When the Travel Editor told me I was being sent to Taipa, my reaction was "Where's that?" his reply was blunt, "Dude, you live in Northland and you don't know where Taipa is?"
How embarrassing. To be fair, it's been only a year since we moved up to Kerikeri but there is so much more to see in Northland than I first thought that it'shard keeping up with all our discoveries. I don't think I will ever get tired of hunting out new beaches up here.
My family are not the best travellers, especially when we are all in the same car so what a relief to find our destination was less than an hour from home. Taipa is in the heart of the Far North's magical Doubtless Bay. It's an active little coastal town, quietly tucked away from the attention made by its big brother next door, Coopers Beach. It's paradise, and the locals know they are on to a good thing — so much so I've been warned not to make a big deal of it. So I'll keep it short and focus on a few of the must-dos when you are lucky enough to make it north to Taipa.
1. Ramada Resort Reia Taipa Beach
Getting your accommodation right can be a holiday game changer and that's what the Ramada was for us.
Upon arrival, our moody kids suddenly transformed and were chanting "best holiday ever" within minutes. This was largely because they were allowed to wheel the luggage down to our room in awesome buggies, a race that delighted them till dinner. The hallway to our room was possibly the longest and widest in the world. I think they should check out the specs just in case they could get some sort of Guinness book ofrecords mention. Our rooms were perfect with modern kitchen, comfy beds, sea views, and, apparently most importantly, free Wi-Fi and smart TVs.
The Ramada restaurant is popular with tourists and locals. A warm atmosphere, fantastic menu (I recommend fish of the day, in Northland it could be anything) and a great drinks menu also fully equipped for the kids with old classics like traffic lights and pink Panthers, which my kids guzzled down, showing no manners whatsoever.
The resort location is stunning, right out on the tip of a point, directly across the road from the beach and on the southern side it has lovely park-like grounds, which contain a pool, spa and tennis court. We tried all three. The tennis was hilarious, the pool was more forthe kids, as they have no internal temperature gauge, and the spa was just heavenly and a big hit with our daughter, Evie.
Back at ourrooms during a rest break, she raced in to the lounge yelling:"Look what I've found, it's another spa!" Sure enough, there it was, our own private spa behind ourroom and we hadn't even spotted it until day two. As with mostresorts, the real starrating came from their standout staff. A very friendly and efficient, bubbly team, who made our stay an absolute joy.
2. Taipa Beach
My family spent more time here than I did, mostly while I was off driving golf balls into the trees. It's the perfect walking beach, long enough to make you put on walking shoes if you plan on doing it end to end, sandy enough to lie back on, and one very important factor you rarely get in any beaches otherthan those in the Far North, the water is crystal clear.
At the Ramada resort end, the beach starts at the river mouth, which curves its way right around the back of Taipa, and at the other end is a typical gorgeous point beyond which is a secluded beach you can only get to at low tide (local intel).
3. Taipa Sailing Club
One thing I have noticed since living in Northland, is how influential sailing is to many of the communities up here and the Taipa Sailing Club is a classic example. A great little family club. Commodore Aevril Hibbard and other members of the club had all of us outracing in very quick 420s, it felt like the Olympics but in much more spectacular surroundings. It was a bit blowy so we stuck to sailing in the river mouth, which was loads of fun. On a calmer day, they take the kids out sailing into the large bay and dolphins race with the boats. How stupidly perfect is that? The club welcomes newcomers with open arms and Saturdays see most of the boats out in the water, with a sausage sizzle afterwards. If you want to experience something a little more exhilarating and life-changing for yourfamily, I recommend you get in touch with the sailing club when planning your trip to Taipa.
Here's a relaxing way to spend the day, a very pretty course out in the country. Often when you travel, you drive by one of these courses and hope that one day you will get time to stop and have a round.
Make that choice at Whangaroa. There were two standouts for me when I played at the golf course. Firstly, the club has a very beautiful 19th hole — a lovely deck coming out from the clubhouse overlooking the first fairway.
You could easily spend all day there without teeing off. The second highlight was the incredible number of golf carts around. Everyone seemed to have a cart and not many shared them — some were even pimped out like hotrods. It wouldn't surprise me if they have drag races on the Par 5s.
As far as a gateway to the Far North goes, Taipa marks the spot. Half an hour north and you are at Matai Bay on the Karikari peninsula, voted (by you) as one of New Zealand's top five beaches. On the way through Taipa, stop at Wild Nekta cafe.
They have doughnuts filled with caramel that will blow your mind. Five minutes south of Taipa are Coopers Beach and Mangonui, a stunning little seaside town with the cutest cottages dotted around its little bay, and of course home to the world famous Mangonui Fish Shop. The food is delicious and the views in that fish 'n' chip shop are to die for.