Here’s our take on five different experiences in five North Island regions that sparkle in late autumn.
Northland – Bream Bay Coast Walk
While cooler temperatures settle in from the south, Northland – at the top of the North Island – holds onto summer warmth and fine conditions for exploring the great outdoors. Here, in the breath-taking Whangarei Heads district, Bream Bay Coast Walks offer a diverse walking experience that takes in private farmland, ocean and harbour beaches, rural roads, recreational reserves and public walkways.
Visitors can choose to embark on a two or three day walking adventure – setting off each morning from a purpose-built boutique lodge, and returning each evening either by foot or car to great Kiwi hospitality and a menu prepared from fresh, local produce.
Along with the walking, visitors can experience some of New Zealand’s unique wildlife en route. Ocean Beach is a birding paradise, home to endangered dotterel, feeding gannets and the little blue penguin. Whangarei Harbour is a food storehouse for orca and Bream Head is an important New Zealand conservation area with 90 reintroduced kiwi now living in the area.
Auckland – Puhoi River Canoe
Auckland’s languid autumn days invite gentle waterborne adventures. From the tiny historic settlement of Puhoi, Puhoi River Canoes offer leisurely kayak trips up or down the Puhoi River to the shores of beautiful Wenderholm Regional Park.
The 8km kayak trip between Wenderholm and Puhoi to travels over tidal water flats making this an easy two-hour adventure for people of all ages and abilities. Glorious autumn landscapes of golden leaves and New Zealand birdlife, like the cheeky pukeko, can be spotted as the kayak meanders through still waters and the mangroves of the wide coastal estuary.
Visitors have the choice of kayaking in either direction with a drop off or pick up transfer to and from Puhoi. There are plenty of lunch options and places to explore in the village. The Puhoi pub – one of the oldest publican houses still standing in the southern hemisphere – is a curious mix of original fittings and memorabilia from past and present. The Puhoi Cottage Tearooms is one of New Zealand’s oldest and continues to serve a delectable Devonshire Tea.
Hamilton Waikato – Hamilton Gardens
Award winning Hamilton Gardens – which is really a series of intricate themed garden landscapes on the banks of the Waikato River – takes on a new shine when autumn arrives.
In autumn, the Japanese Contemplation Garden delights with lines of maple trees transformed into golden tones. The newest feature is the Tudor Garden which reflects sixteenth century English aristocracy and is based on drawings by Didymus Mountain – the pen-name of sixteenth century writer Thomas Hill.
Visitors can take their time to explore nine themed gardens with an experienced guide, transporting to India or Italy while taking morning and afternoon tea or lunch in one of the themed gardens. Autumn events include the Great Pumpkin Carnival and Harvest Festival on the last weekend of March.
Rotorua – soak up the outdoors
Autumn is a great time to explore Rotorua. As temperatures cool, New Zealand’s thermal wonderland becomes extra steamy and the hot springs look even more enticing. Bathe under a thermal waterfall and soak in the springs at Kerosene Creek.
One of the best ways to explore Rotorua is on two wheels and the top destination in this ‘mountain biking Mecca’ is the 5600-hectare Whakarewarewa Forest of exotic trees and panoramic views.
This is one of New Zealand’s original mountain bike networks and the 130km of well-maintained trails offer something for all abilities from beginner through to experienced. On the spot Mountain Bike Rotorua hires out bikes and offers guided tours, and those who prefer to keep their feet on the ground can also enjoy the forest on foot.
Wellington – Kapiti Island wildlife
As summer dips from the horizon, the fresh autumn days bring out the natives. An hour north of Wellington – New Zealand’s capital city – Kapiti Island (pictured) is home to an important nature reserve that protects some of the world’s rarest and most endangered birds.
During autumn, Kapiti Island turns into a hive of activity for birdlife as intense feeding takes place in preparation for the colder winter months. This is one of the best times to view the iconic New Zealand Kiwi in their natural environment. The island lies between two marine reserves which are frequented by fur seals, whales and dolphins.
Guided day trips to Kapiti Island are available from Wellington. There is also overnight accommodation in a small family-owned lodge which includes a tranquil ‘glamping’ spot for a romantic night in the wilds.