Doubtless Bay – Coopers Beach – Mangonui are still hidden secret places in Northland yet to be discovered by a lot of visitors. We travelled here in late Autumn, but pretty much all year round, these areas remain free from hordes of tourists found in other regions.
Coopers Beach in Doubtless Bay is about 50 or so minutes drive from Kerikeri. So if you’re based in the Bay of Islands, this is a great day trip. But if you want to stay longer, (believe me, you will) there are good accommodation options. We visited Beach Lodge Holiday Apartments and I can tell you, its not always about the building. Yes, the apartments are very nice and probably have the best views in Coopers Beach.
But its the owner of Beach Lodge, Margaret Morrison, who is the major drawcard. I know this is a hackneyed phrase, but people really do arrive at Beach Lodge as strangers and leave as friends. And they keep returning time and time again – to the place and the person.
After a sumptuous lunch with Margaret, who until today had never met us, we left thankful that New Zealand has such wonderful hosts. The gratitude continued on this beautiful beach in peak traffic hour.
There’s more to Doubtless Bay – Coopers Beach – Mangonui than meets the eye. The little fishing settlement just a few kilometres from Beach Lodge is a lovely spot to relax. Here, we chilled out to the sound of lapping water and fish n chips down by the wharf.
If you’re staying around here and you’re looking for an exhilarating and interactive experience, I think a quad bike tour would be just the thing. Henderson Bay Rentals are much more than their name and website would suggest. Malcolm and his wife, Robyn, cater for small groups of up 10 people
Malcolm had been highly recommended by other operators, so we were delighted to actually meet him over a cuppa. Henderson Bay Rentals run an extremely safe operation with Malcolm always at the helm. They offer a number of options, one of them being the Great Exhibition Bay tour. Who couldn’t enjoy zooming along endless white sandy beaches! Alternative, there’s the wild 90 Mile Beach or the coral sands of Henderson Bay to explore. As for me, right now I’m just enjoying a pleasant late Autumn sun on my back.
Electric assist bicycles (e-Bikes) New Zealand cycle trails. Since the introduction of dedicated cycle trails, cycling has become very popular in New Zealand. E-bikes have become especially popular with the lifestyle crowd, so I thought, I’d give it a go as well! View some South Island travel itineraries.
Now e-bikes are still quite expensive to buy, so a I thought it would be a good first experience to rent one from a local cycle rental supplier in Nelson. This cost me NZ$99 per day (plus added NZ$3 insurance, just to cover any damage). It’s incredibly simple to use and I took to it like a duck to water! My e-bike cycle had nine gears, plus three levels of ‘e-power’ – ‘Eco’ / ‘Medium’ / ‘Full Power’. Everything is included in the rental – helmet, bike packs, security log, maps, repair kit plus a mobile phone back up number. The Nelson operator also does one-way rentals to Mapua and transfers back (or the other ways around). Another option is also to sail back to Nelson. Such choices!
After a slow start heading out of the inner city of Nelson I approached the Tasman Rail Trail – and it started uphill! Well, there was no stopping me. I switched to the Eco setting and glided effortlessly up the hill. Michael was in awe. He says that in all the 15 years of cycling together, this was definitely a first. It was also the silence – no complaining at all. When I overtook him, he began to suspect I’d switched the setting to ‘high’ – his word against mine! View some South Island travel itineraries.
The cycle trails in the Nelson-Tasman region are often quite flat, which makes it a great cycling region. We enjoy stunning weather but sometimes biking can be challenging in a head wind, especially for lower fitness levels. In this respect, the e-bike opened up a whole new world to me.
I met an elderly gentleman, who’d just bought himself a new e-bike. He was now able to enjoy day trips with his whole extended family and guess what, he was leading the pack. No one needs to miss out. We stopped for a quick breather. It seemed as though the whole region was at the Jellyfish Cafe in Mapua that day.
The owner-operated ‘Wheelie Fantastic Cycle Tours’ offer bespoke tours. Rather than you having to collect the bike from a shop, they’ll actually deliver the bike to you. They don’t integrate groups, so its just you and your chosen itinerary to enjoy to your heart’s content. Remember, we have some great vineyards around here.
Flexibility is the key here – you can be self-guided, guided and opt to have vehicle support along the way. These guys are keen cyclists themselves so guess what they do on their days off?
Owners, Nicki and Lisa, are also keen triathletes and their knowledge of the region and bikes are legendary. We have also used their bespoke service and loved the security of knowing they were never too far away. I loved their beautiful e-bike pictured to the left in the photo below. Their high quality trail bikes are designed for comfort and performance on the trails and back roads. Besides all that, they’re just such lovely people to deal with.
I completed a 40km trip on an eBike. I hadn’t biked for over a year and it was a breeze. Honestly, I can’t imagine how I ever managed the hillier parts before. New Zealand now has a sophisticated network of Electric assist bicycles (e-Bikes) New Zealand cycle trails and its such a great way to see the country. View some South Island travel itineraries.
Kerikeri in the Bay of Islands is a place most of us would definitely revisit if given the chance. Today we discovered more Kerikeri accommodation options – Paihia Dolphin Encounter and a challenging walk to Haruru Falls. Some cottage stays we’ve experienced, set the standard for all others. If you can imagine being immersed in a beautiful rural setting, you can understand why this cottage is called Peace & Tranquility Cottage.
