Great choice of accommodation in Northland – NZ’s ‘winterless north’

Thought it was time to make some recommendations about accommodation in Northland:  I stayed on a boat, in backpackers, hotels, B&B, a farm stay, villas, cottage, and a camping ground. I’m sure there is bound to be one of these that will suit you perfectly – or maybe you would like to mix and match just like I did.

Thank you to Destination Northland (@northland_nz)for helping me arrange this trip and the diverse accommodation – and to Rental Cars NZ (@rentalcarnz) for the use of a car. Where I know them, I have included Facebook pages and Twitter names – these links are to mine.

Perched on the edge of the renowned Tutukaka Marina, the Oceans Resort Hotel is part of a European inspired resort destination, with a myriad of water-based activities on their doorstep, and with fabulous beaches and a lush subtropical climate you will feel as though you have escaped to paradise ( with its fabulous views and breakfast. (@oceansresort)

Copthorne Hotel & Resort Bay of Islands ( is located within the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, next to a scenic golf course and the historic Treaty House. Set in park-like grounds, this resort is situated beside the Bay of Isalnd harbour and enjoys views of the Bay of Islands. Service excellent. (@mchnz)

The Rock overnight cruise and bed! (  . . . plus target shooting, fishing, night kayaking, snorkeling, island walks and generally exploring the Bay of Islands.  BBQ dinner and breakfast included.  All the cabins are upstairs with windows to take in the incredible views and balcony access to two quiet observation sun-decks. Unbelievably downstairs has everything from a log fire, bar, piano, pool table, lounge, dining area and a large fishing and kayaking ramp.(@rocktheboatnz). Loved it!

Pickled Parrot Backpackers, Greys Lane (just beyond Scenic Hotel) at the southern end of Paihia. This small friendly hostel has a well-appointed kitchen and is set in quiet subtropical gardens – and with breakfast included. All the rooms have New Zealand bird names – I was in the Aussie over-stayer one – rosella.

Waitangi Holiday Park, a very basic campsite for tents and campervans, some cottages too. Close to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds – it’s really ideal for Waitangi Day celebrations and I loved being in the centre of the activity – celebrations that I believe all Kiwi’s should attend at least once in their lifetime!

In Kerikeri you’ll love the Wharepuke Subtropical Gardens and eco-cottages.

I stayed in one of the stylish self-catering, eco cottages which are nestled in 2 hectares of award-winning subtropical gardens. The accommodation also showcases original fine art prints and paintings by resident artist Mark Graver and has wonderful food at FOOD at Wharepuke.

On the recommendation of Bare Kiwi (see his video on this link)  I also stayed at Kahoe Farms Hostel ( a fabulous homestay with an Italian flavour – a must do if you want to see real kiwi-life and a great base for many local activities such as hiking, canoeing, sailing etc.  This is a beautiful Kauri farmhouse with charming rooms of polished wood and country furnishings. The hosts give a warm welcome here at one of New Zealand’s leading farm hostels and backpackers. Footballers (what we call soccer) are especially welcome to join a game with locals and other travellers.

Doubtless Bay Villas are beautiful as you can see by the photos and their website – and the views are fabulous too. These stylish, spacious and luxurious villa-style apartments are just a short walk down to the lovely sand beaches where I had a swim and joined locals in sampling some of the mussels clinging to the rocks.

Mainstreet Lodge in Kaitaia is a very clean and friendly backpacker’s lodge in the centre of town – a good jumping of place for tours “up to the cape” or beginning walking the length of New Zealand on the Te Araroa walkway.  With new ownership this old YHA is being refurbished to an even higher standard and has a variety of rooms to choose from.

The Copthorne Hotel & Resort Hokianga, (@MCHNZ) is right on the water’s edge of the Hokianga Harbour, this beautiful old style kauri villa (and newer wings) has stunning views of the massive sand dunes across the bay.

I also recommend you check into the Endless Summer Lodge, on Foreshore Rd, Ahipara. . This is a beautiful, clean, friendly 1880 wooden villa is at the end of 90-Mile Beach. Shipwreck Bay is sheltered from the prevailing wind and is home to one of the best surfing breaks in NZ – and one of the world’s best left-hand surf break – and is also a safe beach for swimming. A great country kitchen and herb garden for all to use too.

Sunset View Lodge, Baylys Beach.  is where you can hear the sound of the waves from the Lodge and is near Ripiro Beach – the longest driveable beach in New Zealand. Free Wi-Fi here and an honesty box in the bar!

