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!

90 Mile Beach, sand toboggans & native trees

Sand Safaris take me for a full day trip to Cape Reinga – driving along  90 Mile Beach, sand-tobogganing  and I plant a native tree at the cape.

Classified as a main highway, 90-mile beach is not really ninety miles long and this is just one of the interesting facts given by our engaging driver, Senny, as we race against the incoming tide. These tours go up or down the beach one way, and the usual road route on the other.

We hear stories of cattle rustling; peat-land,large forests on sand dunes, lots of freshwater lakes; and the ultra-marathon and fishing competitions held on the this well known beach. we also see numerous birds, a cow, wild horses, and shellfish beds which the bus carefully avoids.

With no big river emptying into the Tasman the beach is free of the debris usually seen on beaches and it’s not long before we stop for photos before we head up a stream to the sand dunes and tobogganing.

we are given tips for the descent

.. and put them into action.

Lunch stop at Tapotupotu Bay … time for a very quick dip too

The top of New Zealand is Cape Reinga, and Te Ara, New Zealand’s online history encyclopaedia  says "according to ancient lore, this was final departure point for the spirit of the Maori. It was said that the spirit, after travelling up the west coast to a spot a few miles south of Cape Maria van Diemen, continued overland to the western end of Spirits Bay and eventually reached the pohutukawa tree. There it descended the roots and entered the sea. (This tree is reputed to have been in position for about 800 years and is said never to have blossomed.) "



I take the 1km walk down to the lighthouse and the views are spectacular as I watch the waves of  the Tasman Sea meet the Pacific Ocean currents.

While here I’m given the opportunity to  plant a native tree to help assuage my travel-writer frequent-flyer carbon guilt.

If you too are ecologically minded, see the Seed for the Future website for more information about this local tribe (Ngati Kuri) initiative as part of their role of guardians of the sacred places around the cape … $NZ20 well spent and a living legacy of your trip there.

Leaving here we head south again, via the sealed  road this time, we head home with the bus dropping us off at our accommodation … I get off at Mainstreet, pick up my rental car and head a little further south to Shipwreck Bay and Endless Summer Lodge.

Kaitaia is next along Northlands Twin Coast Discovery route

Kaitaia is my next port of call in this two weeks travel around Northland ( and after leaving Gumdiggers Park (see my previous post) as I continue along the Twin Coast Discovery route to what could be called the capital of the far north.

kaitaia DSCF3840great public art

This area has an interesting mix of Dalmatian and Maori history: it is also home to the originator of ‘nek minnit” , a phrase that has been heard on lips of skateboarders through to a member of parliament (and which no doubt spelt death to the saying among young people!) Nek minnit was made popular by a kiwi skateboarder who appeared in a video that went viral and which shows his scooter, apparently destroyed outside a corner shop, known as a dairy here – although the skateboarder made the video, I believe it was from one of his Kaitaia cousins he first heard it!


kaitaia DSCF3842

I check into Mainstreet Lodge a clean and friendly travellers lodge in the centre of town and where I meet Mike, the new owner and manager. Not surprisingly, I have just heard Mainstreet has doubled its occupancy over the past year under the new ownership and updating.

I believe this accommodation will also be a boon to people walking the Te Araroa trail – hike that takes people the 3000km (1864 miles) from the top of New Zealand to the bottom: of course it can be done in stages!

One of the unique points about this place is it’s the only place I know of that has a Whare – a Maori meeting house. This house grew out of a Maori carving school and some of the carvings were made at the school and so Whare Te Ohonga was born – the name means “The Awakening”.

mainstreet whare IMG_9477

I took a look around the new Te Ahu Centre on the corner of Matthews Ave & South Road which has some impressive design work. I’m told it houses a library, museum, cafe, i-SITE and the Far North District Council service centre as well as the Little Theatre, Te Ahu Cinema and Community Hall so can be well-used by locals and visitors alike.

More than 100 Perspex versions of one my favourite birds, the kuaka (bar-tailed godwits) hang from the atriums ceiling and the flight formation mimics the migratory birds amazing annual journey to the Northern Hemisphere – seems it likes a perpetual summer despite the huge journey twice a year.

Carvers working under the direction of tohunga whakairo (master carver) Paul Marshall have completed four, seven-metre pou (rather like totem poles) representing Pakeha, Te Rarawa, Ngai Takoto and Ngati Kuri.

They encircle the atrium and look down on a giant stingray etched in a polished concrete floor symbolising the seafloor and Te Hiku o te Ika – the tail of the fish. Three more pou representing Te Aupouri, Ngati Kahu and people of Dalmatian descent stand there.

