1. Kiwi spotting
Despite predation by introduced pests, including pet dogs, Northland kiwi are fighting back. For a pretty good chance of seeing one in the wild, join a guided night walk run by the Kauri Coast Top 10 Holiday Park, near Kaihū. You’ll spend two hours in the Trounson Kauri Park ‘after hours’, learning about the park’s inhabitants – brown kiwi, kauri snails, glow worms, wētā and eels – and hopefully catching a glimpse of New Zealand’s national bird.
2. Picnic at Pahī
There isn’t that much at Pahī, to be honest – but that’s part of its charm. At the end of the long peninsula sticking out into the Kaipara Harbour, the little settlement was once a kauri town but now there’s just a small campground, a wharf and plenty of sea to go fishing on. Once a year it comes alive for the annual Pahī Regatta, celebrated since the 1880s on Auckland Anniversary Weekend, including the famous bathtub race and Miss Pahī contest, then it’s back to more blissful peace and quiet.
3. Camping at Kai Iwi
If you like your recreation a bit more active, head for the Kai Iwi Lakes, north of Dargaville. Bring your tent and boat and go kayaking, water-skiing, fishing and cruising on the three lakes, after making your base in one of the two back-to-basics campgrounds. The shallow edges of the lakes get nice and warm for splashing around in, and there’s plenty of trees for shade. It’s a real Kiwi camping experience, and something quite different from holidaying by the sea.
4. Kaihū Tavern
Blink and you might miss the Kaihū Tavern, on the road from Dargaville to Waipōua, but it’s well worth a stop. The historic roadside hotel is a real hub for the locals but they don’t bat an eyelid when a pair of Aucklanders rock in with two noisy children at drinks o’clock on a Friday (trust me). The walls of the pub are decorated with pictures from when the district was a centre for kauri milling, with a railway running to the Northern Wairoa to carry out the giant logs, which make for fascinating viewing while waiting for your generous pub meal to be cooked.
5. Get aboard the kūmara train
Kauri country is also kūmara country, and if you’re wanting a comprehensive introduction to all this oft-overlooked tuber has to offer, check out Warren and Mavis Suckling’s The Kūmara Box, on the Pōutu Peninsula southwest of Dargaville. Warren is better known as ‘Ernie, the kūmara king’, and he gives the gen and leads the tour of the farm while Mavis provides the kūmara-based morning or afternoon tea. You even get a ride around the farm on the tractor-drawn ‘kūmara train’. Only in Northland!