|Duration:||10 days, 9 nights|
|Best time to visit:||December to April.
Winter, a number of attractions are closed.
|Weather:||Sub-tropical Northland temperatures range from 20c to low 30c.
Occasional rain showers.
From east to west coast the journey is about exploring Northland, both the well known tourist attractions such as Kerikeri, Waitangi and Russell as well as the east coast Hokianga harbour and lesser known areas such as Rawene. The journey was in a motorhome.The advantage is the home on wheels with the option of fresh vegetables for dinner from the local store being prepared in your dinky kitchen on board.
From east to west coast the journey is about exploring Northland, both the well known tourist attractions such as Kerikeri, Waitangi and Russell as well as the east coast Hokianga harbour and lesser known areas such as Rawene. The journey was in a motorhome.The advantage is the home on wheels with the option of fresh vegetables for dinner from the local store being prepared in your dinky kitchen on board. The disadvantage is negotiating a bulky vehicle around narrow winding roads, definitely possible in Northland although slower than in a car. You will visit quirky private museums to national heritage sites such as Waitangi. Visitors can indulge their senses in a luxurious hilltop vineyard chalet and spend the night in a holiday park nestled among a kiwi reserve.Your journey starts with a thread of roads linked to the Pacific Ocean, waterfalls, native forests and panoramic ocean to sky views. The Tutukaka Coast is a maze of hidden gems down less travelled side roads leading to the lure of the sea in quiet coves and white sandy beaches. The Poor Knights Islands tempt the traveller to tarry a while, snorkel or dive the reefs or indulge in a horse ride along Sandy Bay. This is a journey of the two halves of Northland sharing a past and welcoming visitors both domestic and international with equal passion.
Walk Otuihau Whangarei Falls Loop
Historically important as an traditional eeling location the Falls are a major tourist drawcard. The Hatea River is part of a collection of Whangarei city walks. The horseshoe falls are a spectacular steady flow forming an approximately 26.3 km drop over basalt cliffs creating a mist from the released water reaching the base pools. The landscaped surrounds are in excellent condition. The walk starts at the public car park and crosses the river above the waterfall via a metal bridge.
The bridge has been designed for flood water to run over it and there is no handrail. Some people may not feel comfortable using it. The surfaced walkway continues through the reserve and down a flight of steps to the base of the falls where there is a picnic table and viewing area. The base of the falls does not have any fencing between the water and the viewing area, exercise caution as the rocks are slippery with mist from the falls. A bridge across the river leads to the walkway which zig-zags back up the hill through mature bush to the car park. The car park and facilities are great, there is even a paid per use shower for freedom campers. Parts of the walk are wheelchair accessible.
VISIT DURATION: 1 ½ HOURS
kayaking the Ngunguru river
You will pass through the quiet small settlement of Kiripaka, once home to over 2,000 coal miners. The bridge across the Ngunguru river is a memorial to World War II soldiers while Scow Landing is where the sailing scows were loaded for the Auckland market. As you have followed the coast look out for historic dry-stone walls that line each side of the road. The Whangarei area has an estimated 1500 kilometres of dry stone walls. Some were built as early as the 1860s. Scows Landing is the launching pad for kayaking trips. There is a picnic spot at Scows Landing or you can also launch a kayak to explore the river and estuary. Native bush and mangroves surround you as you come closer to the coast.
WALK: Ngunguru sand dunes
Ngunguru sand dunes are unmodified dunes, probably due to limited access as it is only accessible by boat. The area has significant cultural, historical and environmental values for the local Maori. No dogs are allowed on the spit. Views of the dunes are excellent on the Ngunguru to Whangaumu Bay walk. This walk is between the two bays where, from the lookout you’ll have uninterrupted views of Ngunguru sand dunes (sandspit), Goat Island, Hora Hora, Pataua, Taiharuru, and Whangarei Heads.
The grass ridge, easy to navigate track leads you down to Red Rock Bay. Stroll along these secluded beaches to Ngunguru; rocky outcrops and sheltered sandy bays. This is a family favourite beachcomber’s walk.
NOTE: Choose 2 hours each side of low tide for each direction of your walk
VISIT DURATION: 1 – 2 HOURS
Art gallery Ngunguru Pottery is worth a stop with their interpretations of native leaf shapes. The pottery runs workshops for pottery fans using hand-building techniques, teaching glazing and firing in weekend workshops. A great reason to linger in Ngunguru. A glorious place to buy a present for yourself. You always needed another vase or pottery decorative piece for the house anyway.
VISIT DURATION: 1 – 2 HOURS
Ngunguru or frying pan lookout
It is spectacular. You do not often say this about a photo opportunity. The lookout, known as the Frying Pan even has an elevated platform for people to climb for an enhanced panoramic view. You might strike a tour bus stop in which case chill out and wait fifteen minutes for the crowds to get back on their tour bus.TIP: If your timing is right the sunset views are instagram moments. The views are of the Poor Knights to Mt Manaia. The timber lookout height and ramp are designed to be accessible. There is seating and picnic tables for your recently purchased fish n chips from the local shop in Ngunguru.
DURATION: 30 MINUTES
Tutukaka water activities mecca
Diving, kayaking, fishing cruises and boat trips to Poor Knight Islands depart from the marina. If water activities are the focus of your trip you might consider extending your trip to include time in Tutukaka exploring the ‘wild blue yonder.’ of the Tutukaka marine environment.
