion, so we only had a few runs before we headed back for a picnic by the stream where the kids probably had more fun playing in the cool water.

Te Paki sand dunes

Again by the time we came to leave the place was crawling but I guess that’s what you get when you holiday at peak time.

From Te Paki we drove to Rarawa, a beach on the east coast and then because you don’t often get to visit both coasts in one day we drive to Ninety Mile Beach on the west coast.


Exploring Northland beaches

After a long day spent driving around the far reaches of the North Island we spent the next day relaxing in the campground and visited the stunning Matai Bay for a swim. It was so beautiful that we returned the next day to explore further and do some walks on either side of the bay. 

Matai Bay, Nortlhand
Matai Bay, Nortlhand

Northland is spoilt for choice for beautiful beaches so be sure to leave time to explore and I think the lesson to be learned is if you want to experience Cape Reinga without the hoards get there early.

Our experience of riding 10 of the NZ Cycle trails

My husband and I have mountain biked for over 20 years and we have spent a lot of time riding sheep tracks because there just werent any purpose built trails. So it was with much delight we heard that  as part of a government initiative a lot of money was being pumped into cycle trails so New Zealanders and visitors to NZ are now spoilt for choice.


There are now 22 cycle trails across the North and South Island. We have nearly ridden all of the trails in the the North Island:

Twin Coast trail – the whole way without kids and  Opua to Kawawkawa with kids

Riding over the Taumarere bridge on the twin Coast Trail, near Kawakawa, Northland

Hauraki Rail trail – Karangahake Gorge section with kids

Timber trail – with kids and without

Part of the Waikato River trail – Arapuni to Little Waipa and Atiamuri to Mangakino with kids

Great Lake trail – Headland loop on the Whakaipo Bay to Kinloch with kids and all of the trail without kids

Mountain to Sea – Old Coach Rd and Bridge to Nowhere sections

Hawkes Bay trail – Otatara Pa to the Puketapu loop

Motu trail

Part of the Queenstown trails with kids

Old Ghost Rd

Old Ghost Rd, South Island

More information on all of the NZ Cycle trails.


North Island adventures

Auckland or close to Auckland

Goat Island marine discovery centre

Rangitoto Island – climbing a volcano


Rangitoto Island, Auckland, New Zealand

Twin Coast trail – Opua to Kawakawa

Waitangi mountain bike trails

Exploring Tawharanui Regional Park

Waiorongomai Valley Walk

Wairere Falls walk

Coromandel – Waterworks and the Driving Creek Railway

Hauraki Rail trail

Karangahake Gorge walks

Central North Island

So much to do in Rotorua

Tarawera waterfall walking trail

Tarawera trail

Kerosene Creek at Rainbow Mountain Reserve

Mountain biking in Taupo

Walk or ride the Great Lake trail

Waikato River trail and glow-worm kayaking

Timber trail cycling with kids

Napier to Tolaga Bay road trip

Exploring the Hawkes Bay

Motu cycle trail

Bridge to Nowhere mountain bike ride

Tongariro Crossing walk with kids

Old Coach ride and walk

Mountain biking Old Coach Rd, New Zealand

Waiorongomai Valley Walk

I spent a lot of time as a child looking at the Kaimai ranges as we drove to Tarawera to camp and kayak and I always knew those mountains held lots of adventures.


With an extra day off on our weekend in Rotorua and after an early morning mountain bike ride we decided to explore a small part of the Kaimais on the way back to Auckland, and what an adventure it was.

The Waiorongomai Valley Walk (near Te Aroha) explores tramlines from gold mining days and follows New Zealand’s oldest known railway (1882-83) with the original rail still in place. There are lots of different options for walks to explore the area including walking up the inclines ( where the ore trolleys used to be lowered down ) which is a great way to experience the amazing engineering feats of the early settlers. 



Near the head of the valley we turned for home and descended down a steep hill that had a warning about the descent being steep but unfortunately it didn’t say that there was a ‘stream’ crossing at the bottom that wasn’t passable after heavy rain and it had just rained heavily the night before. And then the real adventure began as we decided it was too dangerous to risk the second river crossing and had to head back up the steep hill before walking out on an unofficial side track that was pretty rough. Luckily we had our torches as we ended up walking out the last part in the dark. Quite a lot of adrenalin spent.


Such a great spot to explore – just watch out for those stream crossings.

And yes the Department of Conservation website did mention stream crossing but there are lots of walks in the area and its hard to hold all of that information in an already crowded brain. In hindsight it was quite an important piece of information to remember, and I would like the Department of Conservation to add it to the sign that warns about the steep descent.