You can understand why the dolphins come to play once you’ve been to the Tutukaka Coast! Spectacular seascapes, sandy beaches, rock pools and surf, plus estuaries and the gem of Tutukaka Harbour.
Getting there, you drive through nature’s original quilt of bush and stream, embroidered with orchard, farm, forest and pockets of people. Offshore lie the Poor Knights Islands, below the surface a marine reserve and international diving treasure, above a nature reserve guarding many rare species, including the pre-historic tuatara.
Where the road meets the coast a village nestles on the shores of the estuary. Great for water sports. Hire a canoe and discover the beautiful estuary. Boat ramp, ski lane, general store, takeaways, garage, doctor’s surgery, motels, nine hole golf course, bowling greens, tennis courts, surfboard hire, café and local crafts.
A safe haven to mariners since Polynesian navigator Kupe first cruised past, the marina lies at the head of a beautiful natural harbour. These days it is a fishing port, a coastal waypoint for local and international yachties, and home to a fleet of private launches and charter boats for diving and fishing. The Whangarei Deep Sea Anglers Club displays trophies for several world record catches, and has a restaurant and bar overlooking the marina. An up market hotel with classy restaurant overlooks the marina. Also dive shop, café, pizzeria, small goods store and slipway.
Blue Maomao Arch, Poor Knights Islands.
Dive/Snorkel/Eco Tour the Poor Knights Islands
World renowned, the waters are a marine reserve, the islands a nature reserve (landing strictly prohibited). Spectacular water clarity and warm sub-tropical currents provide a rich, varied and abundant sea life. Steep cliffs fringing the island plummet 100 metres below sea level, broken by caves, archways and fissures which provide an ideal environment for sealife, and some of the world’s most spectacular diving. The Island’s unique flora and fauna, monitored and protected by the Department of Conservation, provide breathtaking beauty and amazing bird and insect life. Many native species now extinct or extremely rare on the mainland still find refuge on these islands. One of the world’s oldest living species, the Tutatara, and many other native lizards, giant weta, flax snail and giant centipede roam the understory. This unique ecosystem provides a glimpse of life in ancient New Zealand – 24km off the coast. Dive, snorkel, sightseeing and eco-tour trips depart Tutukaka daily.
Spectacular white sand coastal beach, plus restful estuary. Walkway via the coast to Whale Bay with splendid coastal views (20 minutes one way). Beach homes and store.
Whale Bay on the Tutukaka Coast.
Idyllic white sand, bush fringed beach. Walking access only from car park on Matapouri Road, through groves of ancient Puriri trees and, in October, Kowhai heavy with bright yellow flowers.
Popular coastal beach. Easy access. Body surf, picnic.
One of the east coast’s most popular board surfing beaches. At this point the road turns inland, through hills and pockets of highly productive farm land, heading for Hikurangi where it rejoins State Highway 1.
Small township, developed around coalmining industry of 1890. See the Hikurangi Museum for local history. Golf course.
Waro Limestone Reserve
Features interesting limestone formations, 40 million years old. Picnic tables and toilet. Lake in flooded old mine workings.
Ngunguru to Whangaumu Bay
A picturesque walk at low tide, 20 minutes one way, via the bays and bush of the ever changing Ngunguru Estuary.
Te Maika Headland
Tutukaka Block Road crosses this headland by the secluded harbour-side beaches of Church Bay, Kowharewa Bay and Pacific Bay, ending on the open coast at Whangaumu (Wellington’s) Bay.
A grassy track leads down to the beach where a short chain of rock stacks and shingle bars connects the mainland to Kukutauwhao (high tide can delay crossing at this point). Follow the trail up the island slopes to reach the lighthouse at the top, which commands magnificent coastal views. Access is via Tutukaka Reserve Road. Length 2km, time 1 hour return.
Whananaki Coastal Walkway
The walkway follows a well graded farm track, with excellent coastal views. The Capitaine Bougainville Monument can be reached from the walkway which ends at Whananaki South. Access from the end of McAuslin Road at Sandy Bay. Length 5km, 2 hours one way.
The Tutukaka Coast was populated by the Maori people of the Ngatiwai Tribe, whose successors live along the coast today and are regarded as the children of the seas. Ngatiwai has 32 sub-tribes, 3 are on the Tutukaka Coast – Ngati Rehua, Ngati Taka and Te Wai Ariki.
The first recorded European visit to the coast was an overnight stay in Tutukaka by the sailing ship Prince Regent in 1820. In 1837 the HMS Buffalo spent two months on the coast, cutting kauri spars for use by the British Admiralty. Water wheel driven machinery set up at Ngunguru by James Busby and Gilbert Mair in 1843 is thought to have been the first fully mechanized timber mill in the Southern Hemisphere.
Sailing scows loaded coal and timber produce here for the Auckland markets last century, while the bridge across the river is a memorial to fallen soldiers. There was once a village of 2,000 people servicing the coal mining industry at Kiripaka.
Upon arrival in the 1840’s, Europeans were welcomed by the chiefs of the district who were interested in education and gave land for the first school here. A Maori chief, Paratene Te Manu, was so keen to learn he sat among the pupils, complete with moko and cloak. Around this time, Ngunguru was a busy port with boats calling to pick up logs, farm produce, and coal. In the early 1900’s farming was the main industry. A horse and buggy collected the cream in cans, taking two days to reach Hikurangi for processing.
The Poor Knights Islands are the remains of a group of volcanoes which erupted 11 million years ago.
Poor Knights Islands
The Islands are the eroded remains of a group of volcanoes which erupted about 11 million years ago. Maori people of the Ngatiwai tribe settled here, however, after invasion and heavy fighting in the early 1800’s, the island’s were abandoned and declared tapu (sacred). Regenerating forest now covers the remains of Maori settlement.
Many years ago, Maori of the district saw a large floating object off the coast of Woolley’s Bay. They used Mr Woolley’s telescope to discover it was a dead whale. All the men and canoes available towed it into the little bay, now known as Whale Bay.