Tutukaka Coastal beaches & Poor Knights Marine Reserve
Wander among the boats at the Tutukaka Marina, watch people fishing off the wharf, have a swim at the beach at the end of the marina or just sit back with a coffee or a glass of wine and enjoy the ambience.
DURATION: 1 HOUR
Poor Knights Island diving
The Poor Knights marine reserve and HMS Tui/HMS Waikato wrecks are dive destinations off the Tutukaka Coast. Dive boats depart daily and with 100′s of sites to choose from the options are extensive. Several dive companies operate from Tutukaka Marina. Either hire full gear or just the equipment that you need on the day. PADI Dive courses, refresher dives and underwater photography are all available.
Tutukaka Coast Beaches
Tutukaka Coast beaches are among the most spectacular in Northland, and New Zealand. There are so many beaches to choose from, each with individual character and beauty. The white sandy beaches include Matapouri Bay, Woolley’s Bay, Whale Bay and Whangaumu Bay. The inner harbour pebble beaches are Pacific Bay, Kowharewa Bay and Church Bay (accessible via Tutukaka Block Road). There is also the famous surf beach, Sandy Bay. Roads and pathways lead to many of the beaches, whilst others are accessible via the coast by climbing around the rocks at low tide.
Detour to Tutukaka Lighthouse walkway or Tawapou Coastal Natives sub-tropical plant nursery is worth a stop along the way if you are interested in New Zealand fauna or a drink in their garden over summer.
Matapouri Beach & Mermaid Pools
Matapouri is the first bay you reach after Tutukaka. You can swim in the estuary or take one of the roads on the right to get to parking by the main beach. Matapouri Bay is great for strolling on the white sand or having a dip. At low tide you can walk to the Mermaid Pools (Northern end of the beach). Please note that this path is only suitable for people who are fit and capable of climbing up very steep hills. The path is not maintained and if the sea is rough we strongly recommend against swimming in the Mermaid Pools.
Mermaid Pools is the star of numerous instagram moments. Remember to take care as a strong wave can sweep over the pools with very little notice. The beach has toilets and changing facilities.
There is a coastal walkway to Whale Bay. This track is a loop which takes around 1.5 hours to complete including some time at Whale Bay. Alternatively you can drive to Whale Bay car park where there is a short walkway through groves of ancient Puriri trees. The secluded beach has white sand and a forest-fringed beach.
Located along Tutukaka Block Road, this flat pebble beach idea is ideal for launching your kayaking and offers sheltered swimming. A lovely place to picnic with parking and handy toilets.
This popular coastal beach has easy access from the main road and is great for body surfing and picnics on the grassed areas. There are toilets and changing facilities.
One of the east coast’s most popular surfing destinations is suitable for surfers of all abilities. Enjoy horse-trekking or learn to surf (tour operators are based in Tutukaka).
Matapouri Estuary Reserve
Behind Matapouri Bay, at Matapouri River mouth, a small estuary flanked by mangroves runs quietly inland, ignored by the scores of visitors who crowd the clean sand of the main bay. Yet towards high tide (when it is easy to float about), there is much for the patient snorkeller to enjoy amid the mangroves. The estuary of the Matapouri River is rich in marine life. The reserve does not get many visitors. NZ geographic article, Matapouri Estuary describes the reserve in detail, “ appearances can be deceptive. The estuary of the Matapouri River is rich in marine life, much of it not seen elsewhere in the bay. Many of the organisms are residents while others are regular visitors that come to feed on the incoming tide. There is plenty for a careful observer armed with a mask and snorkel to discover.
Two factors combine to make water clarity much better in this estuary than in most. Because the estuary is small, it disgorges little sediment, hence the coastal water with which the tide fills it is clear and the bottom is more sand than mud, so there are fewer fine particles to cloud the water.”
DURATION: 1 – 2 HOURS
At OPUAWHANGA you will take a detour on the Whananaki North Road to the tiny, peaceful settlement of Whananaki North. There is a general grocery store, a school, a voluntary library and camping grounds. A few homes along with stunning estuary and coastline are examples of the ‘kiwi bach’. It is noticeable that development is arriving in Whananaki with the iconic bach having the indignity of large modern beach houses popping up.
NOTE: Route – Whale Bay to Opuawhanga to Whananaki North
You are camping in the remote Otamure Bay, a remote coastal paradise on the Tutukaka Coast. Whananaki Holiday Park – Northland Accommodation. Whananaki North. In the peak season (December to March) it is recommended accommodation is booked before your journey starts. Whananaki North is the first night as the longest footbridge at Whananaki North required an early morning investigation. The motor camp is pet friendly and we need to check out New Zealand’s longest footbridge. The camping grounds were undergoing a major renovation hopefully to improve the bathroom facilities. The management is hospitable and the location is superb with direct access to the famed wooden footbridge, beach and the lone beach general store.
Whananaki South is only accessible over the pedestrian footbridge from Whanankai North. The only primary school in the district is located in Whananaki North. As children had to row across the sometimes dangerous tides of Otamure Bay a footbridge was built. The wooden footbridge is the longest in the Southern hemisphere. Next your journey takes you through Hikurangi, once a major coal mining town, from there to the abandoned remains of one of New Zealand’s largest whaling stations, finishing the day in Pahia. And a highlight is a stop at a great art gallery, perhaps some more objects for the home in the interests of encouraging local artists to keep on being artists.