A floor-to-ceiling fibre-glass kauri tree and swing bridge have been installed in the library where a wall mural evokes native bush and it’s well worth visiting this place on your travels especially as my photos do not do it justice,

What are your must-do and must-see suggestions to see in this provincial town? Of course it’s the jumping off place for trips up to Cape Reinga and that will be my next blog .. a day trip with Sand Safaris to Cape Reinga via 90 Mile Beach.



Kahoe Farm Hostel ……. the place to stay in Northland!


Kahoe Farms Hostel , 12ks north of Kao, Northland, was recommended to me by Bare Kiwi: going by my experience of this homestay I will listen to his other recommendations!

So, what do you call a cross between a rural resort, a farm-stay, a holiday club and a homestay? Why Kahoe Farms Hostel of course!

Arriving in the morning, I spent the afternoon hiking in native bush behind this 1930s homestead; (the other one is from the 19thC. and both were built by the owners family) then watched my fettuccine being made for dinner.

kunikuni pigs

I also spent time talking to the cute-in-an-ugly-sort-of –way, kunekune pigs who will not be on the menu – ever!

Kahoe Farm Hotels started when a Kiwi met an Italian in London and they came back to NZ to the family farm which was started by Lyndsay’s Swedish great-grandfather who actually ‘jumped ship’ into the local harbour as his fellow sailors were heading back out after whales – the rest, as they say, is history.

Of the people staying here, one couple from The Netherlands are back for a 2nd visit in a year; an American surfer is also back for a second time, and a Frenchman is on his way up from Auckland, also a repeat visitor says it all.

This farm is also famous for its annual, New Year football (soccer) match … the world’s first tournament of the year here at the Kahoe Valley Stadium. The qualifying matches are held on New Year’s Eve and the final kicks off at midnight. The winners are presented with the Virgili trophy.

Stefano is an avid Inter Milan fan and often invites guests to play a friendly match on the Kahoe Farm stadium.

This is the crème-de-la-crème of backpackers and is surrounded by many walks and activities including a 3-hour round hike to the kauri dam, called ‘the rock pool’ by the family. It’s also a great base to for kayaking from. Canoeing among mangroves is always fun, or you can head out in the Whangaroa Harbour

This is a place to chill for a while, or get involved with the many activities on and around the farm – absolutely ideal for both kiwi travellers and tourists.

Have you stayed here? Or are you planning to?

Football anyone?
Football anyone?
Nearby Kao
Nearby Kao


Lunch with a view
Lunch with a view

Kerikeri, Northland. History & beauty side by side

History and beauty sit side by side in Kerikeri – in New Zealand’s ‘winterless north’.

New Zealand's oldest building
New Zealand’s oldest building

The Stone Store, under the care of the Historic Places Trust, is part of the Kerikeri Mission Station, (1819) and is one of  New Zealand’s oldest buildings. In the group that I was being shown through it,  and the oldest building, Kemp House, (built 1822) one of the English tourists said to her travelling companion: ‘It’s not that old is it?’ ‘They really struggle’ her friend replied, ‘it’s not that long ago.’

As a kiwi of five generations I wanted to retort – “you stupid woman, where do you think you are? This is the newest country to be found and inhabited by you Brits! This newness is just one of our many points of difference to all we  willingly left behind. If you want ‘old’ stay at home you stupid woman.’

Luckily, for my peace of mind,  I kept my mouth shut – no doubt I too have said, or thought, stupid things in other people’s countries too!

Side by side with this European history sits Maori history – the mission was under the protection of one of Northland’s  great Ngapuhi chiefs, Hongi Hika.

All this sits in the beauty of the area: the orchards, wineries and thriving arts community that it is well-known for, and along the Kerikeri River.

On the other side of the river and tidal inlet, is Rewa’s village, a replica Maori fishing village. It’s well worth visiting  this volunteer-run, not-for-profit organisation this  to see the native plant garden and learn the use of  the various plants.

See many other stories about the area on the Northland category – see these photos for other ideas of things to do while staying in the area – from buying fudge or chocolate, check out the kauri products or some ceramics – don’t forget Wharepuke for food and ec0-accommodation and Living Nature for your natural beauty products.

old bridge IMG_8864 livingnature kerikeri kerikeri IMG_8839 kauri workshop IMG_8717 kauri wkshIMG_8718 ceramics kerikeri choc factory fudge IMG_8701 guided tour IMG_8804 info tunaIMG_8843 bird IMG_8849 tuna IMG_8842

New Zealand's oldest building
New Zealand’s oldest building

rewas village IMG_8852 rewa IMG_8853 oldest floors IMG_8819 organ piano IMG_8816 public art kerikeri pukeko IMG_8705

Wharepuke. Eco-cottages I stayed at in Kerikeri, Northland

In Kerikeri, Northland earlier this year, for the first time in many years, I stayed in some delightful eco-cottages.

