The warm waters of the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea meet at Cape Reinga, mainland New Zealand's northernmost point. This region, known as the Bay of Islands, also marks the tip of Northland, a staunchly Maori province sometimes referred to as the ‘winterless north', thanks to the warm weather that make its upper reaches so popular with holidaymakers.
Alongside its appealing climate, Northland is also known as the ‘birthplace of a nation'; it was here that the Maori first set foot in New Zealand and that the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840, when the country's sovereignty was ceded to Britain. In many ways the region's story is one of two halves, or rather of two coastlines. The long, straight west coast is wild and rugged, sporting vast empty beaches pounded by Tasman breakers. It's here that the Waipoua Forest shelters some of the country's last and mightiest kauri trees. One of these is known as Tane Mahuta, the ‘Lord of the Forest', an ancient specimen whose presence makes the human history of Northland seem like current affairs.
Northland's Kauri Coast
Bay of Islands
The majority of visitors, however, make for the east coast, with its calm, safe bays and historic townships such Paihia and Russell in the scenic Bay of Islands. Here, between secluded beaches and impossibly scenic coastal stretches, it's possible to swim, sail and dive in pristine waters. And, out among the 150 islands themselves, marine encounters abound with cruises taking in the best beauty spots while seeking out the resident dolphins and migrating whales.
Paihia, Bay of Islands