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Travel Guide

Bream Bay and nearby beaches things to do

  • 4 minutes

Northland, New Zealand

In this Article

Best bits your only guide to a great holiday

Escape to the beach. Bream Bay is an Auckland favourite destination for a weekend getaway or extended summer holiday. Nearby is Whangarei with a range of extensive attractions for a great holiday. For ideas check out 10 Whangarei places to go, trip guide, things to see & do: Best Bits. For camping spots check out 11 camping grounds in Whangarei District, what to see & do: Best Bits. In the peak summer season forward bookings are recommended.

@Waipu Horse Adventures
@Waipu Horse Adventures


  • Mangawhai Cliff walkway between Langs Beach and Mangawhai Heads
  • Waipu Pancake Rock forms
  • Waipu Horse Adventures along wide sandy beaches
  • Uretiti beach estuary, birding hotspot
  • Waipu Museum and village
  • Mangawhai Heads, surfing beaches and quiet estuaries for kids to paddle in

Bream Bay

Bream Head marks the entrance to Whangarei Harbour. The high bluffs are at the northern edge of the striking Bream Bay coastline. Over 10 km of sandy coastal beaches are popular holiday summer spots. The beaches are Langs Beach, Waipu Cove, and Ruakaka. The name of the bay was named by Lieutenant James Cook in 1769, although it is likely the fish was actually snapper.

Bream Head and Whangarei Heads from the Mount Lion hiking track in Northland, New Zealand
Bream Head and Whangarei Heads from the Mount Lion

Mangawhai Harbour

The Mangawhai River estuary is approximately 2 km from the Bream Bay northern cliffs. There is a nearby beach community. State Highway 1 is approximately 14 km from the junction at Kaiwaka.

Hen and Chickens Islands

The islands that can be seen from shore are Taranga and Marotiri or the Hen & Chicks. They are remnants of dormant volcanoes, and are now a wildlife sanctuary. Landing is prohibited without a permit. The landmark of Sail Rock lies just to the south and is a common mark used for yacht racing. The islands offer snorkelling and diving opportunities. The islands are a refuge for tuatara lizards, seabirds and shorebirds.

Shipwreck exploration

The Canadian–Australian mail liner Niagara sank nearby in June 1940 after hitting a German mine.


Waipu has a fascinating museum dedicated to 19th century immigrants and their austere protestant belief coupled with a language (Gaelic) and culture. For the pilgrims a permanent home for the Gaelic speakers beckoned. Farming, Sundays at church, the establishment of Gaelic speaking schools and bagpipes thrived in the new home.

Today Highland Games, a museum dedicated to the Highlanders and passionate volunteers tell the story of European migration to Aotearoa NZ. Together with a number of local shops, second hand stores and cafes Waipu is a great place to include in your day exploring Bream Bay.

The area was part of the original settlement of New Zealand flowing from East Polynesian ocean explorations. The composite hapu, Patuharakeke, descended from most major iwi groups in the north have their marae located inTakahiwai (16km from Waipu).

Waipu’s name means Wai: water; pu: reddish or brownish in colour.

Read more about Waipu.

Secluded Empty Beach at Waipu in Northland, New Zealand

Langs Beach

The beach has an uncluttered feel as no shops in the vicinity invoke a sense of remoteness.

One of the most beautiful beaches in Northland, Langs is perfect for a swim, walk or relax under the pohutukawa trees. The white sandy beach is an ideal swimming spot. The gentle waves encourage people to try their hand at boogie boarding. Langs Beach has plenty of lovely pohutukawa trees providing shade and their gnarled trucks are great for kids to climb. Change rooms and toilets are at the south end of the beach. As there are no shops, pack a picnic meal and lots of water for a day at the beach, exploring low tide rock pools, surfboarding with a boogie board or lazing under a shady tree. There is parking alongside the beach road.

Ruakaka beach

Ruakaka beach is primarily a surfing beach with a mellow temperament. To access the beach there is a short trek over sand dunes to the wide sweep of the beach. In the peak summer season the beach is patrolled by lifeguards. For surfing conditions click on surfcam Rukaka surf lifesaving patrol. The beachside village has a grocery store, takeaways and pop up cafes in the summer months. The beach is home to several surf competitions.