The footbridge walk is extraordinary as it is a single lane with a passing bay in the middle of the 1 km bridge. Take time walking and look below you into the estuary to sight stingrays and other marine life. When you pass the locals fishing just breath in and gently squeeze past. This is a must do walking experience.
Local walks: Motutara Recreation Reserve
Take a walk in Motutara Recreation Reserve and enjoy the 360 degree panorama when you reach the top. Pack a picnic and allow time for a swim or snorkel at Toki’s Beach.
DURATION: 1 HOUR
Whananaki Coastal Walk
From Whananaki North village, the track follows the coast south to Sandy Bay, Tutukaka – this is a three hour walk one way. You can do part of the track and then turn back. The views are extraordinary and you can detour to the Capitaine Bougainville Memorial on the north point of Oruaea Bay. This monument is a memorial to the freighter, Capitaine Bougainville, which caught fire and sank off the coast in 1975. It was carrying meat and dairy products to Sydney with 29 crew and 8 passengers on board. 16 people died in the mountainous waves and cold, as lifeboats capsized. The survivors came ashore on the Whananaki South beach and the monument remembers those who were lost.
A rural inland village, developed around the coal mining industry of 1890. The Hikurangi Museum managed by volunteers. The Museum was opened in 1986 and is situated in the old Courthouse and Jail. Personal narratives, the struggles of coal miners and changes to the district are captured through artefacts, photographs and ethnographic displays. There is a main street with a cafe and general store. The use of photographs brought to life the loss of life from me who volunteered during major conflicts such as World War I & II. For history fans a worthwhile detour. Opening hours are a bit hit and miss. For fans a telephone call before turning up is advisable.
Today Hikurangi is a shadow of its former peak of 8,000 residents with less than 1,400 inhabitants. Whangarei is 17 km to the south, and Kawakawa is 39 km northwest. The Glenbervie Forest is southeast of the settlement. State Highway 1 once passed through the town, but now bypasses it to the west. This has led to a further population decline.
Museum opening hours: Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, 10am-11:30am or by appointment.
DURATION: 2 HOURS (including detour)
Helena Bay is the home Helena Bay Gallery and Artworks. The Gallery has a wide-ranging collection of art by established and emerging New Zealand artists, many of which are Northland based – this includes contemporary Maori and Pacific artists. There is an outstanding selection of paintings, wood art, handmade furniture, sculpture, jewellery, glass and ceramics. This is a must do stop for art collectors, gallery browsing as well as the spectacular views from the cafe.
The extensive garden is packed with outdoor sculpture installations making it a fun place to wander through.
VISIT DURATION: 1 – 3 HOURS
Oakura, similar to Whananaki North, is an eclectic mix of traditional baches with newer luxury beach towns. The town’s claim to fame is the celebrity arrival of Tom Cruise, Billy Connolly and an international film crew in 2003 filming ‘The Last Samurai.’ Oakura is close to a number of glorious beaches: Teal Bay, Ngawhai Bay, Ngahau Bay, Mimiiwhangatu Marine and Coastal Reserve. From rocky bays to sheltered beaches, swimming holes and sand beaches perfect for building sand castles.
Oakura, as a hub for a beach holiday has nurtured a creative spirit with a number of artists, jewellers and craftspeople working from home studios in and around the district. Beach holiday goers can book fishing charters from the sheltered Whangaruru Harbour. Forward booking is essential during the peak summer season both for accommodation and trips. If you are beguiled by the thought of a Northland holiday detour, lazing in the warmth of Oakura Bay check HOME – Whangaruru beachfront camping holiday.
TIP: Be warned it is a very popular destination with many repeat visitors. Bookings are often several months in advance.
Other accommodation options in Oakuara Bay region include:
The Farm. “The Farm is a 1000 acre working dairy farm just a short drive from Whangarei. For over 20 years we’ve been sharing our family home with longtime crew, volunteers, and travellers from all over the world that have made The Farm their home”
Both AirBNB and BookaBach are popular alternatives for holiday makers.
TIP: Do not miss a selfie against the next big thing. Oakura is home to the world’s biggest surfboard on the main street just before the petrol station.
VISIT DURATION: 2 HOURS (perhaps a few days)
Whaling Station Walk
The Whangamumu Whaling Station was the only one in the world that caught whales with nets, and it was Northland’s longest running and most successful station (Prickett 2002:151). Today the physical remains at Whangamumu represent the last factory based whaling station Northland. The remaining historic structures include vats or tanks that held whale oil, the slipway on the beach front, and the old boiler. This historic whaling station is nestled into one of Northland’s most picturesque harbours, a safe boat anchorage and only a one-hour walk from the road.
The track follows the path whalers used to take in the early 20th century to one of New Zealand’s last remaining shore-based whaling station. This track is a comfortable walk starting at the Tangatapu wetlands through regenerating coastal forest up and over a ridge to the sandy beach at the head of the Whangamumu Harbour. Interpretation signs explain the historic features of the area. The track is not suitable for mountain biking. Whangamumu Track: Cape Brett, Northland.
