1. CULTURE & HERITAGE
Whangarei waterfront marina is very attractive with restaurants, cafes, a wide boardwalk choreographed to capture the best viewpoints and narrate the story of human occupation. Indulge in a melting ice cream, hire a scooter, walk or stroll along the marine precinct, perhaps pop into the National Clock Museum to check out all things ticking and the local visitor centre for up to date information. The marina walk is part of the Hatea Loop trail and is suitable for all fitness levels.
2. GARDENS & PARKS
Whangarei Quarry Garden is sheer delight at the conversion of an industrial ugly quarry into a magical garden space with picnic areas, spectacular views of the repurposed gardens and the city beyond. The deep still waters of the quarry lake are backdropped by the rock face quarry cuts making a dramatic contrast. The garden is supported by the hard work by volunteers and dependent by koha (donations). Look for the sculptures interpreting the history of the site and the artful use of industrial remains as decorative pieces in the gardens. There is a cafe / restaurant as well as a gift shop. Whangarei is also home to Botanica Gardens which specialise in ferns and orchids. The Fernery boasts one of New Zealand’s largest collections of native ferns found in New Zealand and its offshore islands. It has three shade houses and a linking tunnel, ponds and a small waterfall and courtyard area. The central pond is home to three large eels which are fed every second or third day. Within the fernery is the Finn Bruce Filmy Fern House. This is a purpose-built adobe brick house that is home to a small collection of New Zealand native filmy ferns.
Discover Parihaka Scenic Reserve and Mair Park and wander along the Hatea River up to the lookout for sweeping city views. The site is a significant Maori pa historic site with broad views of approaching tribal groups. There are several walking trails through the 143 hectare reserve. After a brisk climb you are rewarded with a spectacular rock carving of Mount Parihaka life force as well as the large obelisk of Whangarei’s war memorial.
Packard Motor Museum is a must visit destination for motor heads, lovers of all things that start with petrol. The extraordinary collection ranges from over 60 Packard vehicles, lawnmowers, heavy earthmoving equipment, fire engines, a plethora of objects from 120 potato peelers to nuts, bolts and screws to repair the numerous vintage motor bikes. If you are lucky Fenton will crank the Ford T car and the sound of one of the first commercial cars will fill the warehouse. Then the joy of a vintage motorbike being kick started is another highlight. The mission of the museum is to show the changes in design and technology from horse drawn vehicles through to motor vehicles and heavy machinery that made NZ what it is today. This charitable trust encompasses a vast collection of vintage cars and early heavy machinery housed in 4 large sheds is a place where petrol heads can get lost. And, there are two volunteers whose job is to dust and polish the gleaming vehicles, be careful to avoid the dusting rags as you might have an unexpected job.
5. CULTURE & HERITAGE BRIDGES
Bridges, Whangarei district. People who love bridges then Whangarei delivers with two magnificent interpretations of the landscape. Te Matau a Pohe (a lifting bascule road bridge over the Hatea River) with its fish hooks reaching up and the Kotuitui Whiti foot and cycle bridge over the Waiarohia Stream. The footbridge symbolism is a Ko-Maori digging stick symbolism for the steel piles and the stainless steel woven mesh sides are a fishing net. Both bridges are connections on the Hatea Loop 4.2 km walking shared trail. Dogs on leashes, cyclists and walkers pass shops and galleries of the Town Basin.
6. NATURE WATERFALLS
Whangarei Falls is a special treat for those with a disability as viewing platforms are wheelchair accessible. While the Falls are part of the mass tourism circuit the landscaping, the various walks and the artfully constructed car parks contribute to a sense of space and quiet. An iconic waterfall with countless glorious photographs of the spectacular drop of over 26 metres from basal cliffs. There are picnic areas and toilet facilities at the well appointed reserve.
AH Reed Memorial Park is a remnant of the original Northland kauri forest. Visitors are privileged with views of kauri from the canopy walk where the giants of the forest are protected from kauri dieback disease and feet trafficking on their root system.
The canopy walk is over the Waikoromiko stream, is 14 metres above ground and over 70 metres long. The park is a local favourite with dogs on a leash, people enjoying the cool bush in the heat of summer. There are plaques throughout the park describing the flora and fauna.
8. NATURE WATERFALLS
Waterfalls and Whangarei, the district has a number of distinct waterfalls for photo moments. For the energetic is another magical waterfall that is temperamental in summer with diminished water flow. Paranui Falls (located in AH Reed Memorial Park) is worth the effort in early spring — mid summer to view a 23 metre drop. There is no access to the base of the falls.
For waterfall buffs Wairau Falls (approximately 24 km from the city centre) is another waterfall with great views from the carpark. The 80 km Wairau River was a major transport link as well as a food source. The waterfall site was a defensive position for locals against intertribal insertions. This is another waterfall best viewed in early spring due to the hydro-electric power station influencing water flow in summer. The wide river spills in a block form dropping 7 metres with the thundering roar of a river in full flight in winter, early spring.
9. NATURE BEACHES
Tutukaka Coastal road through Ngunguru passes picture perfect beaches, coves and bays where the visitor holiday experience is created. Mature pohutukawa trees fringe shallow water where kayaking picnics by the water are a given. The Ngunguru sandspit is one of the surviving unmodified sand spits with rare bird species, access is by boat.
A special moment is forged between you and the landscape as the Sandspit is an excellent example of an unmodified sand barrier beach and dune field developed between a tidal estuary and a broad open bay. Then the road winds its way to Tutukaka marina and access to the Poor Knight Islands, a mecca for divers and deep sea fishing fans.
10. WILDLIFE BIRDS
Wildlife recovery programmes always need our help. Whangarei Native Bird Recovery Centre is a special place inviting visitors and locals to check out what is required to support kiwis and other native birds injured either by natural causes or human interaction. The centre is run by voluntary donations. Recovered birds are rehabilitated for release into their natural habitat.