Designer Maggie Marilyn Hewitt (of eponymous label Maggie Marilyn) might be best-known for her dreamy dresses that tread lightly on the earth, but it’s her hometown in New Zealand’s Bay of Islands that inspired her sustainable and circular fashion ethos. “Growing up in one of the most beautiful, untouched parts of the world created this desire in me to protect the place that I was from,” she says. “The further north you go in New Zealand the more tropical it gets. Right at the top of the country it’s white sand beaches and the clearest blue waters – it’s like the Cook Islands and it’s absolutely out of this world.”
Here she shares her tips for an easy breezy holiday in Northland and the Bay of Islands, all blissful beaches, private bays and boating days – a sublime escape from the everyday.
“The most amazing thing about the Bay of Islands is that you can literally have a beach to yourself – that’s pretty common. Having a car is really important – the further north you go the more incredible it gets. Places like Matai Bay, Matauri Bay, Takou Bay – it’s all in a line if you start heading north from Kerikeri. It’s just so gorgeous and untouched.”
“This region is called the Bay of Islands as it’s dotted with little islands – so there are lots of beaches you can only get to via water. I recommend hiring a boat or a charter – you’ll see so many dolphins and the snorkelling and marine life are spectacular – plus you can catch your own seafood.”
Try Get My Boat NZ for a range of options.
Food for thought
“Check out The Duke of Marlborough, a famous 100-year-old building right on the water in the quaint town of Russell (which used to be the capital of New Zealand). It serves pub food and is a special place to go for lunch or dinner, and you can stay there too. Then there’s a place called The Gables which is a bit more fine-dining, but still super quaint and is positioned on the water, too.
“In general, though, Northland and the Bay of Islands are full of small towns that don’t have the offerings of a city in terms of dining and restaurants; you go there to be outdoors and for the escape and sanctuary. In Kerikeri township there’s a beautiful fresh farmers market on Saturday with local food growers and you can pick up your own produce and take it back to your accommodation or to the beach.”
“Northland and the Bay of Islands are rich with our Maori Indigenous history, and there’s a lot of culture embedded throughout the towns. [Visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, a hugely significant site where the 1840 New Zealand founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi, was signed.] Kerikeri also boasts the Stone Store, the oldest stone building in New Zealand, built in 1832.”
The fine print
How to get there
Fly into Auckland airport and catch a domestic flight (30-40 minutes) to the Bay of Islands. Or you could do a little road trip and drive from Auckland, which is about three-and-a-half hours. Either way, make sure you hire a car on the Bay of Islands so you can get out and explore.
When to go
“Being more of a summer lover myself I find the months of November through to March pretty spectacular,” says Maggie. “The weather’s settled and warm – but not too warm, it’s rare that you’d get higher than a 30-degree day; it’s pretty lovely. During the winter it’s a different experience – the seas are moody and there are still beautiful walks to do, and cosy places to stay where you can sit by the fire.”
What to pack
“The Bay of Islands really inspired my Maggie Marilyn Somewhere line,” says Maggie. “The idea was to produce simple everyday essentials – when I come home to the Bay of Islands [from Auckland] I think, what do I wear here? So that’s how I came to produce this line of merino basics, T-shirts, beautiful cotton-fleece tracksuiting and really wearable pieces.”