Advanced Tramping Track
The Cape Brett Track traverses rugged terrain for 16 km through native and regenerating bush. Expect dramatic coastal views; steep cliffs and drop-offs to the side of the track are a feature. In parts it is a steep climb and descent with the track slippery in wet weather. There is a composting toilet at the walk entrance.
Cape Brett Track: Cape Brett, Northland, Although it is not that far to the lighthouse, it will take you about 2-3 hours, and can be quite tiring. The effort is rewarded with outstanding views of the outer Bay of Islands, north to the Cavalli Islands and south to Whangaruru and beyond to the Poor Knights Islands.
Rawhiti is a quiet haven fluttering the Flag of Independence from its Marae flagpole. Rāwhiti or Te Rāwhiti is a small beachfront town about 27&km from Russell in the Bay of Islands of New Zealand. Most of the land in the area is owned by Māori. There are two marae — Kaingahoa and Te Rāwhiti Wikipedia. There are powered camp sites, bathroom and cooking facilities for Kaingahoa marae located in Rawhiti.
This marae also serves as a camping ground for visitors, belonging to the Patukeha hapu of Ngāpuhi. The general public is also welcome. The camp site is functional and well maintained. The welcome is excellent. Pets are welcome however they must be on a lease at all times. For trampers a great spot for preparations for the Cape Brett tramp. The majority of land continues to be owned by the traditional owners. There are no shops or petrol stations in the vicinity. The nearest services are in Russell.
Your base for the next two nights options range from luxury, family friendly campgrounds or the historic Duke of Marlborough Hotel in Russell.
Paroa Bay Winery – Luxury in the heart of Northland
Poroa Bay Winery specialises in organic and sustainable boutique wines. The winery offers luxury accommodation. Perched above a breath-taking bay is our premier luxury accommodation — ParoaBay Winery and Estate. Our property features three superb villas, a sprawling boutique vineyard, and our world-class Mediterranean-inspired restaurant Sage — ensuring every aspect of a luxurious experience is not only catered to but plentifully provided for. Paroa Bay Winery | Russell | Accommodation.
Today is dedicated to exploring Russell. There is no driving and you can spend the day on the waterfront people watching or take a half day Russell based cruise of the islands and bays of Northland. Simply walk to the end of the wharf to book a cruise.
WALKING TRACK ORONGA BAY TO RUSSELL
Perhaps a brisk walk is in order. Markers provide information along the way and some seating is provided. There are a number of start and end points on the Russell section of this walkway, so you can do as much or little as you choose. The full circle day walk of the Bay of Islands follows coastal tracks with outstanding views and two ferry rides. The initial part of this walk circles Orongo Bay and then takes you through sub tropical rainforest. For details check Bay of Islands Walkways (stage four)Stage 4 – Orongo Bay to Russell.
1h 45mins (5 km).
TIP: In the peak season it could be difficult to park a motorhome in Russell as there is no dedicated car park rather roadside parking whereby the long length of a motorhome makes parking problematic. Leave your transport at your STAY unless absolutely necessary to have wheels.
Pompallier Mission and Printery | Northland | Places to Visit | Places Built in 1842, Heritage fans rejoice, Russell has heritage and history in spades. Pompallier Mission originally housed a printery where Church texts were translated from Latin to te reo Māori, then printed and bound. It is just one of several buildings, including a chapel and various outhouses, which once stood in this crowded enclave. Today the Printery stands as New Zealand’s oldest industrial building, as well as the oldest of rammed-earth construction, distinctly French in style and making use of local materials including sand, rock and timber. Pompallier Mission has a restaurant attached. Admission fees apply.
Open: Wednesday – Sunday then daily from 6 July, 10am – 4pm. Guided tours at 11am and 2pm. French Coffee House. 10am – 3.30pm.
Admission fees apply for guided tours including printery and garden. Garden-only, accompanied school-age children are free. Access to the printery is by guided tour only to help preserve the building. Please understand that surcharges may apply at times of special events.
The Russell Museum is not particularly innovative, rather it is the usual collection of exhibits with, at times dated commentary. There is a scaled down version of the Captain Cook’s Endeavour on display. There is an admission fee. It is open every day. There is a collection of displayed photographs that could interest fans of heritage black and white images of a bygone era.
Another brisk walk, Flagstaff Hill is the candidate for a brisk climb and views of Russell. For photo opportunities Christ Church, two streets from the foreshore is set in nineteenth century styled gardens. If you pop into the church look for musket ball holes left in Christ Church (Russell) from the 1845 Battle of Kororāreka. Russell has a number of tour boats offering half day excursions around the islands and coast of Northland.
The day starts with a ferry crossing from Russell Ferry Terminal to Opua then onto Pahia and Waitangi. Waitangi Treaty grounds Waitangi: Home deserves half to a full day exploration. Depending on your interest you might consider extending your stay to include an in depth Waitangi exploration. The sweep of grass to the beach makes for a counterpoint to the heritage buildings, the museum complex and the surrounding native grass. Pahia is a vibrant tourist destination geared to support the mass tourism market with numerous motels, hotels and other accommodation providers. The visitor information centre is a great place to check up and visit festivals and events. The passenger ferry to Russell is adjacent to the Pahia visitor centre.
