Turn back time, relax, reconnect - with yourself and the elements, this is what New Zealand was in times past. Well off the beaten track, the farmland and bush, estuary and beaches of Whananaki provide laid back coastal beauty where the classic kiwi bach is not a threatened species.
Turn off State Highway One just North of Hikurangi and follow the Whananaki North Road to the tiny, peaceful village of Whananaki - a store, a school, a camping ground and a few homes, along with stunning estuary and coastline. Examples of the iconic ‘kiwi bach’ line both sides of the estuary. Te Wairahi Stream flows from the northwest into Whananaki Inlet, a wide tidal estuary which separates Whananaki from Whananaki South. The estuary mudflats evolve through to a mangrove ecosystem which providing shelter, food and a nursery for many species of birds, fish and other marine creatures.
Whananaki South is accessible via the pedestrian footbridge (no vehicle traffic) or by vehicle via Hailes Road. However there are no accommodation or camping options and we recommend you base yourself at Whananaki North.
When the swell is right, Sandy Bay, on the ocean side of the sand spit, provides outstanding surfing.
THE LONGEST FOOTBRIDGE
For something completely fun, check out the Whananaki Footbridge, the longest footbridge in the Southern Hemisphere. Park outside the community hall (grab an ice cream from the store) and follow the track that runs alongside the school. The bridge spans the estuary and is a popular fishing spot for locals and visitors alike. If you’re lucky, you’ll see sting ray in the water beneath!
Barrons Beach and Kings Beach
Access these sublime ocean side beaches by foot through Motutara Farm Camping Ground – vehicle access is limited – check with the Camping Ground office first.
A safe white sand beach with pohutukawa for shade and grass for comfortable seating. Enjoy this beach by camping at the DOC camping ground located just behind the pohutukawa trees.
Accessible only by foot or water, take the Watkin Powell Track, a short 400 metre walk, at Otamure Bay that winds up through manuka , flax and cabbage trees, and then down to the lovely and secluded Tauwhara Bay.
With its cluster of holiday homes, Moureeces is a popular destination for many locals. The beach is a long sweep of sand with rocky heads at either end and often provides great surfing.
Mangaiti aka Brooker’s Bay aka Woolshed Bay
Just north of Moureeces, this tiny shingle beach bay is accessible via a small reserve. The local farming Barron family call it Brooker's Bay after the early settlers there. Others called it Woolshed Bay because the Barron’s woolshed was situated there in the valley.
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.
Whananaki Coastal Walk
From Whananaki North village, the entire track follows the coast south to Sandy Bay, Tutukaka – a good three hour walk one way. But of course, you can do part of the track and then turn back. The views are extraordinary and you can also 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 September 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.
The area was named by Puhi, the captain of the legendary waka (canoe) Mataatua. Whananaki means "kicking" in Maori, and the name arose because mosquitoes caused Puhi to sleep restlessly.