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Bay of Islands: 233km (144 miles) N of Auckland; Cape Reinga: 440km (273 miles) N of Auckland

The essential personal items for this area are swimsuit, sunglasses, and suntan lotion—perhaps a fishing rod or a wet suit if you’re so inclined. With endless beaches, over 144 islands, and warm, clear blue waters to play in, you’ll need little else. Recreation is king up here. There’s great fishing, excellent diving, and a climate with average winter temperatures ranging from 45°F to 61°F (7°C-16°C) and summer days of 57°F to 77°F (14°C-25°C).

The Bay of Islands features three little townships: Paihia/Waitangi, Russell, and Kerikeri. In the Far North, the hot spots are Doubtless Bay; Kaitaia, the largest town; and up that last thin finger of land to Cape Reinga, believed to be the departing point for the spirits of the Maori dead.

Don’t Miss the Best! -- Don’t be like the majority of visitors who go only as far as the Bay of Islands. Some of the best beaches, natural landscapes, and tranquil retreats lie much farther north. It makes sense to travel up an extra day or 2, rather than staying in the Bay of Islands and, at best, taking a long 12-hour bus trip to Cape Reinga and back. Go the extra mile: You won’t regret it.