Jason Dundas loves a bit of adventure and New Zealand is the place to go for anyone wanting to get their adrenaline rushing. It's also a place of extraordinary beauty so there's something for everyone across the Tasman.
Hokianga on New Zealand's North Island is where Kupe, the fabled Polynesian navigator set out for over 1000 years ago. He named New Zealand "Aotearoa" Land of the Long White Cloud. It's believed his canoe is buried somewhere beneath the large sand dunes.
Hokianga Harbour's beaches are white sand and some of the world's largest Kauri trees stand there. It's a place where artists go to seek inspiration.
Andrew Kendall is a descendent of Kupe and he and his wife run Sandsecrets tours. There are four tours to choose from Sandtrails to Mitimiti, Sandsecrets, Overnight in Mitimiti and Sandscapes and there's bound to be one to suit your schedule.
Jason took the 70-minute Sandsecrets tour. It's perfect for someone a bit short on time and just three people at a time participate. They start at 10am with a sand buggy tour of the dunes. Some are as high as 152m and along the way Andrew points out huge sand sculptures and the very big sand canyon. The dunes are constantly shifting and eroding and no day is the same.
The raw and beautiful area has many Maori and European legends and is relatively unknown, even to locals. To race around in what was a Volkswagen Beetle in the 1970s, now grandly called a Sand Warrior, is a fun Kiwi experience.
After the dune experience, the Hokianga Express is there to take you back across the harbour.
The family-owned charter boat company offers sandhill trips, sandboarding and dune sightseeing. They are based in Opononi on the shore of Hokianga Harbour, home of "Opo", a very friendly dolphin.
The Hokianga Express has two high-performance aluminium vessels a 9m and a 13m. They take visitors to the dunes where they slide down the slopes on boards at high speed and, if you choose, out over and into the waters of Hokianga Harbour.
About 20 minutes from Hokianga is New Zealand's largest kauri forest. You can explore it with Footprints Waipoua and local guides take you on a memorable and spiritual journey through nature.
One of the trees, Te Matua Ngahere (The Father of the Forest), is estimated to be between 3000 and 4000 years old and has a girth of more than 5m. The Four Sisters form a graceful collection of kauris and Tane Mahuta Lord of the Forest stands 51m high.
The magical trees are intertwined with the lives of local Maori and play an important role in the eco-system that is Waipoua Forest.
Hokianga, a four-hour drive from Auckland.
Sandtrails Hokianga Sandsecrets tours are $110 for adults and $55 for children. Tours of dunes, sandboards and return boat on board Hokianga Express are included. Check their website for other tour details. They operate between 9am and 9pm, weather and daylight permitting.
Hokianga Express Charters sandboarding trips are $25 for adults, $15 for children and $5 for preschoolers. Sandboards and safety instructions are included. They start at 10am every day and hourly, depending upon passenger numbers and weather conditions. They also offer fishing charters.
Footprints Waipoua Twilight Encounter four-hour tours cost $67 for adults and $20 for children. Return transfer is included.
Air New Zealand has one way flights to Auckland from:
- Melbourne $229
- Sydney $238
- Brisbane $288
- Adelaide $335
Sales and validity dates apply.
For further information
Air New Zealand
Ph: 132 476
32 Paparangi Drive
Mitimiti, RD 2
Ph: +64 09 4095 035
Hokianga Express Charters
PO Box 43
Ph: +64 9 405 8872
29, State Highway 12
Ph: +64 09 405 8207
Visas: Australian citizens do not require a visa to enter New Zealand.
Electricity: 230V at 50Hz using the same plugs as in Australia.
Time zone: GMT +12.
Currency: The New Zealand dollar.
International dialling code: +64.