The Commercial Hotel, Dargaville is a completely refurbished (2011) heritage-listed waterfront pub that was built in the 1880s and overlooks the mighty Northern Wairoa River. Sitting, with a coffee, on the balcony watching the sand barge returning home after its days’ work, birds, and watching the sun-set, was a treat. I can well recommend this place when you are exploring the Twin Highways of Northland.

The Rock: take an overnight cruise in New Zealand

The Rock – an interesting name, especially in the Bay of Islands where the ‘Hole in the Rock’ is a destination for boat trips from Paihia.

This ‘rock’ is a boat: originally a car ferry that carried 7 or 9 vehicles and it’s now been converted to a Hosteling International (YHA) hostel and I’ve joined a group for an overnight cruise in the beautiful Bay of Islands (Northland, New Zealand).

We’re picked up at 4pm at the Paihia wharf and with life-jackets on; we’re taken out to the flat-bottomed boat. It’s not long before we have had our rooms assigned, safety briefing given and we have target practice – note, don’t rely on me to feed or protect you with a weapon!

However, I can catch a fish (snapper) but it’s too small and has to be released, although the next day I manage to get some edible kina (sea eggs) which I love and the international tourists eat with trepidation.

So, this boat is not merely for transport around the Bay of Islands, but is our accommodation too. All the rooms are on the top level and my room overlooks the bow (front) of the old barge and as the boat is flat-bottomed there is very little movement unless a boat goes past.

Adam, the Skipper has a job like mine “A millionaire’s lifestyle on a poor man’s wage”. He’s an accomplished pianist and after dinner, as we head for bed he’s tinkling away at the ivories.  A piano on board was not anything I expected!

The next day we are kayaking, snorkelling, hiking, and exploring the area. Our meals are at a long table and are delicious. Perhaps this is the only floating YHA hostel in the world:  let me know if you are aware of others.

I found this overnight cruise (online) many months before my Northland trip (I spent 2 weeks exploring the area in a low-cost rental car from NZ Rentals) and this was the first activity, and accommodation, on my agenda – a good choice. Watch this  four-minute video created by my mates at ONZAMAP. (Check out their other travel info videos too)

Just some of the comments in the visitor’s book say:

  • Our second time on The Rock and you still rock! (UK couple)
  • You guys are amazing (German)
  • F.A.N.T.A.S.T.I.C.

Enjoy a few of my photos from my time on board – the time flew and yet seemed ages all at the same time. Fabulous, I can recommend The Rock – in fact I must do a  review on Trip Advisor about it.

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I’m scared of heights – so why parasail?

I’m not an adrenaline junkie – in fact I’m a bit of a scaredy-cat about some things – like heights .

However, somehow the words on the brochure – ‘gentle lift-off and landing” – lulled me into ignoring the next sentence.  It included these words – New Zealand’s highest’!

The Flying Kiwi Parasail delivered on their promises:

  • Breath-taking views – check!
  • Gentle lift-off – check!
  • No need to get wet – check!
  • Gentle landing – check!
  • Single, double or triple flights – check!

I was on a single flight and I’m not sure it that made it easier or scarier, I just knew when I did the ‘gentle and dry landing’ part I was really happy to be down and happy to have parasailed on NZ’s highest. I also knew I would never do it again! Maybe! (I’ve learn’t to never say never)

I was SOOOOOOOO high.  Higher than Auckland’s Sky tower – not the level where adventurous people jump from – but the very top of lt. And, when you are up there, alone, and scared of heights it’s very, very high. My daughter would love it and no doubt most travellers, and other kiwi, would love to be able to say “I did New Zealand’s highest parasail

So how high was I? About 365 metres, or 1200 feet!  And, how high is the Sky Tower, a mere 328 metres – 1076.1 ft.  No wonder I stopped taking photos – I needed to hang on, grasp the reins and worry.

Worry that the ropes were safe; worry that my canvas seat would take the weight of my body; worry so much I needed to talk to myself.

“Look around Heather. You will never see this view again. Look at the cruise ship and NZ Navy ship. Enjoy the view” my head was saying, “There’s Russell over there’  ‘That’s Paihia that way’; ‘I can see the Treaty Grounds.’

While this chatter was happening in my head,  out of my non-religious mouth flowed words in a chant or prayer I’ve never said before.

“Holy, holy, holy.” “ Holy, holy, sh*t”  “Holy, holy, f*ck”


Once I landed back on the boat I was elated: I’d done it.

However, back on land I was still shaking 30 mins later when I rang my daughter (who was having an adventure-filled weekend in Rotorua) and, just when I needed to talk it went straight to her answer phone.

