The next day we continued our journey north and made it to Waipapakauri beach near Kaitaia. This is at one end of Ninety Mile Beach (which isn’t 90 miles long, not even 90 km!).
The campsite was close to the beach and we went and walked on the beach for a while. Ninety Mile Beach is unusual in that it’s part of the official highway system in NZ, and it’s perfectly legal (and normal) to drive along the sand, though a 4WD vehicle is recommended.
It’s a beautiful, long sandy open beach, and people were out playing in the sea, riding horses and bikes as well as driving along the seashore.
Deciding not to venture all the way to the North Cape, another 70km+, we drove along SH10 past Daubtless Bay and Cable Bay, through Whangaroa, Kerikeri and Paihia in the Bay of Islands, and then took the vehicle ferry from Opua to Okiato, finally driving to Russell, the oldest European settlement in New Zealand. Nice little town with lots of old buildings, but now quite obviously a wealthy area, and the most expensive campsite we’d come across (over NZ$30 with our Top 10 discount card). We had a few beers that evening at a local pub and an excellent breakfast at “The Gables” the next morning.
The Northland part of the trip was taking longer than we had anticipated so we decided to press on with a marathon day of driving, managing to get all the way down through Auckland to Orere Point for the night of Friday 9th December.
Saturday saw us driving round the Firth of Thames, up the Coromandel Peninsular to Coromandel Town (which has the most expensive petrol we’d seen, NZ$1.54 per litre of standard). We had lunch in Coromandel and picked up some meat from the local butcher before setting out eastward across the peninsular to Whitianga. There we did some more refueling and stocking up on food and then drove down to Hahei, close to the famous Hot Water Beach.