Northland's grape vines receive more heat to assist grape ripening during the growing season than any of New Zealand’s other winegrowing regions, meaning fruit ripens early creating full-bodied, rich wines. Tropical Chardonnays, popular Pinot Gris and vibrant Viogniers are leading the white wine growth and noteworthy reds include spicy Syrahs, stylish Cabernet and Merlot blends, peppery Pinotages and complex Chambourcin.
Northland has a rich and colourful history which is an integral part of any visit here. It’s the birthplace of the nation where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840 on the shores of the Bay of Islands. It’s also the first place grape vines were planted in New Zealand and the fertile Stone Store site at Kerikeri where Reverend Samuel Marsden chose to plant the first vine in 1819, remains one of the region’s most popular places to visit.
Visitors keen to explore Northland’s breath-taking landscapes and discover more about the region’s wines are in luck as both go hand in hand. Boutique wineries are all situated in areas with outstanding visitor experiences like Mangawhai, Whangarei, the Bay of Islands and Kerikeri. As well as cellar doors, luxury lodges, legendary bars and eateries there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy wine on a boat, at a beach, or in the bush.
Exploring Northland from the south take the Twin Coast Discovery Highway to access the white sandy beaches and the Bay of Islands on the east side, and the glorious sand dunes, pounding surf and mystical kauri forests along the west.
Cape Reinga, also known as Te Rerenga Wairua, at the tip of the North Island, is one of Māoridom's most sacred places. The Waitangi Treaty Grounds and Te Kōngahu Museum of Waitangi offer the best insight into Māori culture and New Zealand history.
Nature and spirituality are important to Māori and form an important connection that can be experienced in Hokianga with a guided evening walk into the Waipoua forest. Local guides introduce visitors to the ancient giant Tane Mahuta or "lord of the forest" – a magnificent 2,000-year-old kauri tree.
To experience Northland’s unique wildlife the Poor Knights Island marine reserve, 23 kilometres off New Zealand’s Tutukaka Coast, is a must - described by Jacques Cousteau as the world’s best dive spot in subtropical waters.
Walking and hiking the many coastal and forest trails, bird watching on the beach and getting out on the water are the best ways to experience this region. The Bay of Islands is a boating paradise with more than 150 islands and numerous secluded moorings with sheltered coves and empty beaches.
Many of New Zealand’s luxury hideaways and award-winning lodges are found in Northland where dramatic coastal settings offer privacy and relaxation as well as the chance for some exclusive experiences. Easy helicopter access from Auckland makes it attractive for short stays or exclusive no expense spared excursions like heli-fishing or a round of golf at an internationally acclaimed course.
Fly to Kerikeri (50 mins), Whangarei (40 mins) or drive to the Bay of Islands from Auckland (3 hours). The best way to explore Northland is to drive the Twin Coast highway. Northland and the Bay of Islands are a year round holiday destination and particularly popular over the December holiday and New Year period when New Zealanders take their annual holidays.
Don’t miss: Te Paki – one of New Zealand’s most thrilling natural theme parks where you can sandboard down 150 metre dunes. While you’re up that way 90 Mile Beach is another must. Actually only 55 miles (or 88 kilometres) long , it is an official public highway and also used to be a runway for early airmail services between Australia and New Zealand.