In contrast to the Bay of Islands, this side trip brings you into a real piece of Northland with not many tourists.
You might decide not to do the round-trip at all when you stop at the Whangarei Museum & Heritage Park on the way, because it’s easy to spend hours there. You can visit an old Kauri homestead and other buildings for free, see a live kiwi bird in a nocturnal environment, explore the interesting museum exhibition or walk through the Native Bird Recovery Centre where over 1000 injured birds are received annually including a talking Tui and where small donations are highly appreciated to continue the good work.
After a calm 60kms drive you reach Dargaville, a sympathetic farmer town on the edge of a river, at least circle through the center once to get an impression of it.
At the end of town take Beach Road to Baylys Beach, a small beach community with a great little cafe, and drive down onto the beach. This is our secret alternative to 90 Mile Beach, a spectacular wide and firm west coast beach stretching for 110 kilometres, good for some endless beach driving or lonely walks. You can make a little trip down to Glink’s Gully but you’ll have to come back up to Dargaville.
From Dargaville town drive south on SH12 towards Matakohe with its famous Kauri Museum, which has organically grown into a huge complex, a must for wood and tree lovers, with beautiful furniture, old forestry tools, a descriptive history of kauri logging and gumdigging, an eccentric kauri gum collection (New Zealand amber), a huge slab of a kauri tree, a good souvenir shop, they even rebuilt a historic boarding house within the museum.
From Paparoa take a typical Northland rural road via McCarrol’s Gap back to Whangarei or from Maungaturoto take the unsealed and more adventurous Waipu Gorge Road via the Piroa Falls, it is lined with hundreds of tree ferns.
How about a quadbike on Baylys Beach...?