Our first day spent in the Northland was spent driving from Auckland to Pahia and stopping at the numerous sites along the way. The direct route could get you there in about three hours, but there is no fun in that and you would miss out on many interesting sites.
We left Auckland in our rental car about 8:00 AM and drove north for about an hour to Warkworth, a nice little town where we stopped for a light breakfast and wandered the streets for about a half hour. A river runs through the town and there is a public walkway along the river. Seemed like a very friendly little town.
We carried on the main highway until you turn off on Highway 12 to the Matakohe museum. The museum deals with Kauri trees and products and several other items of interest. We have a separate journal on the museum. This is well worth an hour or two of your time, possibly including lunch.
From the museum we carried on to Dargaville, which is about another hour's drive. We had lunch in Dargaville at a place called The Steak House. Both had fish and chips and salad bar. The restaurant had a dining area and a takeout area. We had no complaints about food or service but didn't think it was worthy of writing a journal about it.
From Dargaville you drive north for another hour through narrow and windy roads to the Kauri forest. Kauri trees are native to New Zealand and make great furniture and other wood products. Unfortunately they were almost wiped out and are now protected. There are two stops you can make in the forest. We stopped to see Tane Mahuta, the grandfather of all Kauri trees, about 12 feet wide. You park at the side of the road and walk along a path for about 5 minutes. When you turn a corner it is in front of you in all its majesty. There are two viewing areas. When you get to the second area, two Maori girls are playing guitars and singing, looking for donations of which we made a small one. There is a second stop involving about a twenty minute walk into the forest where you can view several other Kauri trees.
From here we drove directly to Pahia, about another hour and 1/2 away.
Once you have turned off the main highway to go to Matahoke, you can only expect to travel about 70 kilometres per hour as the roads are narrow and windy. Traffic however, was fairly light for our trip.
We arrived in Pahia about 5:00 PM and checked into the Pahia Pacific Resort for the next three nights.
If it is your first day of driving on the left side of the road combined with the narrow and shoulderless roads, you may find this a very full day. If you have lots of time you may wish to make this a two day trip. We found that if you book ahead there are private eco tours available at Matakohe and there were several B & B's in the area.