How to spend 5 days between Women’s Rugby World Cup games
So you’re planning to head up and watch the Women’s Rugby World Cup games at the Northland Events Centre. With games taking place on the afternoon of Sunday 9th October and then again on Saturday 15th October, why not head off on a trip around the region in between?
We've planned out the ultimate itinerary to see the best parts of Taitokerau Northland and make it back in time for the games.
Game Day 1 in Whangārei
Sunday 9th October
Chances are you’ll be heading north from Auckland in the morning, following the games at Eden Park the night before. Set off with your coffee but don’t fill your belly yet. Just before you get to the iconic view from the top of the Brynderwyn Hills, you’ll pass through the township of Kaiwaka. Here you’ll find Eutopia Café, a beautifully mosaicked ethereal building serving up delicious food. We recommend brunching here, either from the a la carte menu or the divine cabinet food, as well as grabbing a peanut butter ball for the road. If you fancy cheese, don’t miss the Kaiwaka Cheese Shop right next door before you depart. If you’re not in a hurry to make it to the first game, consider detouring through Mangawhai and Waipu along The Welcoming Coast route where you’ll find chocolate shops, pizza barns, boutiques, antique shops and the stunning sands of Bream Bay.
Book your table at one of the local restaurants like The Quay in the Whangarei Town Basin or Tide Restaurant at Port Nikau if you’re after a nice meal after the game.
Exploring Whangārei District
Monday 10th October
If you’re technically “Working From Home” this week ????, then we suggest hot desking at one of the local co-working spaces. Check out The Orchard Business and Events Hub in Whangārei, The Office Today in Kerikeri, Kaitaia Digital Hub in the Far North or The Seed in Dargaville along your way.
If not, then head on out for brunch at Aqua Restaurant, followed by a wander through the Hundertwasser Art Museum and Wairau Māori Art Gallery. After you are sufficiently fueled and inspired, jump in the car and head out to the Tutukākā Coast along the Into The Wide Blue Yonder Journey. There are stunning beaches, walking trails, great cafes, and restaurants here, as well as the marina where boat trips to the Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve depart from. If you haven’t been to the Poor Knights before, booking a trip on either The Perfect Day cruise (for non-divers) or Dive! Tutukaka (for divers) is well worth it. It’s rated one of the top dive sites in the world, and you’ll see an incredible array of wildlife both underwater and on the surface, as well as the world’s largest sea cave, Rikoriko Cave.
There are also loads of incredible places to stay out this way from ocean-view holiday homes, to resort-style accommodation like Pacific Rendezvous and the Quality Oceans Hotel.
Days in the Bay of Islands
Tuesday 11th October and Wednesday 12th October.
Head on up to the Bay of Islands from Tutukākā, either via the Secret Coast Route to Russell, or the main highway to Paihia. There are ferries that run between these two destinations too, so you won’t miss anything by choosing one over the other. We recommend settling in for at least two nights here as there is just so much to do!
What to do while you’re here
- Visiting the Waitangi Treaty Grounds is essential. It’s one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most important historic sites, and you’ll need at least half a day to explore it. Your ticket price includes access to everything, so leave enough time for the guided tour, the cultural performance in Te Whare Rūnanga, and a wander through the two museums. There’s also a carving studio, gift shop, heritage building and even a café onsite, so spend as long as you can here.
- The Bay of Islands is home to over 140 islands, but it’s impossible to get the full experience unless you head out on the water. There are boat cruises out to the Hole in the Rock at Motukōkako, ferries that head to the largest island Urupukapuka (it has a bar and café too!) and a whole range of fun trips from sailing, to kayaking, overnight cruises and even parasailing. If you’re staying in Paihia, you can even be dropped off in Russell on the way back.
- An afternoon spent in Russell is never wasted. This historic town was once the capital of the country and it has a colourful past as a seaport. Find out all about it at the local museum, on a mini tour, or at one of the local restaurants. The Duke of Marlborough gained the first liquor licence in the country and has quite a story to tell, and The Gables is New Zealand’s oldest operating restaurant. Pompallier House further down the waterfront is the country’s oldest industrial building originally housing a printery and offers heritage tours which are incredibly fascinating too.
- Kerikeri is a larger town well known for its wineries, great food, art galleries and rich history. You’ll want to stop by Kororipo Heritage Park and the Stone Store, where some of the oldest buildings and historic sites are found, as well as Te Ahurea across the river, which is an interactive Māori pā site. We recommend settling in for lunch at either Sovrano Estate or Marsden Estate, where you’ll find fantastic food and outstanding wine.
There’s much more we could mention here, but we recommend taking note of the things that interest you most while you are there, and heading back for a second go after the finals wrap up.
Head west to the Hokianga
Thursday 13th October
One of the best things about Northland is the close proximity of its contrasting coastlines. Now you’ve had time to sufficiently explore the picturesque east coast with its many bays, coves, beaches and inlets it’s time to head over to the wilder west coast.
Follow the Te Ara Coast to Coast journey to the Hokianga, stopping in for a soak at the only geothermal hot pools in the region at Ngawha Springs. Kaikohe is the mid-point of this relatively short journey, but a great place to stop for a bite to eat at one of the local cafes like Mint Restaurant in the old bank building.
Once you’re in the Hokianga, there’s two activities you shouldn’t miss. The first is a visit to Manea Footprints of Kupe, a cultural centre which tells the Māori creation story and recounts the voyage of Kupe, the great Polynesian explorer, to Aotearoa. The second is a twilight tour with Footprints Waipoua into the Waipoua Forest. Words can’t describe the magical feeling of witnessing the forest transition from day to night, and standing beneath the giant kauri trees as your guide tells stories and sings waiata.
Down the Kauri CoasTFriday 14th October
It’s about time to head back towards Whangārei, but instead of backtracking the way you came, we suggest continuing down the Kauri Coast. You’ll head through the Waipoua Forest again, and it’s just as incredible to see Tāne Mahuta in the day as it is at night, so be sure to factor in time for a quick stop off. Further down the coast, Trounson Kauri Park is an impressive stand of mature kauri trees, and while they aren’t as big as Tāne Mahuta, the sheer number of kauri will leave you awe-struck.
There’s good reason they call this area the Kauri Coast, because the kauri journey doesn’t end there. Stop in at the Kauri Museum in Matakohe for a deeper understanding of the past of these trees and an insight into the people, livelihoods and industries that were brought together around these giants.
To get back to Whangarei, you can either head back along State Highway 14 from Dargaville, or continue along State Highway 12 to the bottom of the Brynderwyn Hills and up State Highway 1.
Saturday Game Day
Saturday 15th October
It’s game day! The first game begins mid-afternoon so take the time to enjoy a leisurely brunch at somewhere like the Quail Café in the Quarry Gardens or head out towards Whangārei Heads for a short hike up Mt Manaia or around Bream Head.