When heading north out of Kerikeri most people will turn off to visit or camp at Matauri Bay. This place is fantastic for swimming, fishing, walking and diving amongst other activities. But make sure you follow the road around to the next bay for a visit. Te Ngaere Bay is a quieter and more secluded area which has lots to offer. There's easy access for boats so it's a great place to go fishing, kids will enjoy the rock pools for exploring and the beach is perfect for swimming. Allow a full day to properly enjoy the surroundings.
The Kai Iwi Lakes in the Taharoa Domain reserve are an absolute gem. The area itself feels like you're off the beaten track but it's not too far north from Dargaville township. Perfect for a day- or week-long trip. The campsite has great basic facilities but can get busy in summer so book ahead. The freshwater lakes are perfect for any watersports and there are great walking tracks around the area too.
Ngarunui is the main swimming beach in Raglan and is perfect if you're learning to surf. You can choose to go with a local surf school, or if you've had a few lessons and are keen to go along with a friend, hire boards and wetsuits individually by the hour (without making a booking) from the main entrance to the beach below the carpark. It's not too pricey either and there are usually people around so it's not too scary if you're just starting out.
It may be hidden up the far end of Cuba Street but don't let that put you off. Walk that little bit further because this place has some fantastic coffee and food especially their iced chocolates and savoury muffins. It has a cool kitsch interior as well as outdoor seating so is a great place to hang out and relax. Check out the great local clothing stores on the way down Cuba Street too, especially Frutti and Carly Harris.
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