My voice was still gone (missing in action for 3-days) and when she laughingly replayed the message back to me in the comfort of a Wellington café I too had to laugh at my shaking, croaking, drama queenwords:

Ohmigod I’ve done it!  As you can hear, my voice is still gone but by god, my body is full of adrenaline. It was so f’ing scary! But I did it! Single! By myself! All alone, way up there, above the sky tower height. Ok, talk to you later, bye.”

A drama queen indeed – she easily worked it out I was not twin or treble parasailing! Would I recommend the Flying Kiwi Parasail? – of course. (And, you don’t have to go as high as I did!)

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As you see,  I didn’t find my voice up among the  clouds: I return to my rental car ready to continue my Northland trip –  maybe it’s on The Rock where I’m sleeping tonight. ( I wonder, is this the only float Hostelling International hostel in the world? Let me know.

Northland, New Zealand–what a great road trip (water too)

The Rock Overnight cruise was fabulous: it’s not often the same place that has your accommodation, also takes you hiking, fishing, canoeing, target shooting, snorkelling, has a skipper who lulls you to sleep with great piano playing, another plays the guitar, and Keiko who cooks tasty porridge and is full of good humour al all times – the list goes on. they were all great and I would recommend them wholeheartedly!

The Rock just maybe the BEST YHA in the world! (FYI I’m a gold-card member of that organisation)

I have just booked into The Pickled Parrot in Paihia – a small personal BBH hostel set in subtropical gardens and tonight I’m off to the  Waitangi Treaty Grounds the annual free music concert which sets off the public holiday that marks the commemoration of the signing of New Zealand’s founding document – signed between the Maori tribes and the then Queen of England in 1840


The Rock at anchor at Roberton Island

Many thanks to Destination Northland for helping with my itinerary and Rental Cars New Zealand for the vehicle for this road trip:

I can recommend both as car and the travel plans are working perfectly Smile

Northland, day three: I challenge my fears

Whoops!  I didn’t post this on day 3 . . . shows the fear that was racing around my body 🙂

Many thanks to Destination Northland for helping with my itinerary and Rental Cars New Zealand for the vehicle

for this road trip: I can recommend both!

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What a day! I’m off dolphin watching, maybe even get  to swim with them – but not a dolphin in sight in the this Bay of Islands (140 or so islands).The reason, the Orca’s were out! And when the top of the food chain is around it pays to lie low … even if the New Zealand pods do prefer stingrays not dolphins. What a  great sight for us. More of that trip in a later blog,

Next up – I face my fear of heights and go parasailing in NZ’s highest one! I cannot believe I agreed to do it . . . the things travel writers do for a story sometimes Smile (and I will write a story or two about it so bookmark this page and come back soon) so those are my feet, dangling at about the Auckland sky tower level above the ocean . . .  the little dot at the other end of the string is the boat that’s pulling me.

And, the last picture is of me failing at target shooting on board The Rock  – and what must be the best YHA in the world –a cruise, a sleep, lots of activities, BBQ meal and now its time to emerge from my cabin for breakfast.

So, lots more stories to be written when I return home and have time to digest them all – and still about 13 days to go – think I’ll need a cup of tea and a lie down before I start!

here are the links to the days activities:

Swim with

Flying Kiwi Parasail

The Rock Overnight Cruise.

looking for a place to stay in New Zealand?

YOU MAY KNOW I’M A HOSTELLLING INTERNATIONAL LIFETIME MEMBER SO FELT I HAD TO PASS THIS ON, esp’ as one of these is only 10 mins walk from my place in Christchurch city — kiwi travel writer


YHA Ohakune

At the base of Mt Ruapehu YHA Ohakune, Matai Lodge is one of the closest backpacker hostels to the start of the Tongariro Crossing and provides convenient shuttle transport to get you there and to other Central North Island attractions.

YHA Ohakune, Matai Lodge is a friendly, comfortable and inexpensive hostel. There is a wide range of backpacker style accommodation options to suit your needs and the recreational facilities have been recently improved for your enjoyment. Backpacker accommodation at YHA Ohakune includes doubles, twins, family rooms, tent sites and a variety of different multi-share rooms in which all bedding is provided. There are two fully equipped shared kitchens, dining and lounge areas. YHA Ohakune facilities include internet, home theatre, X-box, overseas TV channels and pool table.

Top 3 activities to do while backpacking in Ohakune:

  • Tongariro Alpine Crossing, one of New Zealand’s ‘Great Walks’, passing through volcanic craters and glacial valleys.
  • Ski Turoa ski field on the south side of Mt Ruapehu, the nearest ski area to Ohakune.
  • Take a canoe tour down the mystical and lonely Whanganui River.

