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Nature & Wildlife

16 free, awesome things to do in Auckland & Further North

  • 3 minutes

Where to go and what to do nearby

Free, awesome places to check out just past Auckland & Northland. Let’s get the locals sorted. Get your bucket list ready, it’s just a short hop from Auckland city. Diverse, unique and different and it’s just around the corner.

Murwai gannet central, New Zealand
Murwai gannet

Waipu Caves and Abbey Caves feature limestone karst cliffs, sinkholes and glow worms. Check out What’s so great about Waipu, Northland: what to see, best things to do what else to do.

TIP: Waipu Caves, 3rd chamber is glow worm central. Remember the place is muddy, sturdy footwear is needed. The caves are managed by Waipu Caves Track: Waipu area, Northland


Over 2,2400 eyes, 1,200 becks, 2 metre wingspan and the consummate high dive experts. The gannets of Muriwai are well known favourites between August and March. Within metres you view chicks, fluffy balls beaks open waiting for parents to feed insatiable appetites. Yet did you know about the nearby Karekare waterfalls.


Leigh Penguin Project – protects blue penguins during the nesting season. The project is run by volunteers and could always be done with some help. Check out the project’s facebook page and think about the penguins when you have the dogs off the leash at the beach.


Observe recuperating patients and listen to their stories. It is free to visit however the place is in need of sponsors and open for donations.

TIP: Take a digital tour of Bird songs and calls collection here >>>

And lots more things to do in Whangarei without breaking the bank, check here for details 10 Whangarei places to go, trip guide, things to see & do: NZ

Little Blue Penguin, New Zealand @Media Zealand
Little Blue Penguin @Media Zealand
Karekare, New Zealand @roadynz
Karekare @roadynz

There is even a hazard notice for a twisted truck that has grown up and over the road. This is bush magic Waitakere style. Karekare Beach is isolated and filled with the dark shadows of iron sands. Large breakers hit the black sands, at regular pounding intervals creating a shimmering glow on the wet iron sand and there is more … The beach is backdropped against Pohutukawa Glades and Karekare Waterfalls. Track access is an easy walking track. On your return walk up the hill, past the car park to the clearly signposted Karekare waterfalls. Check for details Karekare Beach – nzjane. It’s free Auckland west coast open to visitors year round.


The Whananaki footbridge is worth the detour alone. It is a narrow pedestrian bridge spanning just under 400 metres.

Originally built to ensure school children on either side of the estuary could attend school the bridge continues to be a vital connection between Whananaki South and Whananaki North. For more information check out 9 Things To Do on The Tutukaka Coast – Pacific

Whananaki Footbridge, New Zealand @Cstands4me
Whananaki Footbridge @Cstands4me

Cyclindal natural sculptured rock forms make for a great photo moment. It has been estimated that the largest of the boulders may have taken 5 million years to grow. The boulders are concretions, or hardened nodules formed within sedimentary rocks. Moeraki boulders (Canterbury, South Island) are the tourism poster rock boys for this type of rock formation. Hokianga Harbour does it one better with hundreds of them and an isolated beach for you to stroll on. For details check out Hokianga Things To Do and See – Travel Guide by Pacific Jane

Koutu Beach, Hokianga Harbour, Hokianga, New Zealand Koutu Beach, Hokianga Harbour
Lake Ohia, New Zealand @laura_swanson95
Lake Ohia @laura_swanson95
  1. LAKE OHIA – Visit a lake where water is optional!

Kum gum diggers, in the early 1990’s, drained the lake to access gum buried in the 30,000 year old flooded kauri forest. The Department of Conservation boardwalks twine around huge stumps and the slightly spooky remains of the forest of giant kauri. The lake is now ephemeral (seasonal).The lake is officially ephemeral, not a swamp as, in the winter months it fills and becomes once again a shallow lake.  Perhaps your kids might describe it as a swamp. Lake Ohia is the poster child for viewing this phenomena, because it is easily accessible from the road. Details about getting there check here Two heritage sites and a lake where water is optional to visit from nearby Kerikeri – nzjane

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  1. KIWIS & KAURI – Both in the same spot

Trounson Kauri Park campground

You will hear kiwis at night. The campground kitchen has postings of the latest sighting. You can even use the red cellophane to cover your torch and create night vision. Getting there, check here Trounson Kauri Park trip guide, activities, things to see: NZ Jane. Trounson is nearby Dargaville on the way to the Hokianga Harbour


Enormous kauri trees

Trounson Kauri Park, New Zealand @Martin Mergili Trounson Kauri Park @Martin Mergili

Over 107km of drivable beach sand is the longest beach road in New Zealand. The sand is consistently moving on Kauri Coast beaches. The beach is rideable 2 ½ hours either side of low tide (check Pouto tides) as the low tide exposes the hard sand. Ride in either direction

TIP: Locals advise riding into the wind to make your return easier. Glinks Gully entrance has toilets, parking and vehicle access to the beach. For other points of access check with the local visitor centre for up to date information.

