Destination – Paparoa: Yes, heaven is just 90 minutes north of Auckland

In Paparoa, the sun is shining, the chocolate croissants are crispy and everyone has time to chat. Chris Schulz discovers Auckland’s best kept secret is just 90 minutes away.

Saturday, 10.30am:

Today is truly a miracle. Not only was the car packed and full of kids by 9am but we didn’t require a single emergency stop. In just 90 minutes, we’ve driven north and arrived at our destination, Paparoa, surely Auckland’s best kept secret. It’s a small spot that’s easy to find: head north on State Highway 1, turn left at Brynderwyn and you’re there. We pull up next to the farmers’ market and within 10 minutes we’re greeted as if we’re long-lost friends. Within 20, my daughter’s fallen in love with a lamb at the market stalls, forced us to buy olives and halloumi and she’s found New Zealand’s greatest chocolate croissants at a small cafe called Folk Espresso and Boulangerie across the road. She has a nose for these things. She could make a career out of it.


We check into the Paparoa Hotel. It’s a great set-up with three guest rooms attached to a pub and restaurant inside, all of which have been recently renovated. But they’re too small for a family of four, so we’re staying in the two-bedroom cottage out the back. Another great set-up: we have a private courtyard with a swing, picnic table and plenty of grass for the kids to run around on. But we can’t stay too long: the pub’s friendly owners have packed us a picnic and there are sights to see.


We can’t do it. We can’t leave just yet. So we stop to let the kids enjoy a local school playground. The caretaker is there, fixing up a few things. We start talking, our kids get along great and suddenly an hour has passed by. As we say goodbye, he invites us back to stay in his guest house. We’ll definitely be going. After just one night, we’ve decided Paparoa is a little slice of heaven, and it already feels like a second home.

• For booking at Paparoa Hotel, visit; for the Kauri Museum, visit

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