Buggy rides, sand dunes & history – the Hokianga has it all!

Lonely Planet raved about Footprints Waipoua and now, after last night’s adventure I will too. Our local Maori guide, Koro, really did guide us through the forest and introduced us to the biggest, and oldest of the kauri trees in the Waipoua Forest but now it’s not a lush forest I’m off to see but sand dunes.

View of the sand hills a few hours before I explore them on a dune buggy
View of the sand hills a few hours before I explore them on a dune buggy

After a cooked breakfast at the Copthorne, I check out, then catch the Hokianga Express boat over to the sand dunes for a Sandtrails Hokianga dune buggy trip around the sand hills I could see from my hotel room.  The others on the water taxi are heading off to ride the dunes on body boards!

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Once over the harbour, waiting at the bottom of the dunes for me is Andrew Kendall of Sandtrails Hokianga with his dune buggy, ready to take me around the sand hills and natural sculptures.

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The Hokianga is not just blue skies, massive sand dunes and ancient trees – it’s also the cradle of not only Ngapuhi, but also of the European settlers in the early 1800s. Andrew Kendall’s tribal history, his whakapapa, like that of my deceased husband, includes their ancestor, Kupe, the Polynesian navigator who named this area when he left to return to the Islands north of New Zealand.

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Andrew stands with me on top of the giant sand dunes, canyons,  and sculptures on the north of the Hokianga Harbour  – where Kupe first arrived – and regaled me with stories of the past with its intrigues, strife and wars, deception and fun. One of the great things about this trip, in a dune buggy, is that it’s pretty exclusive as only three people can do it at a time so I recommend you book in advance. (You can even stay at his Homestay B&B in Mitimiti.)

No matter where you are over the length of New Zealand, Maori culture, and a diversity of enterprises and activities are just around the next corner and Sandtrails is one of a kind!

Amazingly, one of Andrews other ancestors, Atama Paparangi, had his portrait painted seven times by the famous New Zealand –born artist, Charles Frederick Goldie (1870-1947)

 

Note: my trip around Northland was taken in my favourite car rental company NZ Rent A Car!

hokianga heads

Hokianga Heads
Amazing windblown shapes and gulleys
Amazing windblown shapes and gulley’s

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Hokianga – take a twilight trip to see largest kauri tree

Perched right on the edge of the Hokianga Harbour, The Copthorne Hotel & Resort Hokianga is a beautiful old style kauri villa has stunning views of the massive sand dunes across the bay. After checking in it’s not long before I’m in the warm water – I rarely get into cool or cold  sea but this road trip in Northland has reintroduced me to salt water bathing. This  4-star hotel also has a fresh-water swimming pool.

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Back in my room, in the newer building, I watch as a fishing group returns and excitedly weighs, and photographs, a large fish. Before long I’m back in the hotels foyer as I’m meeting my guide there for a trip called Footprints Waipoua – a guided evening walk into the Waipoua Forest. (Twitter @hokimustdos)

We meet in the Copthorne Hokianga foyer
We meet in the Copthorne Hokianga foyer
Koro explains our route
Koro explains our route

My guide, Koro, from the local Maori tribe, picks me up and I meet the other couples, from Canada and Australia, who are on the walk too. He tells us he will introduce us to the locals’ relationship with nature, spiritually and culturally as we meet the trees many of whom have names.

One of them, Tane Mahutu, Lord of the Forest, belongs to the ‘family of ancient trees’ along with a Japanese tree, Jōmon Sugi – a similar forest chief on Yakushima Island off the coast of Japan. Both are celebrities in their own country and have twin tales of cultural significance.

The natural environment of Waipoua Forest provides a natural stage for our walk to see some of the largest kauri trees in the world. Koro also gives us a mythological interpretation of life in the forest and it feels really spiritual and a privilege to be in the forest in the dark.  It’s quite different during the day when I revisit the next afternoon with buses of tourists also there – no sounds of silence then!

An impressive trunk!
An impressive trunk!

We  meet the Four Sisters, ‘working together in competition’ and  the mighty Te Matua Ngahere, Father of the Forest, estimated to be 4,000 years old, “older than Jesus” Koro tells us,  and Tane Mahutu who is, impressively, 51 metres tall. Unfortunately, kauri have a disease, kauri dieback that’s proving a relentless killer and scientists are desperately seeking a way to stop the spread so please, please, stay on the walkways and clean your footwear to help stop the spread.

???????????????????????????????I recommend that while in the Hokianga, make sure you take the Footprints guided tour and learn about these special trees through song, history, and the Maori creation story. As Koro reminds us, “we are only alive when we are conscious of our treasures.”

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clean your footwear .. PLEASE
Breakfast at the Copthorne before I head off on a water taxi (see the next blog)
Next morning I breakfast at the Copthorne before I head off on a water taxi (see the next blog)

My 2-week  trip around Northland was taken in my favourite car rental company NZ Rent A Car!

 

An endless summer on 90-mile beach–surfing too!

If you are looking for a peaceful weekend, a great surfing destination or perhaps even a long summer holiday, I can recommend the Endless Summer Lodge,  Ahipara right at the start of 90 mile beach.

This beautiful 1880 wooden villa is at Shipwreck Bay, the end of 90-Mile Beach – a ten minute drive from Kaitaia. Owners Anna & Blaine Whelan have created a delightful place with solar-heated shower water, indoor and outdoor dining and everything spotless. ( Free use of body boards here and surfing lesson are available too)

Two things I particularly liked where – no TV; and the wonderful kauri floors: please take off your shoes to protect them. The restoration of this 130+ year-old homestead is wonderful and it’s great that such history has been bought alive.