Its a rare thing to have the use of your own private lake and rowboat. The morning activity of Paradise ducks and graceful black swans create quite a spectacle here. We’re at the tail end of Autumn, yet there is still plenty of colour in the garden. View some sample New Zealand travel itineraries.
I’m so impressed with the generosity of the Kerikeri locals. These cottage owners supplied us with freshly laid eggs, Kiwi Fruit and mandarins. I’m always touched when accommodations add special touches to their havens of rest.
We’re very excited by our latest find on the peninsula between the Kerikeri Inlet and Te Puna Inlet. Harakeke Gardens Guesthouse is a self-contained luxury villa owned by artist, Jan Stevenson. Best described as a couples retreat, its a great base for exploring the Bay of Islands. And nothing could be finer than coming back to this special level of style and comfort.
Jan is not afraid of using colour and I think her artwork is very special. What a great base for exploring Kerikeri! View some sample New Zealand travel itineraries.
Now just further down the road from Harakeke Gardens Guesthouse is Opito Bay. This is a lovely underpopulated spot to have a picnic lunch and just simply chill for a while.
But time is marching on and we have an appointment with a couple of friendly bottle-nose dolphins.
The journey from the Paihia wharf is fairly uneventful. It’s just simply nice being out on a boat for a while.
Dolphins work to their own schedule and sometimes you won’t get to see any. But when you do, there’s a fluttering of hearts – these boys are big and they’re curious!
There are a number of things to keep in mind. Do avoid touching the dolphins while you’re swimming with them. Bacteria can be passed from your hands. Once you’re in the water, make as much underwater noise as possible. Flap your arms and legs around. These guys love a good time and are attracted to party animals. View some sample New Zealand travel itineraries.
Don’t be offended if they don’t hang around for long. We humans can be a boring lot.
Unless you’re a keen diver, chances are you won’t have heard about Tutukaka. In fact, a lot of New Zealanders haven’t visited this pristine paradise We’ve lined up our bucket list. Tutukaka Coast Northland – Diving – Coastal Bush Walks. A drive along the Twin Coast Discovery Highway will take you around the Tutukuku Coast. You probably won’t notice the winding road – the scenery is so spectacular. Even in Autumn, the water is still warm enough to surf in.
On the way in, we stopped at Whale Bay Scenic Reserve to take a short walk. It was a wow moment when we reached the end.
When we proudly announced that we’d done this walk, some of the locals scoffed at us. “That’s not the most beautiful around here” they said! How on earth could you surpass these views?
No photo can really do these scenes justice.
At Tutukaka village we finally got to meet Kate Malcom, owner of Dive Tutukaka. Kate presides over the best diving company in the Southern Hemisphere. Divers from all over the world come here to discover the iconic Poor Knights Islands. Dive Tutukuka offer a wide range of PADI dive courses. No one needs to miss out, as snorkeling is also on offer. The boats are modern and the whole check-in process takes about 15-20 minutes. More details.
Kate is a force of nature. She’s already added ‘Marriage Celebrant’ to her long list of achievements.
Dive Tutukaka has just built a modern B & B Lodge. The area will benefit so much by having this type of boutique accommodation. Lodge 9 is perfectly located right next door to the Dive Tutukaka headquarters. Each of the 6 bedroom suites have an electronic locking system, as do the external doors. You gotta love the stylish organic vibe. There’s a very clever use of recycled timbers. I fell in love with these handmade ceramic cups.
That evening we meet three other guests from the Netherlands and had a great chat over a wine and hors d’oeuvres. Lodge 9 serves a continental breakfast which can be delivered to your room if you like. Or just head downstairs to the communal breakfast table. You’re sure to meet other interesting travellers.
I have to mention a great cafe to have lunch. Schnappa Rock Cafe provided the nicest lunch I can remember. The middle-eastern flavours in my chicken salad were sensational!
It’s time for another walk. There’s always a price to pay for that extra bit of carrot cake. But I might just put my hoodie on and chill out just a wee bit longer.
Kerikeri Farmers market – Makana Chocolate – Boutique Winery. We started our art and foodie explore by visiting the Kerikeri Farmers Market held every Saturday. There’s no better place to mingle with the locals, than at a Farmers Market.
Today, the whole town seemed to be here and it was such a great vibe. Exotic plants, craft liquors, crafts and artwork all took pride of place. I loved these unique Maori flax bags.
And surely these unusual hats would brighten any cloudy day.
The Farmers Market is just across the road from the Makana Chocolate Factory and cafe. How convenient is that! Pop across and have a coffee and something to eat. I personally recommend the Gluten-free chocolate Truffle mousse cake. We took it home for dessert that night and it was divine!
Not everyone likes chocolate (but how could you not?) so ice-cream of every conceivable flavour is also on offer. It’s all here folks, seriously.
It’s a one-stop shopping experience. Of course there’s more to do from than Kerikeri Farmers market – Makana Chocolate – Boutique Winery. But there’s only so much you can fit into just the one day.
In New Zealand, we have a lot of smaller boutique wineries that are producing top quality wines. The owners are very much hands-on and you’ll more than likely meet them face-to-face in the tasting room. Ake Ake produces organic wines and was recently featured in the Lonely Planet 2017. They produce grape varietals, perfect for the Far North’s climate and terroir.
Michael chose a bottle of Port and I chose a delicious Chardonnay. Somehow, meeting the man himself, enhanced the experience. The owner, John Clarke, was such a nice guy. It’s taken John and his partner years of hard graft to produce their award-winning wines. We’re inspired by these people we meet on our travels.