YHA Christchurch City

Situated in the heart of Christchurch, New Zealand’s ‘Garden City’ – this modern and spacious backpacker hostel is the perfect base for your Christchurch experience. YHA Christchurch City Central is in the centre of Christchurch just minutes away from the Cathedral Square and all the many, many restaurants, bars, nightclubs and shops of this lively South Island city. Everything you could need is just a short walk away, including Christchurch’s Centennial pool and gym.

The YHA Christchurch City Central hostel has an amazing array of facilities including two spacious fully equipped kitchens (one on each floor), a comfortable common room, a TV room, a games room with pool table/foos-ball/video games, internet access including wireless, locker facilities, two laundry facilities, library exchange and disabled access…phew! YHA Christchurch City Central has a large variety of modern and clean backpacker accommodation in a safe and secure environment. And because there is no pub at this Christchurch backpackers you can be assured of a quiet night’s sleep.

Top 3 activities to do while backpacking in Christchurch:

  • Take a trip up the Gondola for breathtaking views of the patchwork Canterbury plains, the majestic Southern Alps and gorgeous Lyttelton Harbour.
  • Visit some of Christchurch’s many cultural centres: the Antarctic Centre, the Canterbury Museum, the Tamaki Heritage village and the colourful Arts Centre weekend craft market.
  • For animal lovers, swim with the dolphins at Akaroa Harbour, visit the kiwis at Willowbank or Orana Park or simply feed the ducks along the picturesque Avon River in Hagley Park.

Special Offers

youth hostels in NZ are GREAT, but not all ‘backpackers’ are YHA!

Ok you know I am prejudiced and love youth hostelling all over the world and am a life member of YHANZ  (hosteling international NZ) that being so,  here are two New Zealand YHA hostels to consider.

NOTE: A ‘backpacker hostel’ is not a ‘youth hostel”  – they are a world wide chain started ( I  think I remember correctly ) in Switzerland in the 1920s, while  backpacker hostels are usually commercial enterprises. when I travel given the choice I always choose the hostelling International chain/organisation as I know their standards and community involvement

YHA Rotorua Treks
Rotorua’s finest lodge, YHA Rotorua Treks offers budget backpacker accommodation right beside Kuirau Park, Rotorua’s free geothermal attraction, and only two minutes walk from shops, cafes, restaurants and beautiful Lake Rotorua.

There is a wide range of backpacker accommodation to choose from at YHA Rotorua Treks Backpackers: 4 bed share rooms, 6 bed bunk rooms, triple room, standard double rooms, twin/double ensuite rooms. This Rotorua hostel has a choice of indoor or outdoor dining at this Rotorua hostel with a spacious modern kitchen as well a large outdoor deck and BBQ. Communal backpacker facilities include a comfortable separate lounge and TV room with lots of DVDs to watch and a coin operated laundry.

Top 3 activities to do while backpacking in Rotorua:

  • Rotorua is famous for geothermal activity: visit boiling mud pools, see towering geysers and soak in the hot mineral spas.
  • Experience the unique aspects of Maori culture – their traditions, music, arts and craft and delicious hangi (traditional feast).
  • Experience the beauty of Rotorua’s unique bush and lake environments: go hiking, lake kayaking, horse-riding, wild-life viewing, bush walking or mountain-biking.

YHA Springfield (South Island)
The YHA Springfield hostel is one of Springfield’s oldest homes starting its history back in the 1870s as a guesthouse for the Bullock trains passing through. Set on just over one acre of grounds it offers plenty of space for rest and enjoyment and been extensively renovated with all modern backpacking facilities. Backpacker accommodation at YHA Springfield, Smylies Accommodation consists of twins, doubles and multi-share rooms, studio motel and a two bedroom family unit. YHA Springfield backpacker hostel has full recycling facilities to minimize our carbon footprint.

There is an extensive collection of English and Japanese books to be found on the bookshelves and in the TV lounge we have a good collection of videos and DVDs as well as broadband internet. Winter favourites at the YHA Springfield hostel include Japanese bath and kotatsu and skiers love the ski tune up room and drying room. YHA Springfield, Smylies Accommodation also has a popular Japanese restaurant on site.

If skiing at Porters ski field, travel in comfort in one of YHA Springfield’s certified 4wd vehicles.

Top 3 activities to do while backpacking in Springfield:

  • Skiiing: many of the South Island’s best ski fields are close to Springfield including Mt Hutt and Porters.
  • Catch the Tranz Alpine train from Springfield to Arthur’s Pass and back again for a brilliant day’s excursion for some glorious New Zealand alpine views.
  • Castle Hill Reserve basin is famous for its limestone rock formations and bouldering / rock-climbing.

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