These stylish self-catering, eco cottages at Wharepuke are nestled in 2 hectares of gardens which were first planted by Robin Booth – starting 18 years ago  on bare land – and have been awarded the ‘garden of significance’ status . The cottages feature original fine art prints and paintings by resident artist, print-maker and tutor, Mark Graver who has his studio on the grounds too.

Wharepuke has solid green credentials and actions – they include:

  • the cottages are purposefully designed for energy conservation
  • they use available local goods and services
  • they use organic cleaners and products
  • they encourage the reuse of sheets and towels by guests to save water and products
  • they recycle any rubbish
  • they have their own sewerage system which bio-treats water and which ends up back on the garden
  • And, they offer local and organic food and drinks where possible

These cottages are peaceful to stay in, and as this a great wedding venue, I imagine both guests and brides love staying here – I know I did!  I also valued the little torch on the key-ring to lead me home through the subtropical bush late in the evening.

Another asset about this place is the restaurant set within the gardens. Food at Wharepuke is a fully licensed cafe and restaurant specialising in Thai-inspired and modern European food.

Judged the “Northland Cafe of the Year” I can vouch for the fabulous dishes produced by the Welsh chef Colin Ashton , and his staff. An advantage they have is their herbs are mostly all grown on site.  Interestingly, the restaurant was once army barracks and was trucked to the site. Even if you can’t stay at the cottages make sure you eat at the restaurant.

One of my food recommendations is the Thai Tasting Plate. Dishes I especially loved were the very tender squid, the raw fish, spring rolls and the lavash bread!

Mark Graver- the resident artist – is the author of the book Non-Toxic Printmaking. (A&C Black, London 2011) and tells me he had to self learn how to create non-toxic printmaking. He was awarded First Prize at the 2010 Lessedra World Art Print competition in Sofia, Bulgaria and has work in public and private collections worldwide.  See his website for details about his work and the workshops he gives.

frankie stevens IMG_8755
Singer Frankie Stevens signed the chair .. that I sat in for lunch. Only days earlier he had been MC at the concert in the Treaty Grounds I’d attended. (see an earlier blog post)
Lush subtropical gardens
cottage bedroom
a peaceful retreat
food at wharepuke
Fabulous gardens
Food at Wharepuke can be served indoors, on the deck, or here in the garden
Food at Wharepuke
Food at Wharepuke
mark 2
Mark Grover at work on his etching … water based inks on copper
thai tasting plate
Thai tasting plate
success banner
A saying to live by
veiw to lake
View from my cottage
view from veranda
another view from my cottage

monach butterfly MG_8871 sign

Keri Keri : a different natural beauty spot!

While in Northland, at Keri Keri, (Feb 2012) I went on a factory touring of Living Nature with Brett Alexander, their Research and Development Engineer.

From what I heard and saw, it seems Living Nature is one of the world’s most truly natural skin care ranges with over 200 products made from

living soap web IMG_8688

the unique and potent properties of New Zealand plants, honey, and clays. As they say, their beauty secrets and products have been 80 million years in the making!

Isolated for all those years, over 80% of New Zealand’s native plants are indigenous and it seems many have remarkable bioactive properties and it’s from those active ingredients that Living Nature make their skin care products.

They claim they create some of the safest, purest and most effective certified natural skin care in the world: all without the side effects of harsh, dangerous or damaging chemicals.

As Brett tells me “Our products reflect the country in which they were developed – pure and potent.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Green in all areas, they use carbon-neutral hydro and wind energy and filtered rainwater, the packaging is fully recyclable and their paper and cartons are sourced from renewable, managed forests and, like their inks, are free from dioxin and chlorine.  He continues, “We use no animal products, other than humanely obtained beeswax, honey and lactose. We will never test our products on animals.”

living nature web IMG_8683

They even use heat to gloss their lipsticks, and all equipment is cleaned not only at the end of the day, but also at the start!

Once my tour is over (you can see more about their products, processes, and quality tests on their website ) I had a wonderful facial with a rose quartz stone and the world-famous manuka honey.  After days on holiday, with sunburn, wind and sea air damage I needed it. Superb.

“It feels like my skin is just sucking it up” I say – “yes, it is” replies the therapist. I was also given a product to try – Radiance Night Oil. Evidently, the scent of Rose Oil de-stresses and increases elastin levels too, so my skin will feel firmer and look younger overnight. With 65,000 perfect rosebuds distilled into just 1 ml, they have bottled one of the world’s ancient beauty secrets.


My skin absolutely felt better, but younger overnight?  I’m not sure – I think my skin is long past being able to respond so dramatically, so quickly! However, I am absolute convert to their Ultra Rich Body Cream: luscious!

My face needed this treatment!
My face needed this treatment!

living nature web IMG_8696