Shipwreck Bay was, not surprisingly, the site of the sinking of many ships. Evidently the wrecks of some of them are visible at low tide but I never saw any. This area was once home to some 2000 people working the huge gum-fields.

All over Northland you are never more than 40ks from the sea, but here you just wander across the road with your body, or surf, board under your arm. I just had my towel and loved playing in the warm water.

I’d been told Ahipara boasts one of the world’s best left hand surf breaks – I had to ask what this means!

It seems “A wave is either a left or a right, depending on which direction the wave breaks from the point of view of a surfer paddling and riding the wave. If a surfer is paddling to catch the wave and it is breaking from right to left (the surfer will have to turn left to get on the wave) then this wave is a left.”

And, just to make it more confusing for us non-surfers – these breaks are from the view of the surfer, so left looks right from the beach! Shipwreck Bay is home to one of the best point-breaks in NZ – a world-class left-hander that offers rides of up to 3 minutes on a good day.

The water is usually warm, the breaks not crowded, the bottom sand, and there are different spots available for both beginners and advanced surfers – no wonder people would consider such a place be perfect for what seems in the ‘winterless north’ an endless summer just as this accommodation is called.

If you are taking a road trip, when you leave this little retreat, follow SH10 through the towns of Herekino, Broadwood, and the Victorian village of Kohukohu which has charming old villas and buildings  and the Village Arts gallery on the main street.

The “Narrows” car ferry is on your left hand side about 5 minutes the other side of Kohukohu. (About an hour’s drive from Awanui). This ferry departs on the hour and takes about 15 minutes to cross. Drive off the ferry at Rawene, which has an art gallery, and an excellent café (The Boatshed), and historic Clendon House  Drive through town to SH12 and turn right, follow road into Opononi on the Hokianga Harbour.

I took some back roads and visited my husband’s grave before finally checking in at The Copthorne Hotel & Resort Hokianga right  on the edge of the Hokianga Harbour, yet another beautiful  kauri villa that has stunning views of the massive sand dunes across the bay – dunes that I will explore tomorrow.

copthorne hokianga

Of course my trip around Northland was taken in my favourite car rental company NZ Rent A Car!

Hokianga Harbour: blue skies, sand dunes & ancient trees

The Hokianga is not just blue skies, massive sand dunes and ancient trees – it’s also the cradle of not only Ngapuhi, but also of the European settlers in the early 1800s.

I have done too much in the last 24, or so, hours for a little blog, but there are plenty of stories to come out of this area from my pen and camera.  Lonely Planet raved about Footprints Waipoua  (@hokimustdos) and so will I! I took the evening guided walk – with 6 others from Canada, USA, and the Bahamas’ – and we all voted it fabulous. Our local Maori guide, Koro, really did guide us through the forest and introduced us to the biggest, and oldest of the kauri trees in the Waipoua Forest, and more. I don’t want to spoil the story now – book mark this blog and come back for more. (Or watch the airline magazines for this one!)

Another one that’s worthy of a bigger audience than this blog  – although my numbers of readers have gone up while I’ve been travelling Northland, so welcome to you who are just discovering  NZ and my travels – next overseas trip will be Turkey hopefully and, absolutely, Borneo later this year. But back to the story that deserves a post and printed article is Sandtrails Hokianga which i went on this am.

See the photo of the sun just hitting the sand dunes (taken from my room at the Copthorne Hotel &Resort Hokianga) well that was just the start of an adventure, great scenery, and an introduction to Andrew Kendall’s tribal history – including the arrival of Kupe. Like our guide last night, he is a really nice guy: what even better, this tour is an exclusive, limited to three people! I suggest you book in advance if you can.

Some photos as a taste of what’s to come  . . .

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and more. . .

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The top of the North: the tail of the fish

The “Top of the North” is the long finger of land that tops the North Island of New Zealand and stretches from Kaitaia to Cape Reinga of the North Island. On a road trip ( the rental car company I recommend is RentalCarsNZ) you will go through the tiny towns of Ahipara, Awanui, Herekino, Houhoura, Ngataki and Pukenui. (heading north)

Often referred to as ‘the winterless north’ by we kiwis, it’s a great place for holidays around the perfect beaches: swimming, boating, fishing, and snorkelling are just some of the things you can do – many of us just relax in the sun!

Cape Reinga’s lighthouse looks over the often tempestuous seas where the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea meet. On sunny, picture-perfect, postcard days, the vivid green of the Tasman Sea and the cobalt blue of the Pacific Ocean is truly fantastic, a truly striking scene – today the blues seemed to merge.

Kaitiai is the main visitor hub for the area: a great place to base yourself, handy to all the beaches, and it’s from here you can leave to go riding along the sands of Ninety Mile Beach, stand at Cape Reinga with it’s awesome views and discover local history and Maori legends.

I went up the beach with Sand Safaris and had a great time (once again, a blog to follow once I’ve returned to Wellington – and worked my way through all the stories I’ve collected – will start at the beginning of this trip and just keep writing). I will confess now, I did not go sledging down the dunes  – I used up my adrenaline quotient with the Paragliding in Paihia. – see the blog of about a week ago.

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As I said, I lost my story that I wrote  for the day and  these pics,  and couldn’t get on-line last night … so apologies and more tomorrow night – but in the meantime, the villa at the end is the Endless Summer Lodge a great hotel with delightful hosts Anna & Blaine (tell them i sent you Smile)

I have now checked into the Copthorne Hotel & Resort Hokianga right on the beach and tonight I out with Footprints Waipoua for a guided walk into the forest – so no writing tonight as out!