Horse lovers enjoy the spectacle of horses training early morning on the beach. Ruakaka Racing ‘Where the Turf meets the Surf” is a unique all weather racecourse 200 metres from the beach. Race days are held throughout the year and in summer, the Club hosts family events.

Wilson Dam

Wilson’s Dam is located off State Highway One, just north of Ruakaka on Prescott Road. This dam was created as a water supply reservoir for the local area and is now regularly stocked by Fish and Game with both rainbow and brown trout. NZFishing, describes, “With very limited spawning areas Wilson’s Dam is described as a “put and take” fishery as most trout present in the lake are in fact part of an annual release by Fish and Game. Consequently there are reasonable number of fish in the reservoir. Both brown and rainbow trout are present.

Due to the high temperatures in summer most fish head to deeper water during the hotter periods and as boats are not allowed on this lake winter is the best time to target the fish which come in to feed in the shallows when the water temperature cools. During autumn and spring there can be good fishing in the evenings.”

Waipu Cove surf beach

Waipu Cove, famous for its surf and safe swimming beach, patrolled in summer by the Waipu Surf Club. The white sandy beach goes for miles making this beach a favourite with the locals for long walks. Facilities here include the Beachhouse Cafe, a small store, Waipu Surf School and a clean toilet and shower block completely covered in a wonderful mural depicting Waipu’s history. The Pizza Barn is world famous in Bream Bay for its rustic pizzas and fries.

South of the Waipu River Mouth is Waipu Cove, a great place for kids, picnics, swimming and  surfing. Waipu Cove is the start of the Waipu to Langs Beach walk, via Ding Bay and the interesting Waipu Pancake Rocks. A short stroll over the hill is the much quieter Shelly Beach.

Uretiti Beach

The beach is unpatrolled, bird sanctuary, estuary, quiet contemplative spaces and places. Lesser knots, Australasian gannets, white-fronted terns, a variety of shorebirds and very special migratory birds like the NZ dotterel and Eastern Bar-tailed godwits make their home at the Ruakaka Wildlife Refuge. Nestled behind the sand dunes is a Department of Conservation scenic category campground. For camping details check with Uretiti Beach conservation campsite. Check DOC resource for up to date information.

Mangawhai Heads

Mangawhai Heads is at the southern end of Bream Bay (driving from Auckland). The village is a rapidly growing holiday destination with its very popular inner estuary beach fronting a holiday park and the ocean beach opposite. Mangawhai has the best of both worlds for families with the consistent surf conditions for surfers and kids have opportunities to paddle in a safe estuary on the other side of the dunes. The ocean surf beach is patrolled in the summer months. The extensive sand dunes are managed by the Department of Conservation to protect vulnerable nesting birds. Mangawhai Heads and the vibrant village of Mangawhi are linked by a causeway providing access through a protected wetland and bush reserve. The area is popular with kayakers exploring the waterway. Mangawhai offers extensive experiences for holiday makers from an 18 hole golf course, Bennetts Chocolate Factory, museum dedicated to local stories as well as tour operators managing fishing charters and kayak and SUP hire.


Coastal Walk Waipu Cove to Langs

The dramatic coastal walkway takes approx 1.5 hours one way and winds along private bays with fabulous rocky cliffs, views and crystal clear waters below.

Magnificent coastal views, a small rocky beach, Waipū pancake limestone rocks, native coastal bush, great fishing and picnic spots. This walk has been developed by members of the Waipū Lions Club following the vision of the late Alan McKenzie, who was a local resident.


Parking and information is available at both entry points. Waipū Cove end has a toilets and a cafe.

What to expect

  • The trail can be entered at either end where notices, stiles, orange markers and posts indicate the path
  • Following wet weather, the track becomes very slippery in areas. Part of the walkway is near a steep drop into the sea or onto rocks below, so take care and supervise youngsters. Alternatively, Langs Beach can be accessed by walking on the side of the road.
  • This walk requires a reasonable level of fitness and agility. There are stiles, steps, ladders and rocks to climb.
  • The entry / exit points at both Waipū Cove and Ding Bay may require you to wade through water. Please be aware of high tide times before you begin your walk.
  • Please stay on the track, follow the orange markers and do not trespass onto private property

Source Waipu Coastal Walkway (Whangarei Local Council).

Getting to Bream Bay nearby beaches


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