For Mark and Kathy Fray, owners of Onepu Moana Retreat in Opononi, visiting Hokianga is all about making memories and taking the good vibes home.
The Hokianga is an incredibly special place, for Kiwis particularly, because it is the Birthplace of Aotearoa. We describe it as a "haven where heaven, history and holidaying all become one".
Just over an hour away from Paihia and Kerikeri, a little north of the Kauri Coast, is NZ's stunning North Island west coast with the Hokianga's iconic sand-dunes and a harbour that meanders 30km into the lower Far North.
Although Opononi became famous nationally in the summer of 1955-56 for Opo the friendly dolphin, for locals it's just one small piece among a thousand years of fascinating history. Other (arguably more remarkable) things that put us on the map include "MANEA – Footprints of Kupe", a new multimillion-dollar attraction in Opononi; Rawene Village, which is New Zealand's second-oldest European settlement after Russell (I recommend walking around the interesting old buildings and listening to the museum curator tell the story of Clendon House) and Mangungu Mission House in the upper Hokianga, where the largest signing of the Treaty occurred.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
Start the day with eggs bene and a flat white at the over-water BoatShed Cafe in Rawene. From there you can take the short car ferry from southern Hokianga to northern Hokianga to visit the art galleries at Kohukohu Village, once NZ's busiest timber-exporting town.
Surfing the sand dunes is also a must. Hokianga Express water-taxi supplies free boogie-boards and high tide is the best time to go as you can dune surf right into the warm harbour. There's also nothing better than enjoying a plate of fresh mussels and a cold beer at the Tavern in Opononi, or sitting on the deck at The Heads Hotel in neighbouring Ōmāpere.
If you have time, stop to see the gorgeous views from Mangungu Mission House in the upper Hokianga or soak in the natural waterholes at low tide, along the remote coastline at Ōmāpere's South Head.
For more water activities, take the kids hand-line fishing off the Opononi Wharf, or get out on the water of the Hokianga by hiring a kayak, renting a jet-ski, or booking a cruise on the Ranui boat.
Finally, my biggest tip is this. However many nights you were first planning to visit the Hokianga, add another 1-2 nights. There is more to see and do here than most first-timers realise. Few people are aware of the fantastic 1-3 hour walking trails at Wairere and the extraordinary wonders of the giant basalt boulders. There's also a fantastic four-hour Twilight Encounter tour with local Māori guides, walking amongst the ancient giant kauri trees of Waipoua Forest, including Tāne Mahuta.
Check alert level restrictions, vaccine requirements and Ministry of Health advice before travel. covid19.govt.nz