Northland offers many varied experiences if you go off the beaten track and explore its picturesque harbours, fishing villages, golden beaches, rural settlements and pristine kauri forest reserves.
Both coastlines are deeply indented with fine harbours – in the west are Kaipara, Hokianga, Whangape and Herekino and in the east are Bay of Islands and Whangaroa. River valleys and swamps at the head of these harbours are often home to herds of wild pigs. Inland bush clad ranges like Maungataniwha above Mangamuka township and Tutamahoe above Dargaville are also a refuge for these pugnacious porcine predators.
The largest concentration of forest cover is the Northland Forest Park, embracing Waipoua, Waima and 15 other kauri forests. On the east coast are large pine plantations in the Mangawhai and Russell forests. These are all very productive regions for the local ‘grunter hunters’.
Subtropical Northland is the birthplace of the nation and was also the site of early releases of wild pig stock from a gene pool known as ‘Captain Cooker’. During Captain Cook’s three visits to New Zealand, he liberated black razor-backed pigs at Ship’s Cove, as a food source for both local Maoris and visiting seafarers.
These fearsome broad-shouldered, short-legged bulldozers have a liking for grubs and worms along with newborn lambs. Farmers do not appreciate their nocturnal forays into back paddocks where the carnage includes ploughing up pastureland and also demolishing rotten logs in search of their favourite delicacy, huhu grubs. Big boars have razor-sharp curved tusks, which should be avoided at all costs. Fortunately these unstoppable creatures are the only potential hazard in the New Zealand bush.
Wild goats are also present in low numbers scattered in herds around the remote coastal peninsulas and in isolated high country.
Waterfowl including mallard, grey and shoveler ducks, paradise ducks (shelducks) are present in rivers, lakes and estuaries. Black swan and a few Canada geese are resident on Lake Omapere and other lakes on the Far North Peninsula. Upland game birds like quail are present in low numbers.