Pahia, Hotel | Beach Houses | Waitangi Accommodation. The campgrounds and caravan park is conveniently located with a short flat walk along the Te Ti Bay shoreline to Paihia town and is central to all tourist attractions. Waitangi Treaty Grounds, Tii Beach and a boat ramp are adjacent to the Park. The campsite is large and flat, located on the banks of the Waitangi River and perfect for pitching a tent for a spot of camping or for those with a motorhome there are powered sites. Pets are allowed however notice must be given on booking accommodation. The supermarket is 1 km from camping grounds.
A full day exploration of heritage Kerikeri, New Zealand. Kerikeri is the largest town in the district supporting a well established citrus orchard economy, dairy production as well as a vibrant town for arts and crafts. Due to the subtropical climate Kerikeri is home to wineries specialising in warm climates, of course has the requisite chocolate factory and cafes. The Makana Chocolate Factory is a favoured place for gifts and winery visits should include Marsden Estate, Ake Ake Vineyard, Cottle Hill Winery and Fat Pig vineyard. Kerikeri has a domestic only airport.
Kororipo Heritage Park is at the end of Kerikeri Inlet. The precinct is home to Stone Store, Kemp House, Kororipo Pa and Rewa’s Village. Aotearoa’s modern identity was forged in this area, it is where Maori and Europeans interacted and lived together.
VISIT DURATION: 3 – 4 HOURS
Walk in the footsteps of chief Hongi Hika and early missionaries to Kororipo Pā – this short, easy walk is suitable for children.
Kororipo Pā Historic Walk: Kerikeri, Northland check for details.
Kerikeri River walking track
Follow the bank of the Kerikeri River through regenerating forest and discover the remains of an historic power house, and Wharepuke and Rainbow Falls. The walk is suitable for children. For waterfall fans this walk will not disappoint.
VISIT DURATION: 2 HOURS
Today starts with a detour to explore perhaps the most interesting heritage Mission House, Te Waimate from there its all about relaxation. Spend time soaking in hot pools that date back hundreds of years. Then it’s off to view a collapsing, abandoned boat yard building, once the largest ship building enterprise in New Zealand and just down the road a quirky private museum. By now you have worked up an appetite for fish n chips in Mangonui. There is time to browse the local art gallery and explore Mangonui. The day finishes in Ahipara.
Ngawha Hot Pools
Ngawha Hot Pools Te Waiariki Ngawha Springs – Te Waiariki Ngawha Springs is magic. Ngawha geothermal waters continue to attract hot pool devotees due to the high mineral content of the water. The hot springs have had a recent makeover.
The drive to the Hot Pools is through gorse covered hills. When the gorse was commented as ulgy the manager informed us gorse is excellent at encouraging bee pollen work as well as protects emerging native plants. The pools are not on the large group tour bus circuit.
With its historic links to pre-European Maori stewardship and enthusiasm of owners Ngawha hot springs is a highlight of day five.
The individual pools are varying colour intensities due to the differing mineral content.
There are 16 mineral baths each with unique nutrient and temperature characteristics. The pools have been used for centuries for relaxation as well as their therapeutic qualities and healing properties.
They are culturally significant and have a rich social, environmental and political history.
The Parahirahi Ngawha Waiariki Trust as kaitiaki has a responsibility to ensure that the springs are maintained and developed so that future generations can enjoy their healing waters. Opening hours While undergoing a major refurbishment the pools are temporarily closed.
These pools are a favourite for hot springs fans and worth a trip for the pleasure of soaking in the mineral laden waters.
VISIT DURATION: 1 – 2 HOURS
Te Waimate Mission
Set in the rolling farmland of Northland the site is perhaps one of the earliest areas for farming livestock in New Zealand. The mission station is fascinating with its large collection of farm tools, equipment and carpentry tools located in the former attic. The house is austere and reflects the style of the church missionaries with their pioneering zeal to convert Maori to their interpretation of the good life. The chimney bricks in the fireplace are worth a second look as you can observe the marks of convict Australian labour (bricks imported from the Sydney colony).
There were scandals and stories of resilience and fortitude as well as needless sacrifice. The church buildings and gardens are worth an inspection. Charles Darwin visited the mission in 1835.
Opening check the website for up to date information as the station is generally closed during winter. The mission is supported by volunteers.
VISIT DURATION: 1 HOUR
Totara North is a heritage settlement without an official designation making the visit either an opportunity to view the past before it deteriorates or before the area becomes a tourist magnet.
A short history of the area with its massive abandoned boat building yard and quirky museums explains the enduring fascination with the visible records of the past slowly returning to the landscape that created them.
Totara North is a small settlement on the northern side of Whangaroa Harbour.
Commercial fisheries operate from the small marina as well as numerous private boats for fishing enthusiasts.
Totara North local Bruce Sanderson is preserving history with a self funded museum. Te Mama is described by NZPlaces as, “a museum to rival Te Papa, Te Mama is the lifetime collection of Totara North local Bruce Sanderson, including many important industrial relics from Lane and Browns Shipbuilders and Sawmill and other taonga from throughout Whangaroa Harbour.” The museum is located in an old joinery factory. The Northland artist Chris Wilkie painted the exterior. Access to the museum is via a phone number posted on the entrance.
