Exploring the North by bike

Why exploring Northland by bike should be a must do on every adventurer’s bucket list!

Northland is tucked away at the top of New Zealand, but to get there it is just a 45 minute plane ride or a 3 hour drive from Auckland. When you are heading to Northland – you are heading to a destination – you aren’t just passing through from one town to another.  Many people just go to visit the Bay of Islands which is re-known worldwide for its natural beauty, 144 islands and excellent fishing. But as most people who visit the Bay find out – there is so much more to Northland, and they come back…again and again and again!

My story is a little different – I didn’t keep coming back, I visited once and never left!  I called myself a bit of an adventurer back in those days!  I had recently had the most amazing cycle journey myself from Mexico down to Chile over the course of a year, therefore I was not expecting to come home to NZ and fall head over heels in love with the North and all it has to offer. 

A stunning place from the tourist mecca of the Bay of Islands on the East Coast across to the wild untamed Hokianga Harbour on the West Coast.  At every turn I came across some wonderful sight or activity – and I could not quite grasp where were the hordes of people were?

The Northland Experiences Cook to Kupe Cycle 5 night e-bike tour covers off some of these extraordinary attractions.   

Here are just 5 that you won’t find anywhere else in New Zealand or the world for that matter, absolutely unique to Northland!

1. The Waitangi Treaty Grounds

The Waitangi Treaty Grounds – My takeaway from the Treaty Grounds is the pōwhiri and cultural performance. It is infused with humour and yet has moved me to tears each time I watch it.  This is the Birthplace of our Nation and a wonderful way to start of any adventure in the North.

Pōwhiri – Māori welcoming ceremony

2. Manea Footprints of Kupe

Manea Footprints of Kupe – How can such a world class attraction be in such a tiny village? Firstly – Kupe arrived here by waka. Secondly – the view over the harbour and sand dunes. Thirdly – Kupe’s descendants live here and proudly tell the story of Kupe. This is rated in The Times Top 100 things to do in the WORLD and tells you the story of one of our great ancestors – Kupe.

Walk in the Footprints of Kupe

3. Wairere Boulders

Wairere Boulders – This is a Geological Phenomenon of volcanic basalt boulders, fluted by bush tannins which create a world unique Lava Forest. This magical paradise of lush native bush, clear streams and incredible rock formations is hidden far beyond where your everyday tour bus ventures. Walking here is an absolute “feel at one with nature”” experience!

Swimming hole at Wairere Boulders. Credit bennettandslater.co.nz

4. Mangungu Mission House

Mangungu Mission House – Located at the end of the Twin Coast Cycle Trail – this mission house has spectacular views of the Hokianga Harbour. I still marvel that it was the largest signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, with 3000 Maori Chiefs there together. Sitting on the deck a blanket of peace and tranquility covers you as your thoughts drift back in time.

Mangungu Mission at the end of the Cycle Trail

5. Ancient Kauri Forests

Ancient Kauri Forests – meet these living legends – Te Matua Ngāhere (the Father of the forest) & Tane Mahuta (the God of the forest). We take you on a magical twilight adventure with Footprints Waipoua.  Thought-provoking stories and legends along with humorous banter before respectfully greeting the oldest and largest known kauri trees in the world with spine-tingling chants and song. 

Tāne Mahuta by torchlight

On our 5 night e-bike tour we travel along the Pou Herenga Twin Coast Cycle Trail which is one of New Zealand’s Great Rides and takes you from the East in the Bay of Islands across to the West in the Hokianga.  From there we veer off the trail to delve even further into the hidden wonders of the North.

To travel to these sights on 2 wheels instead of 4 gives you a great sense of accomplishment, because you take your time to travel through the diverse scenery from one beautiful attraction to another.  More importantly we use e-bikes so you still get some exercise in. This ensures you have enough energy at the end of the day to enjoy other activities and not drop off to sleep half through dinner!  (Thinking of past cycle tours on my old mountain bike!)

If you are on one of our tours, you will have a local tour guide who will not cycle with you but meet you along the way. They will transfer you and your luggage at times, and ensure you have everything you need. They will give you the lowdown of the cultural significance of the area, the history, explain how things are today. Consequently you really feel like you are exploring the area and not just on your average cycle tour. More importantly our past guests on the tour have described it as “World Class” and “Much more than just a cycle tour”.

Getting around the North is not like cycling on some of the other cycle trails in New Zealand where you remain on the trail and go from A to B.  To take in the true essence of the region –  we jump in the van for short stints, board boats with our bikes, and if its running hop on a vintage train.  This ensures we get to small towns and scenic spots less traveled by the everyday tourist.  It’s an ensemble of quirky art galleries, home baking in cafes, and sleeping in beautifully restored homesteads through to award winning restaurants and luxury accommodation.

In short as I finish writing this, I realise I have only touched the tip of the iceberg, and have covered only a few hundred km’s in distance.  Therefore this shows you how much the Far North has to offer, because no day is the same, you can’t get bored and you are highly likely to return again!

Local knowledge shared with you from Steph, part of the Northland Experiences Team.

Cycling in Opononi to Manea Footprints of Kupe

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