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10 reasons to stop in Waipu, Bream Bay: what to see & do 2021 - 2022

Waipu Village @booking

In this Article

State Highway one is a road where detours should be compulsory. You will miss out on the lesser known corners of New Zealand if you zip past on your way North. Bird watchers have several quiet places to find fairy terns, surfers a memorising length of white sandy beach, a fascinating corner where Scottish settlers forged their identity as New Zealanders and a great place for a picnic. Bream Bay is worth a detour, Bream Bay is a great summer holiday destination.


Location of Bream Bay

Ruakaka Shorebird wildlife reserve, New Zealand
Ruakaka Shorebird wildlife reserve

Best time to visit

Summer for the water sports and beach activities. Year round for museums and markets.




Ruakaka Wildlife Reserve is quiet, mud flats, tidal flow of water and lots of deliciousness for shorebirds to wade through. The fairy tern is the poster bird for endangered species with between 40 – 50 pairs documented. A diminutive free wheeling bird that Ruakaka champions. The estuary is the larder for the wildlife, low tide is the best time for viewing. Bird watching hotspots include Waipu river mouth and estuary. The area is significant as the nesting area for New Zealand Dotterel, Variable Oystercatcher and New Zealand Fairy Tern. Our favourite visitors to New Zealand Reef Heron, Ryebill, Caspian Term are frequently seen. The Waipu Wildlife Reserve is well worth visiting for bird twitchers.

Raukaka Wildlife Reserve, Fairy Tern, less than 50 pairs
@Waipu Horse Adventures
@Waipu Horse Adventures

Horse riding through the surf along Uretiti Beach or a canter on the packed sand of low tide is exhilarating.

Waipu Horse Adventures offers beginner riders a chance to explore the countryside on horseback with an experienced guide. There is the option of inland treks to experience the bush and the hills from the back of a horse.

Click here for further details or to book a beach moonlight ride, Waipu Horse Adventures.


Waipu Caves, limestone forms, an underground lake glimmering in the torch reflections, glow worms and stalagmites to gawp at. The caves are free to enter however check Department of Conservation caving guidelines before embarking on your foray into caving. This is a family activity where holiday adventures begin. Waipu Caves Track: Waipu area, Northland region. There is a picnic area making this a great day trip.

  • Length: 2 km
  • Duration: 1 ½ hours
  • Grade: Easy
  • Facilities: Picnic tables, toilet
Waipu Caves @New Zealand experience
Waipu Caves @New Zealand experience
Piroa Falls @Nz Frenzy North Island, New Zealand
Piroa Falls @Nz Frenzy North Island, New Zealand

Swim under a waterfall, your trip doesn’t get any better than this.  A short 10 minute walk through native bush, across the Ahuroa River bridge with several shallow swimming holes and deep swimming pools of water where the falls drop.  Another perfect place for families to explore.

NOTE: There are several steps without handrails.

NOTE: the narrow gravel road means care needs to be taken when parking the car.  There are no toilets at the Falls and access to the falls during periods of heavy rainfall is not recommended.  For directions and further information check here Piroa Falls Track: Waipu, Northland region


Shopping, markets and crafted local artisan ware. Waipu Village is an ideal spot for a bit of retail therapy. The small village punches above its weight in gift shops. The Waipu Boutique Sunday Market, held every second Sunday of the month from 9.00 – 1.00pm has the standard fare from art & craft, food producers, cafes and live music from stalls spilling out from Coronation Hall and along the main street. Waipu Boutique Sunday Market is a drawcard for Aucklanders and the Waikato district looking for a reason to get out of town. Just don’t eat too much before arriving as the food vendors’ wares are delicious. And check out market temptations in the district. Markets in Waipu, Marsden Cove, mangawhai, whangarei Bream Bay, temptations galore for serious market shoppers.

@Marsden Cove Market
@Waipu Boutique Sunday Market & Cafe

Waipu Museum is a heritage repository for all things Scottish. A genealogical record of the Nova Scotia immigration story of 1860’s is thoroughly researched and presented in the slick innovative Museum located opposite the Coronation Hall on the main street. There are personal narratives of the immigrant experience, bag pipes including video recording and a plethora of artefacts, memorabilia and objects telling the story of the emerging New Zealand identity. A great gift shop for those who missed the market. The Waipu Museum: Home is extraordinary for a small community to achieve the internationally recognised standard of excellence in storytelling. For heritage and history buffs a must visit destination. For families a great place to linger and introduce younger members of the group to a museum experience that is not boring.

Waipu Museum exhibit
Waipu Museum Celtic cross
Ruakaka Beach. Bream Bay, New Zealand @Bernard Spragg
Ruakaka Beach, Bream Bay @Bernard Spragg

A day at the beach, summer by the sea Bream Bay is definitely a place that matches summer holiday expectations. As the local online resource commented the only issue you face is which beach to choose. For families there are surf lifeguards on duty, rock pools and estuaries to splash in, there are wide open surf beaches, Beaches of Bream Bay.

The swath of white sand and the adjoining dunes make for a varied landscape of sun, sand and beach. There is a campground right at the beach for those who can’t get enough of a day at the beach. There are toilets and cafes in the vicinity of the popular summer haunts.


Water sports range from stand up paddleboard, kayaking, diving and boat cruises. A day on the ocean exploring a favourite diving spot is The Hen and Chicken Islands, with visibility over 20 metres is suitable for all diving levels. Check with Hen and Chicken IslandsNew for details. There is no landing on the Islands DOC regulations, People are urged to stay well clear of offshore islands where landing is not permitted. There is also signage at local boat ramps to indicate the ‘no landing’ policy for the Hen and Chicken Islands. Boat users are urged to be diligent in ensuring their boats are clean and checked regularly for stow-aways on board their vessels such as rodents and insects.

Spearfishing the Hen & Chicken Islands, New Zealand @Wettie TV
Spearfishing the Hen & Chicken Islands @Wettie TV

Fishing from the beach surf casting, long lining or kite fishing is a popular year round activity. Small boats can be launched from the numerous boat ramps next to the beach. Bream Bay was named by Captain Book for the numerous Snapper, Gurnard and Kahawai. Check out what the local fishing club has to say about their area Fishing in Waipu. Lots of safety tips and local advice about the best secret spot to fish and how to get there.

Fishing in Waipu, New Zealand @Paul’s Fishing Kites

NZ Refining supplies the majority of fuel for New Zealand’s petrol stations. There is a visitor information centre (free entry) open daily from 10.00am with promotional material. A place for families to visit and understand the process of oil extraction and refining and the place the industry currently plays in New Zealand.

Waipu Information Plaque

The journey is worth it.


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