Totara North Gum Store Bar and Grill has memorabilia. Walks and exploration of the area is worth considering as the last vestiges of kauri forest found in Northland. Check out Tony Foster’s website, Bushmansfriend, Book Publishers, NZ native plant information, Whangaroa Harbour Water Transport, water taxi
Tony Foster is a photographer and the local water taxi operator. Tony offers guided tours by both land and sea.
VISIT DURATION 1 HOUR
It is relatively late in the day as you probably lingered in Te Mama Museum, Totara North finding gems to linger over. Never fear a kiwi culinary treat awaits in Mangonui with the fish n chip shop open until late. Mangonui is a historic fishing and whaling settlement with cafes, a well known art gallery and a collection of 150 year old buildings. Mangonui continues its fishing tradition as well as being a hub for holiday makers visiting popular nearby beaches. Mangonui is the main settlement for Doubtless Bay.
A 3 km walk covers 18 heritage listed buildings. The Trail is three kilometres in length and accessible by foot or vehicle. The average time that it takes to walk the Trail is one and a half hours. Walkers are advised to take the St. Andrew’s Walkway (from Beach Road opposite the Police Station) to access sites and enjoy the spectacular views from above Mangonui. Please be aware that Mary Hassett Street, Tasman Street and Thomas Street are very steep.
Pick up a leaflet (there is a charge) from the Doubtless Bay Information Centre on Waterfront Drive, adjacent to the Courthouse. There are also walks to picturesque Mill Bay and the site of Rangikapiti Pa, an ancient Maori fort with commanding views. Sailing, fishing and dive trips operate from Mangonui Harbour.
Butler Point Whaling Museum
For heritage fans the Butler Point Whaling Museum located in a restored 1840s homestead is worth a visit. A Garden of Significance, magnificent pohutukawas and surrounding grounds include a Pa site. The Whaling Museum includes a fully equipped kauri whaleboat. Here is an opportunity to delve into a forgotten history. Home is a Whaling Museum, 1840’s Historic House and Gardens located In the arms of Doubtless Bay, Butler Point stands among the original Maori settlements of the Far North. Later it was a store and warehouse for the whaling providoring industry. Butler Point is a Heritage New Zealand site that preserves and interprets those times, the way people lived, the way they worked, and the tools of the ocean hunt for the biggest prey in its unique Museum of New Zealand whaling.
Captain Butler’s 1840s homestead has been restored and its surrounding gardens are situated beside the waters of the inner Mangonui harbour. Butler Point is a waystation on your art trail with a picnic shelter, perhaps the best excavated Maori pa in the North and walking trails. Staff researchers guide tours of the museum and the 1840s homestead. Open by appointment only
DURATION: 1 – 4 hours
Ahipara holiday park is an excellent location for beach access, perhaps for golf fans to check out the adjoining golf links or plan for your Ninety Mile Beach excursion. It is recommended visitors join one of the many tour operators escorting visitors to explore Ninety Mile Beach and Cape Reinga. For visitors planning a trip to Cape Reinga allow two nights in Ahipara.
Ninety mile beach to Cape Reinga is where land meets sky and sea. You are aware of the immense ocean and the spit of land you are standing on. The beach is sand, driftwood and grasses forming a path to steer you to Cape Reinga. Your motorhome and/or vehicle is likely not able to traverse the sand. If you want to experience a drive along the beach join a tour. The holiday camp has brochures and is a pick up point for daily Cape Reinga tours. For the peak summer season forward bookings are strongly recommended to avoid disappointment.
You will be travelling from the popular tourist destinations of Waitangi, Pahia and Kerikeri to the less travelled Hokianga. The area is one of the poorer areas of New Zealand with relatively high unemployment. Unspoiled coastline, a warm welcome from the locals and an area of immense significance as the first area for human occupation in Aoteoroa New Zealand approximately 900 years ago. You will travel through sub-tropical rural communities and sleepy hamlets arriving in Opononi late afternoon.
Kohukohu is a historic settlement on the Hokianga harbour now home to a creative community of artists and craftspeople. The town buildings are bright, cheerful and festooned with window flower boxes, gardens full of oaks, willows and laden lemon trees. There are three galleries Galleries – Kohukohu.com for opening hours you will need to check several days before your intended arrival. In the peak season the galleries are usually open between 10.00am to 3.00pm otherwise by appointment. The abandoned wharf piles, the World War II memorial are atmospheric photo moments.
Kohokohu was the site of major kauri logging operations where entire hillsides were stripped of their trees. The first power timber mill was built in Kohukohu in 1879 by a Sydney firm, Greenfield and Stewart. The capacity of this mill was 4 million feet a year and was later expanded to 6 million feet a year. 1882 also saw the start of a regular steamship service to Auckland. In 1888 the Kauri timber Co. came into the scene and established logging operations. Kohukohu was to become the largest mill in the Southern Hemisphere. Acres of land were reclaimed by sawdust and the little bay in the centre of the town was completely filled in, the mill built on it and sawdust spread out far into the harbour. Today there is very little evidence of the timber milling, the ship building and accompanying industry. A walk around the main street has buildings and sites with photographs and plaques describing the activities that took place.
From Kohokohu it is a ten minute drive to the Hokianga ferry terminal.
VISIT DURATION: 1 hour
Hokianga Ferry Services, Fullers GreatSights operates the Hokianga vehicle ferry between Rawene and Kohukohu. The short crossing on the Kohu Ra Tuarua ferry links the two sides of the remote Hokianga Harbour on Northland’s west coast. The ferry does not take bookings.