TIP: Kauri Coast, beyond Dargaville

Ripiro Beach, New Zealand @carolinebarronauthor
Ripiro Beach @carolinebarronauthor


At the end of a remote gravel road is New Zealand’s oldest wooden lighthouse at Pouto Point is a sturdy 3 storey statement of the kauri logging heyday and busy passage of sailing ships carrying timber from Northland’s thickly wooded ancient kauri forests.

Pouto Point lighthouse, New Zealand @NZ Herald
Pouto Point lighthouse @NZ Herald

TIP: The best 4WD beach drive in New Zealand is the wild Ripiro Beach, the Shipwreck Highway to Pouto Point Lighthouse. It is exhilarating.

The Pouto Peninsula is a coastal peninsula of land some 55 km long, which is bounded on three sides by water. On the western side the Tasman Sea beats along a continuous ocean beach, Ripiro. On the eastern side of the peninsula is the tidal ebb and flow of the Kaipara Harbour ebb and flow. There are large tidal mudflats, sand banks and deeper channel inlets. The coast is framed by sandstone eroded cliffs, sand dunes and swaths of gold sandy beach.

For the adventurous there is a 7km trek across the atmospheric landscape to the lighthouse finishing with a trudge up steep sand dunes to the three storey kauri timbered lighthouse. The wooden lighthouse is protected by the Historic Places Trust. At one time this harbour


Massive, towering gold sand dunes are unmissable as you enter the Hokianga harbour.  There is a great photo moment at the promontory as you enter the harbour.  Perhaps snag a board for sand dunning. Captaput yourself into the shallow waters of the Hokianga Harbour careering down the dunes.  Glorious fun for all age groups.


You will need a kayak or boat to get there, for more information check TOP-10 things to do in Hokianga, activities — trip guide 2021 – 2022

Mangonui world famous in NZ fish _ chips, New Zealand
Mangonui world famous in NZ fish &chips


The shop has been trading for over 75 years. The shop is part of a commercial fishing operation processing over 30 tonnes of line caught fish. The shop was originally a home converted into a shop as the business developed. Look beneath your feet into the harbour to observe sting rays, john dory, king fish swimming under the shop. It is common to witness bronze whaler sharks that use Mangonui as a breeding ground.


It’s not exactly free however fish n chips is part of the kiwi diet and therefore qualifies for entry on the list!

  1. Swim with stingrays at WAIROA BAY

This tip comes courtesy of Paihia local Elizabeth Glover who runs a horse trekking business. One of her favourite places to take riders on hot summer days is Wairoa Bay where they swim the horses to help them cool off – but it’s not just the horses who enjoy the shallows.

“It’s a lovely swim and snorkel spot,” says Liz.  “And it’s great at low tide because you can just put your feet down and reach the bottom. You’ll often encounter stingrays cruising around and it’s a good fishing spot too.”

There are also nice little grassy areas for picnics, and the fact that it’s not as busy as the main Paihia beach makes it a perfect little secret getaway. Did we mention that it’s free?

Wairoa Bay, New Zealand @horsetrekn
Wairoa Bay @horsetrekn
Matakana toilets. Built in 2009 to attract visitors to Matakana township at the cost of about $400,000 (NZD)
Matakana toilets

Te Henga (Bethells) beach is a local favourite with a safe estuary for children to paddle in as well as the standard heart pounding magic of enormous surfing swells hitting the ocean beach at regular intervals. Visitors have a lake to check out as well. Lake Wainamu (Bethells Lake) is 2.3 km from the beach. It is signposted at the car park for Te Henga Walkway.

TIP: Ask locals how to do the “pretty boy” splash jump off pier.


The hulls of upturned boats with recycled kauri are a striking addition to the town’s reputation as an upmarket village. The two figures guarding the entrance have featured on many Instagram posts. Have you got the selfie yet? Matakana is on our toilet list! Check out Weird places to take a selfie, the public toilets of New Zealand’s North Island – nzjane

Do you know similar places? Share it with us and comment below.

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