Whangarei, Pt. 1: Road Trip!

Living in the city, I don’t have much need for a car during the week. On the weekends, however, a car becomes a necessity for the modern explorer. My car is possibly the most intrepid, rugged, and reliable adventuring companion one could ask for:

…a fifteen-year-old Italian sports cabriolet. Oh yes. So in celebration of American Labor Day weekend, I took the old girl out for a drive up toward the Northlands, to the town of Whangarei.

(Note: Whangarei is pronounced “fangalay”, which is possibly not how you were pronouncing it in your head. It’s a weirdness of how the Maori language is transliterated into our English alphabet. Carry on.)

I had a quite full itinerary planned out over my two days of travel, but in New Zealand even the drive itself becomes a destination when you get such fantastic views.

Sadly, the weather didn’t get the memo about the party, and as you can see it was somewhat overcast for the drive. As I went North the weather did clear up a bit, though!

The roads often offer places to pull off to ogle particularly fantastic views, probably to avoid tourists such as myself stopping on the hard shoulder and getting run over by a logging truck.

I should also note at this point that the motorway north from Auckland up to Whangarei is some fantastic mountain driving. In the US, a road trip on the highway usually means setting your cruise control and trying not to fall asleep. A road trip up to the Northlands means hairpin turns and mountain passes. There will be no falling asleep at the wheel here — you’ll be glad to pull over for the scenic overlooks just to get your heart rate down!

New Zealand: the land where a mediocre photographer with subpar kit can bang out a poorly-composed shot of some landscape and it will still look stunningly beautiful. The weather obligingly also cleared up to deliver a few of New Zealand’s many trademark blue hues.

As the tree in the middle distance is attempting to illustrate, there was a bit of wind over the bluffs.

Imagine living in a farmhouse all the way out here. I’m a bit of an introvert, and I have no problem being by myself for long stretches of time. Even so, I think even I would start to feel a bit isolated after a while.

At one point when driving North along Motorway 1, you will find signs warning of an impending toll road. This is the Northern Gateway, a relatively small stretch of road which cost the New Zealand government about $100 million. It has seven bridges, two tunnels, and cuts several km off the old route along the coast.

The only problem is, the old route is absolutely gorgeous and, unless you’re traveling at rush hour, not that much longer timewise. The above photo was taken at one of the scenic overlooks along the free route.

(The free route also offers some more of the aforementioned brilliant mountain driving, which is far more fun than taking a straight road right through the hills).

Just look at how fantastically clear this water is! You’d think I was right up on it until you see the tree below me and realize how high up I really am.

So that was my road trip to Whangarei. One more post before we actually arrive in the town itself, because I stopped along my journey to see Piroa falls. Spoiler alert; the trip involves off-roading in a small Italian roadster. Stay tuned!

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2 thoughts on “Whangarei, Pt. 1: Road Trip!

  1. aaah, views! just the idea of mountain driving terrifies me though, so I’m happy to see the pictures without needing to go on such a drive, haha.

    • I think I got behind some folks who feel as you do at one point. Fortunately, motorway 1 has plenty of passing zones where one side or the other splits into two lanes on an incline. Many of the smaller roads do not have this. In my drive out to the Waitakere Ranges on Monday there was an annoying chav in a Holden Commodore tailgating me the whole way down. I had the top down and his brake pads were nearly done, so every time he braked — which was constantly — I was treated to the loud screeching of his wear indicators. I decided I would just drive faster than he was capable of / comfortable with driving, as the speed limit was high and the roads were windy enough that actually *going* the speed limit would result in probable death. That worked brilliantly until I wound up behind someone taking his own time down the mountain and he caught up to me. He even tailgated me through a populated area where the limit was 50kph, though fortunately I turned off since I was going to Te Atatu to get dinner with a friend so I didn’t have to deal with him anymore.

      So, uh, yeah. Mountain roads. Your options are fast and unsafe (but fun) or slow and safe. Either is acceptable, and if you get some mouth-breather behind you who thinks otherwise there are usually enough convenient spots to pull over that you don’t have to stand between them and their eventual demise for too long.

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