TIP: The ferry, in the summer peak season can have a considerable queue of vehicles wanting to cross at any one time. The ferry can take a maximum of PAYMENTYou can buy tickets on board the ferry. Pay in cash or use the on-board ATM machine which accepts EFTPOS cards and VISA or MASTERCARD credit cards.
Quirky Rawene, departure point for Hokianga ferry and home of The Boat Shed Cafe. Allow several hours to amble around Rawene, popping into the local cafe / art gallery, the puzzle shop and simply walking around the town absorbing the sense of community. There is a wetland mangrove boardwalk just a short walk from Clendon House well worth a detour.
Shops such as:
Clendon House Clendon House | Northland | Places to Visit | Places, check for details as it is not open every day. Clendon Cottage, a pretty cottage was built in the bustling 1860s by James Clendon, a trader, shipowner and magistrate. After his death, his 34-year-old Māori widow Jane was left with fourteen children and an enormous debt of £5000.
Nothing like determination and an entrepreneurial spirit. Jane managed to clear the debt and her descendants remained in the house until 1972. It’s now administered by Heritage New Zealand
VISIT DURATION: 2 hours
Getting there from Rawene, drive about 10 km past the Rawene turnoff towards Opononi, through the settlement of Whirinaki and at the foot of the saddle on the Opononi side you will see Koutu Loop Road on your right. It is best to do the walk within two hours either side of low tide. Follow the signs for Koutu Boulders. 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. The walk is an easy one for all ages, best done within the two hours either side of low tide. At any time you can walk along the beach but at high tide it can be a bit of a scramble.
VISIT DURATION: 1 – ½ hours
Copthorne Hotel and Resort Hokianga | 4-Star Hotel Hokianga By the quiet water’s edge of the harbour, the Copthorne Hotel and Resort Hokianga, and its 33 rooms and suites have beachfront views.
Rawene Accommodation at Rawene Holiday Park, Hokianga Harbour. Rawene Holiday Park is situated on a hilltop, sheltered by native bush with views over the Hokianga Harbour and impressive sunsets. Rawene Holiday Park offers a wide range of accommodation options.
A guided tour with Awesome Adventures Hokianga: Adventure Tourism New Zealand will provide an exhilitering start to the day as you will explore the harbour on jet skis. Either join a standard tour or arrange a private tour with owner operator Len and discover Len’s ancestral home. The three and half hour jet ski tour goes to Horeke, views Koutu Boulders, Mangungu Mission House with a final stop at the Boat Shed Cafe, Rawene. Longer tours can be arranged on request.
Jet Ski tour
Either under your newly acquired jet skiing skills or the careful supervision of Lenny and his team leader, Antoinette your adventure takes up the harbour through native mangroves and up the river estuaries. Your first stop is Horeke is the second oldest town in New Zealand and, more importantly the site of the first pub. Situated on the shorefront it served ship builders working in the first commercial shipbuilding industry based in Horeke. You will hear stories about New Zealand’s first documented murder trial at the nearby Methodist Mission. On your way to Horeke you will hear the story of Cannibal Jacks, Hokianga’s first European settler. Among his most notorious exploits was practising cannibalism. Jack’s life in Hokianga was at Martin’s Point. Immersed in Maori culture and practice he was fluent in Te Reo. There is very little physical evidence of his occupation however your imagination is all you require while listening to the narrative of Jack’s life in Aotearoa.
Records of a pub selling beer dates to the 1820’s. Although, there is the inconvenient fact that the pub did not have a liquor licence, that did not stop business. The interesting part of this story is that the Northland settlements already had bureaucrats issuing liquor licences. The Horeke Tavern was also the site of the first government organised hui. Governor Hobson trudged for six day to reach Horeke with the freshly inked Treaty of Waitangi. The balance of the Northland chiefs signed at the nearby Mangungu Mission station and then it was celebration time in the pub grounds.
“This meeting has been described as the ‘first government funded hui’, setting the scene for today’s sausage roll morning teas in government departments. The Postal Service also has its origins here, with a horseback service between the Hokianga and the Bay of Islands starting three months after the Treaty signing.” as described by NZPlaces. Definitely a place to visit to check out where New Zealanders got the idea of sausage rolls as a food group.
A hill top stunning view over the Hokianga Harbour is a strategic position for the newly established Wesleyan Mission station in 1828. The mission station is the site of the largest signing of the Treaty of Waitangi with over 70 chiefs in attendance. It was estimated over 3,000 were witnesses on 12th February 1840. Another first for Aotearoa was the importation of honey bees, with the subsequent contribution of bees to the pollination of newly introduced fruit trees and development of a pastoral economy. The first grapevines were also introduced at Mangungu, and throughout time our wine industry has developed into our 9th largest export.
Mangungu Mission Station visit, via the harbour, is dependent on the tide. You will hear stories about how an ancestor Thomas Cassidy played a part in the signing of the treaty and his role in the establishment of Catholicism here in Aotearoa. The significance of trans-Maori sovereignty and the importance of identity and culture in current society.
Mangungu Mission Station location Motukiore Road, 3km from Horeke on the shore of the Hokianga Harbour.
Closed for Winter for scheduled maintenance
Summer opening hours to be determined.
