The weather at the beginning of the summer was absolutely incredible. I don’t think we felt temperatures that warm throughout our entire first summer in Auckland. Feeling like we needed to take advantage of the weather – combined with the fact we hadn’t yet used the tent we dragged all the way from the US – we decided to go camping!
After a recommendation from a friend, we settled on Northland’s Kauri Coast. We’d been to the east coast to the Bay of Islands, but wanted to try something new. This west coast area is famous for Kauri tree forests and beautiful expansive beaches. Plus, there’s a campsite where you’re sometimes able to see wild kiwi at night – which is extremely rare.
The Campsite + Kiwi Searching
We stayed at a DOC-managed campsite at Trounson Kauri Park. It’s pretty small with basic facilities, but is surrounded by a forest – and has direct access to the Trounson Kauri Loop Track. Since there are only 12 first-come first-served tent sites, we headed straight to the campground to claim a spot.
We went about our day (see below!), and came back in time for nightfall. We’d heard that people had recently seen kiwis right after it got dark – around 10pm or so – so we got ready for a night walk.
For the best chance at kiwi spotting, you’re supposed to have a red flashlight because nocturnal animals’ retinas don’t have the ability to perceive red light in the dark. We couldn’t find red flashlights anywhere the day before we left, so bought little red bike lights. Turns out they weren’t very powerful, but we saw a tour group with a very bright flashlight that we followed for a bit. It was certainly an experience to see so many people creeping silently through the forest tracks in the dark with red lights!
Unfortunately, we (nor the group) didn’t see any kiwis, but we woke up to their screams (yes, they sound like children screaming bloody murder) at night! We also heard a ton of moreporks (native owls named after their call that sound like “more-pork”) all evening.
Other Northland + Kauri Coast Highlights
Waipoua is the largest remaining stand of native forest in Northland – and is home to the oldest, tallest Kauri trees. Kauri trees are enormous, growing to more than 50 metres tall and 16 metre sin girth. The ancient Kauris in this area have been around since before people arrived 1,000 years ago. Kauri trees are now in danger of a fungus called Kauri dieback disease. When you enter a trail with Kauri in any part of New Zealand, you’ll see brushes and spray to clean your shoes and reduce the risk to their roots.
The famous trees:
- Tane Mahuta (Lord of the Forest) – tallest Kauri, reaching 17.68 m in height
- Te Matua Ngahere (Father of the Forest) – oldest Kauri (2,000+ years old) with a massive girth of 16.41 m
- Four Sisters and Yakas – Two other famous tree attractions along the same walking trail as Te Matua Ngahere.
Access to the tracks to see all these trees is off SH12. Stop at the area marked Kauri Tree Walks first, where all the other famous trees are. To complete the trails to Te Matua Ngahere, Four Sisters and Yakas will take about 1.5 hours. Just another 15 minutes further on SH12 is the sign for Tane Mahuta. The walk takes just a couple minutes to reach the tree. See all details on DOC’s site.
Just another 45 minutes further north on SH12, you’ll find Hokianga Harbour. We had dinner here at the Copthorne Hotel – just stunning. The views were amazing, and the food was delish! Plus, you’re able to sand board down giant dunes here during the day, but we were too late.
We visited this expansive beach on our way back to Auckland Sunday morning. We were able to drive right onto the sand, and took a walk by the water.
Kai Iwi Lakes
This is one place we’re dying to go back to. We’ve heard such good things, but it was pouring rain when we drove through. The area is supposed to be just gorgeous, and screams classic NZ summer, with plenty of campsites. We’ll be back!