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Exploring Northland with Explore


Northland is one of the most popular tourist destinations for Kiwis and international visitors alike. From the stunning coastline to the warm and friendly welcome from the locals, Northland is a magical place and it’s easy to see why it is such a popular destination. There are so many place you can choose to stay on a trip north but the most popular is Paihia in the Bay of Islands.

With a rich heritage, stunning seafront location and some of New Zealand’s best activities right there on your doorstep, Paihia is the obvious choice when deciding on a place to stay. Paihia is also within easy driving distance of some of Northland’s other major landmarks; Cape Reinga, the stunning Kauri trees in Waipoua Forest and the amazing underwater activities around the Poor Knights Islands. There is also a rich Maori history and a trip to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds is a must for all visitors to Paihia.

You can find out more about things to do, places to stay, where to eat and more in our Complete Guide – Bay of Islands.

In this this post, we want to focus on one of Northland’s most popular tourist providers – Explore. One of our valuable GO Play partners, if you really want to discover Northland, then planning a trip or two with Explore is a must. They’ve also got a pretty awesome name!

Discover the Bay – Cruise

Explore Discover the Bay Cruise

Discovering the Hole in the Rock on the Discover the Bay cruise

One of the most popular activities when you’re up in the Bay of Islands is taking a trip out onto the water to explore the magical islands. You don’t truly appreciate the scale of the islands until you get out to sea. There are 144 islands in total and whilst you might not discover them all on this 4 hour long cruise, you will certainly get to experience the best of them.

Explore’s powercat boat is pretty distinctive too – a yellow and black cruise ship that will take you out on the water in comfort. Your trip will include a visit to the iconic Hole in the Rock and if weather conditions permit, you’ll also get to travel right through it which is pretty exhilarating. For most of the trips, there will also be the opportunity to spot some of the amazing marine life that calls the Bay of Island home including dolphins, whales and orcas as well as heaps of fish and bird life. With two daily departures (9.00am and 1.30pm), you also get a BBQ lunch included on your cruise which is pretty awesome.

As a GO Play partner, anyone renting their car with GO Rentals will save 10% on the Discover the Bay cruise – what are you waiting for?!

Dolphin Swim

The Explore catamaran takes you out to swim with dolphins in the Bay of Islands

An amazing chance to swim with dolphins with Explore

Whilst our Discover the Bay cruise often gives you the chance to spot dolphins on your way out to the Hole in the Rock, if you truly want a magical dolphin experience, then the Dolphin Swim cruise is what you are looking for. Another 4 hour trip, this time you will head out on the purpose-built catamaran which is perfect for dolphin viewing and swimming with observation decks, side opening windows and safe access to the water for swimmers.

You will be provided with a wetsuit, snorkel, mask and fins and if all the stars align, you will get the opportunity to get into the water with these amazing mammals. The trip also comes with a lifetime guarantee – if you don’t spot dolphins, you will be given a voucher to come back another day for free. Can’t say fairer than that. We have had so many GO Explorers who have been on this trip and it is literally the highlight of their time in New Zealand – don’t miss this unique opportunity to swim with dolphins. Book your hire car with GO Rentals and save 10% with our awesome GO Play card.

Dune Rider – Cape Reinga

Discover the far North with Explore's Dune Rider-Cape Reinga Tour

The Dune Rider-Cape Reinga Tour is one of the most popular

Moving away from the water, a trip to Cape Reinga is another must on a visit to Northland. Cape Reinga is one of the few places in the world where you can watch two oceans collide as the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean. This is a truly stunning sight and no matter what the weather (it’s actually amazing on a rainy, stormy day) you are in for a treat.

This full day excursion (you’ll be gone for 10-11 hours) is a full on Northland experience. On the way north, you will get to stop off at the Ancient Kauri Kingdom and learn more about these magnificent trees before heading to 90 Mile Beach. Our purpose-built tour bus will take you on the sand and stop off so you can dip your feet in the water. A highlight for many is the opportunity to climb up the towering sand dunes before taking the fast route down on a boogie board.

You can of course make the drive yourself up to Cape Reinga but this way, you get to squeeze in so much into your day and let someone else worry about the driving. A good option on the way home is a stop off at the famous Mangonui Fish and Chip Shop – we definitely recommend taking advantage of this pit stop and sampling some of the best fish and chips in New Zealand.

Another trip that is part of our amazing GO Play programme, renting a car with GO will save you 10% on this awesome trip.

It’s not just Northland where you can use your exclusive GO Play card to save money with Explore. We also have some amazing activities in Auckland including America’s Cup Sailing, Island Exploring and Auckland Harbour Sailing. If you really want to discover the best of New Zealand on your next trip, rent your car with GO from our Auckland City or Auckland Airport branch and save money on all the best activities.

America's Cup Sailing in Auckland

America’s Cup sailing in Auckland is another amazing experience with Explore

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GO Play activities in this area

  • 10% Off

    Dune Rider Cape Reinga

    Explore the landscape on this full day adventure to Cape Reinga. Drive along the sandy highway of 90 Mile Beach as the ocean roars alongside you. Immerse yourself in the culture and history of the Far North on this adventure to the top of NZ. Experience the rush of speed as you sandboard down glistening white sand dunes at Te Paki Stream.

    Maritime Building, Marsden Road, Paihia. Tel: 0800 365 744

  • 10% Off

    Bay of Islands Cruise

    Explore the best of the Bay of Islands. Encounter diverse wildlife, spectacular scenery and the rich culture and history of the region. Be immersed in the story of the Bay. Power through the cavernous hole in the Rock and marvel at the impressive size of what nature has created. Spot dolphins frolicking in the warm waters with birdlife, seals and more. Learn about the importance of taking care of this national maritime park.

    Maritime Building, Marsden Road, Paihia. Tel: 0800 365 744