Admission fees apply
Your jet ski tour finishes with a return to Opononi jetty. Lenny can assist with advice where to go and what to see depending on your interests. Remember to check our guide to Hokianga for inspiration.
Arai-te-uru Recreation Reserve Hokianga Heads area: Places to go in Northland. Anature reserve in Opononi. Absolutely spectacular views over the harbour and the wild west coast. A short walk leads to the site of an old signal station built to assist ships making the treacherous passage into the Hokianga. It closed in 1951 due to a decline in ships entering the harbour. A track also heads down to picturesque little Martin’s Bay. Arai Te Uru is the name of the Taniwha which guards the harbour entrance with its sister Taniwha Niwa who stands guard on the opposite shore.
Five ships had been shipwrecked in the late 1820’s. This led to merchant seaman John Martin, who had made Hokianga his home, feel something should be done to warn ships of the sand bars and dangers facing entry into the harbour. Together with local chief Moetara a pilot service, in the 1830’s was set up. He erected a signalling mast on the high point of the South Head. According to some accounts he was not paid for the service until he was officially appointed. The mast remained operational until 1951 when technology and decreased harbour use led to closure. The final flagstaff still can be found in Opononi above the R.S.A. hall in Opononi, and the last signal light is in the local museum.
Who needs a statue of Nelson when New Zealand’s got world class military strategist like Rahiri. He was a paramount chief in the seventeenth century. A monument to Rahiri stands on the summit of Whiria mountain. As does the site of a strategic Pa. The position made the Pa impregnable and the area was never conquered. Rahiri descendents are Ngapuhi from the two marriages that cemented his position in the north. For more historical information consult Rāwiri Taonui, ‘Ngāpuhi’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, Ngāpuhi. Story by Rāwiri Taonui, published 8 Feb 2005, updated 3 Mar 2017.
Excerpt from Encyclopedia of New Zealand, “Ngāpuhi by Rāwiri Taonui… The magical light from Te Ramaroa mountain first guided Kupe into Hokianga Harbour. Many other sacred mountains support the house of Ngāpuhi, a people who played a central role in Māori history. Lands, Ngāpuhi are the largest tribe in New Zealand. Their heartland lies at Te Tai Tokerau (the northern tide) in the far north. The territory stretches west to east from Hokianga Harbour to the Bay of Islands, and southward to Maunganui Bluff and Whāngārei. The following chant likens the lands of Ngāpuhi to a traditional house:”
FREE TIME TO EXPLORE AREAS OF INTEREST. CHECK WEEKEND IN HOKIANGA FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION OF THINGS TO DO IN HOKIANGA
The forest giants are on view today. DOC describes,” Waipoua, and the adjoining forests of Mataraua and Waima, make up the largest remaining tract of native forest in Northland. Most of Northland’s ancient forest cover has been lost to saw and fire, plundered for the precious timber of the kauri tree or cleared for farmland. However the forests are now under the protection of the Department of Conservation.
Waipoua is home to the kauri, one of the world’s mightiest trees. The largest kauri reach more than 50 metres tall, have trunk girths up to 16 metres, and sprang from seed as long as 2,000 years ago.” Waipoua Forest: Places to go in Northland.
Watch the Footprints Waipoua video to learn about the significance of kauri trees in Waipoua.
Stop kauri dieback and protect kauri
Waipoua Forest: Places to go in Northland Remember to check the website for updates on Kauri dieback disease which is limiting access to walks and tramping tracks. Allow 30 minutes for walks.
Trounson Kauri Park
Self-guided boardwalk with the requisite kauri dieback station for rigorous footwear cleaning is a safe way to immerse yourself in a native forest where the only danger is tripping up as you constantly peer upwards. A highlight is the 1200 year old specimen. There are excellent information panels throughout the walk describing the canopy layers and the flora and fauna. There is a weta box for all ages to view. Kūkupa (New Zealand pigeon) are abundant and you are likely to hear and see them. North Island brown kiwi, fantails, pied tits and other forest birds are also resident with reintroduction of other birds planned for the future. Kauri, taraire, kauri grass, kiekie, neinei and ferns dominate the vegetation.
Fallen kauri and the resulting light wells, clear streams and filmy ferns are among the interesting features of Trounson. Kauri roots are extremely sensitive to trampling. Stay on the track at all times to ensure no damage is done to these magnificent trees, and to help prevent the spread of kauri dieback disease.
VISIT DURATION: 1 hour
Nelson’s Kaihu Kauri workshop and retail premises Nelson’s Kaihu Kauri, Dargaville: Kauri Furniture | Timber Gallery is a one stop shop destination for all things swamp kauri.
A great place for last minute gifts.
The shop has an excellent video describing the process of harvesting swamp kauri.
Dargaville Museum Te Whare Taonga Tuna Tahi is an excellent regional resource and must stop for visitors interested in past stories and happenings. The location offers panoramic views of the area, the northern Wairoa River and farmland. The highlights are:
The museum uses standard exhibition displays yet the enthusiasm of the museum staff outweigh any collection display shortcomings.
As with any collection, updating and restoration require funding which, in the case of museums is mostly in short supply. The museum has extensive genealogical records for the district. The museum has a gift shop specialising in swamp kauri objects.
VISIT DURATION: 1-2 hours
Departing from the museum you are on the run back to Auckland.