Ten places worth a detour in the New Zealand

10 New Zealand places worth a detour: what to see, guide

WHITIANGA HEADLAND PA Wanting to see a medieval castle, well New Zealand’s got ruins aplenty, just visit Whitianga and check the headland Pa site.

There is always something about fortifications and the sense of battles won and battles lost? New Zealand’s got plenty of places to get the imagination fired up… Whitianga Headland Reserve and Rock Pa is impressive. Even Captain Cook was taken with the Pa site associated with Ngati Hei. When Captain Cook visited the Pa site it had been abandoned with blackened stumps, an attack by Ngati Rangi (Tauranga region) had resulted in a retreat.

Captain Cook commented in his diary, ‘A little within the entrance of the river… are the remains of a fortified town, the situation is such that the best engineers in Europe could have not chosen a better place’

Situated on a promontory, the Pa for over 600 years guarded the entrance to the Whitianga estuary. Visible are the defensive ditches, the post holes for wooden watchtowers, middens with shellfish remains and cliff rock holes to support structures. For a society where warfare is a threat the Pa headland site was a superb use of the natural landscape. As with any fortification the view is spectacular.

Track conditions

Wooden steps and a well maintained path is clearly signposted from the Ferry. The Ferry landing is at the oldest stone terminal in the country. This track begins at the wharf and heads along the back of the small beach to the right of the wharf.

  • Length: 800 metres (return)
  • Duration: 20 minutes

Why go and look at an abandoned industrial site? Got lots in my hometown and I don’t need to go to Warkworth to check out a closed factory.

The sheer scale, size and mammoth effort to build the factory out of concrete is fascinating. And it is very obvious how important the river was a transport network. The small, still very deep quarry, now a lake glimmering with depth just adds to the atmosphere of worker ghosts and stories past. There is a link metal fence adding to the abandoned feel as well as excellent plaques describing the vital role the cement works played during World War II.

A car park, next door to Warkworth cement works with an adjacent marina makes access very easy. There are picnic tables, toilets and a defined path around the works.

HOKIANGA KOUTU BOULDERS Hokianga boulder magic and hardly anyone goes there, except the local fishing community.

Hokianga boulder magic and hardly anyone goes there, except the local fishing community.

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 are the 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.

Vanished World Duntroon South Island

Are you integrated by fossils and rocks New Zealand is ancient and you can see plenty yourself?

Vanished World at Duntroon is a fascinating geological site. The self -guided Trail spans coastal localities from Moeraki to Oamaru and extends inland through the Waitaki Valley. The Trail has more than 20 sites related to landforms, distinctive rocks, minerals, and fossils. There are names such as Elephant Rocks encourage to see shapes and faces. Vanished World localities range from Waianakarua to Oamaru on the coast, and inland to Duntroon. The Vanished World trail is self-guided; drive from place to place, starting or stopping at any point. At most localities there is a short walk to the site.

Wairau Lagoon Off the beaten track, it is a relatively flat landscape with a meandering boardwalk.

If you embark on only one walk this should be at the top of your list. The Wairau Lagoon Walkway is a flat loop track, ideal for kids, follows the lagoon shoreline with good bird watching to the rusting remains of the Waverley ship. This easy flat walk is a great way to explore the habitat of the Wairau Lagoons. At sunset you will have an excellent photo moment of the ship wreck resting in the mud. You are walking in the footsteps of New Zealand’s earliest inhabitants. A site of historical significance in the settlement of New Zealand. You are in the vicinity of Moa Hunter territory and the massive Haast eagle.

ROTOROA ISLAND A gem in the Hauraki Gulf, it is not that easy to get to, however perfection is not meant to be easy.

You have to catch a ferry to visit the place and the ferry does not sail every day in winter. The Island has no shops, no cafe and is predator free from those pesky animals that munch on flightless birds and the like. There is a controlled number of visitors per day. Rotoroa is a magical place where visitors can experience Island life cocooned in the comfort of contemporary accommodation. Electricity and excellent internet service are guaranteed on your Island getaway. Natural spa living, island style. And all those birds are a fabulous bonus.

PETONE Worth a detour if you are visiting Wellington.

Petone is a town with an entire heritage precinct main street. Catch the train from the Wellington Central Railway Station and your first point of interest is the Petone Railway Station. Petone station is a commuter hub with a flagpole partially obscured by a bent damaged Pohutukawa. The Flagpole here is to commemorate the ANZAC spirit of Railway workers from Petone and those from Hornsby New South Wales who were posted together to the front during World War I.. The pole’s timber is a combination of Kauri and Australian timber. A bit of history half hidden by time. And it gets better, the main street is repurposed nineteenth century stores, from butchers, bakers, fruit shops and general purpose retail stores into a thriving hub of artisan and upmarket shops located in the nineteenth century shops. And plenty of cafes to rest those weary feet after shopping.

KAWATIRI RAIL TUNNEL New Zealand’s own tunnel to nowhere? Do you know where it is?

It took over a decade to hand cut the tunnels, and then it was closed shortly afterwards as uneconomic. A tunnel to nowhere. Located at Kawatiri Junction at the intersection of SH6 and SH63, 35 km northeast of Murchison. There is an information shelter, picnic site and toilets beside the large parking area. The walk starts from a carpark with information panels detailing the rich history of the area. You do not need a torch just your imagination.

After 200 metres the track crosses an old rail bridge before passing through a train tunnel built in 1923. A torch is helpful but not essential. The track returns via beech forest above the Hope River closing the loop at the entrance to the tunnel.

  • Track Description: 30 minutes
  • 1.5 km: easy
GRANITY If you do not believe in climate change, visit Granity and wonder.

Granity is a must do visit stop for everyone interested in climate change. You stand on the constructed stoney embankments and watch the sea relentlessly working away at the foundations. And the nearest houses are very close. There is a notice and plaque showing where the community hall once stood. It is sobering watching the rising sea rewrite land boundaries.

Granity is home to the Granity Museum. Located in the centre of Gravity (sign posted off the main Road) on a historical site, being coke ovens built 1909-1910. Buildings and sites belong to the Northern Buller Museum Trust. It also owns the Millerton Incline behind the Museum.

DUNEDIN GASWORKS MUSEUM Another industrial site makes the list, and it’s a gasworks.

Dunedin Gasworks Museum | Industrial Heritage, economic heritage fans have “part of the now closed Dunedin Gasworks which was New Zealand’s first and last gasworks, operating from 1863 until 1987 to investigate. The plant is one of only three known preserved gasworks museums in the world. This is a significant local and world heritage site.” For someone who is fascinated by abandoned or former industrial sites the gasworks museum did not disappoint.


  • Open on Sunday for casual visitors between 10.00am to 4.00pm
  • Admission charge
  • Private tours contact the museum

The journey is worth it.

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