When Northland fails to deliver on its ‘promise’ of sun and seaside pleasures, Alanah Eriksen and her partner find plenty to entertain them.

It sounded like the perfect weekend getaway. Views of the marina and a white-sand beach from our seaside suite, wine complementing fresh seafood at the local eateries and a snorkelling trip around the Poor Knights islands.

However, the forecast 30 knot winds and 4m swells in the always-sunny north meant a couple of those things wouldn't be happening.

But sometimes a relaxing eating and drinking weekend is even better than cramming in too much. And crappy weather makes you feel less guilty about consuming those extra calories.

Just two-and-a-half hours from Auckland, or 30 minutes from Whangarei, is Northland's Tutukaka Coast.


After beating the Auckland traffic and arriving in Whangarei, we stopped at The Quay Kitchen on the bank of the Hatea River. From the deck we had an awesome view of the Riverside Drive bridge and boats as the sun went down.

When eating out, I make a point of ordering something I don't usually have at home. We chose an entree that had three different types of mushroom in it and green "sponges" - a light and fluffy green-coloured bread made with herbs and truffle oil. Definitely not something I would have cooked myself. It was delicious.

We then ambled to the neighbouring restaurant, No. 8 - an Asian-fusion eatery opened last year by Lloyd Rooney and Mike Fraser, who also own the Quay.

The menu is designed for sharing and, after about three plates, we were stuffed. I'd highly recommend the dumplings and chicken nibbles.

Then it was time to hit the road to Tutukaka. The Quality Hotel Oceans dominates Tutukaka, its multicoloured paint job harking back to the 1980s.

It overlooks the marina and I'm sure the views from the rooms are spectacular when Mother Nature is being kind. The friendly staffer who greeted us apologised for the weather.

Underneath the hotel, a number of shops rent the spaces. We enjoyed visiting the handful of cool gift shops and icecream shop, Lickity Split. Their butterscotch and walnut flavour is worth trying.

Tell Me No Secrets, a mixed media piece by Katherine Bachelor at Quarry Arts Centre. Photo / NZME
Tell Me No Secrets, a mixed media piece by Katherine Bachelor at Quarry Arts Centre. Photo / NZME

Across the road is the gateway to water activities galore, including kayaking, sailing, fishing, day cruises, snorkelling, horse riding and golf. We'll definitely return in better weather to try those activities out.


We had breakfast both mornings in the restaurant on the ground level of Oceans - the homemade muesli and the bacon eggs benedict were a treat.

On Saturday we drove back to Whangarei to visit Kiwi North, a museum, kiwi house, and heritage park.

Director of operations Allie Guy was an awesome guide, showing us around and sharing some of the incredible work they are doing, protecting the endangered native species, in partnership with the Department of Conservation.

Two young kiwi inhabit a state-of-the-art environment, kept dark for these nocturnal birds. We saw them foraging for food before scurrying back to hide in their wooden burrows.

Another highlight is meeting Flash, the resident tuatara, Husbandry officer Irene got him out to feed on the insects (specially bred for the purpose by Kiwi North).

He sat placidly on her arm as she explained how tuataras were cold-blooded and that her hand was turning cold as he drew the heat from it. She revealed plenty of fun facts about this last living relative of the dinosaur - including that they live for about 150 years and can shed their tails to escape if they are caught.

The museum includes a display of an near-complete moa skeleton, one of four found by a local farmer in limestone caves on his property. It's a rare find of the remnants of the flightless bird, which became extinct by 1445.

Schnappa Rock restaurant.
Schnappa Rock restaurant.

Also on the grounds is the Clarke family homestead, built in 1886 by Dr Alexander Clarke who moved here with his family from England. Almost intact, it provides an insight into early settler life.

Three generations of the Clarkes owned the property, working it as a farm for nearly 90 years. The museum purchased it in 1972.

Next door is a tiny chapel which attracted dozens of people from around the region. These days, the grounds in front of the house are hired out for weddings and other events.

After our day at Kiwi North - and a quick trip to the Quarry Arts Centre to look at some of the amazing work done by resident artists - it was back to Tutukaka in time for dinner.

Up the road from Quality Hotel Oceans is Schnappa Rock, which offers delicious fresh seafood from the day's catches, as well as plenty of choice for non-seafood-lovers.

So, though the big draw of the north might be beaches and walking trails, it is also a fine destination if you're just seeking rest and relaxation.