Dargaville to Rawene
This route mainly follows the highway 12 tourist trail north. Although traffic volumes aren't high, the road is winding and generally with no margin, so it pays to keep yourself highly visible.
You can avoid the worst of the Dargaville traffic by heading out along the quieter Hokianga Rd, which soon becomes Waihue Rd, forking left at Parore West Rd to join Highway 12.
Soon after Kaihu (Service Station, pub) you have the choice to continue along the highway, but I recommend instead turning right into the quieter Trounson Park Road. No sooner have you turned off when you come to the "Kauri Coast" Top 10 Holiday Park along the banks of the Kaihu River. Here the promise of a guided night-walk through the forest may entice to stop early for the day. As the road signs attest, this is Kiwi country and if you are lucky a night walk may reward you with a sighting of these shy, nocturnal birds. At the very least you're likely to hear their surprisingly raucous cry when night falls.
Another 5 or so km brings you to Trounson Kauri Park, a forest reserve with a DOC campground and bush walk through Kauri forest. The camp, while a little close to the road, is pretty flash for a DOC offering, having a kitchen with cooking facilities, a fridge and even showers which are purportedly hot. This is a good place to stop and perhaps enjoy your own DIY night-walk.
Personally I wanted a bit more ride out of the day so after pausing to fortify myself with a spot of lunch I pressed on along the now gravel road through the tiny hamlet of Donnolly's Crossing and up to rejoin the smooth tarmac of highway 12. The reward was a wonderful 5 km downhill run through the luxuriant Waipoua Forest.
At around the 50 km mark you reach the turn-off to the Waipoua Visitors Centre. The centre is a kilometre down the road, with a café and an excellent campground set along the banks of the Waipoua River. A great place to stop for the night.
Day two starts with a 300m climb; a daunting prospect, but the gradient is forgiving and on fresh legs the ride is not overly arduous. The scenery is here is spectacular, with huge Kauri rising out of the surrounding forest. Near the peak the road squeezes into a single lane between the massive "Darby and Joan".
Tour buses abound at the short bush walk to Tāne Mahuta (Lord of the Forest). But despite the spectacle of so many tourists this magnificent tree, estimated to be around 2000 years old and with a girth of over 15 metres, really is an awe-inspiring sight.
Another magnificent downhill takes you out of the Waipoua Forest and into Waimamaku where there is a service station, store and great café called Morrell's. The remainder of the day is an up-and-down affair following the beautiful Hokianga coastline through the holiday spots of Ōmāpere and Opononi (stores, camping & cafés aplenty), then veering inland again briefly before turning off to the quaint seaside village of Rawene (galleries, pub, cafés and store).
After having a look around town you can head back up the hill to the only campground. Alternately, for a small fee you can catch the ferry across the harbour (they run all day, leaving Rawene at half past every hour) then ride the few easy kilometres to the picturesque seaside village of Kohukohu.