A drive along the Whangärei Heads road is one of the most scenic road trips imaginable. The road hugs the harbour and meanders through Pohutukawa fringed bays, providing stunning vistas of the area’s distinctive volcanic outcrops. The road ends at the beautiful white sands and dunes of Ocean Beach. The whole peninsula is a wonderland and taking some time out is a must do.
The Bream Head Scenic Reserve is classified as an outstanding ecosystem which supports a diversity of species, contains unique archaeological, historical and landscape features. It represents the largest area of coastal pohutukawa-broadleaf forest remaining in Northland, and one of the best in the country. The area is an important kiwi habitat, where no dogs are allowed.
The Whangarei Harbour as long been a special place, its bountiful waters laced with marine life from simple shellfish to dolphin and orca. Channels which once provided passage for Maori canoes and sailing ships, now host cargo vessels, fishing boats and pleasure craft.
A short drive from the city centre, Onerahi is a residential suburb with a small shopping centre. It is the location of the Whangarei airport and offers some great vantage points for impressive views down the Whangarei Harbour and to Matakohe / Limestone Island. The Onerahi foreshore has grassed areas for relaxing in the shade of a pohutukawa tree on a sunny day, a kids’ playground, jetty for fishing and ramp for easy launching of boats and kayaks.
The Waimahanga Walkway (walk or bike) takes you through a rich, diverse ecology of mangrove forests that grow between sea level and the high tide line. If the tide is out, you’ll be able to see their aerial roots reaching up out of the mud. It will take about 30 minutes to walk one way.
ONERAHI & WAIMAHANGA CYCLE / WALKWAYS
A shared six kilometre route that connects the Hätea Loop Walkway to Onerahi and the Waimahanga Walkway, a 45 minute ramble over a former railway route that passes through the rich and diverse ecology of a mangrove forest.
MATAKOHE / LIMESTONE ISLAND
Originally a Maori pa site, the island has also been used as a farm and limestone quarry that supported a small township. However, mostly due to a lack of natural water supply, the island was largely uninhabited by 1918. Ruins of all these past activities remain, however the island has now become a special project for thousands of volunteers who cross the channel to assist in the regeneration of a native forest habitat (over 155,000 trees have been planted to date) to provide a safe home for threatened native fauna including kiwi, banded rail, New Zealand dotterel, moko skink and forest gecko. The island is a ‘Kiwi creche’ for the raising of kiwi birds that can then be released into the wider Whangarei Heads habitat.
CALL OF THE WILD
Backyard Kiwi is a project that celebrates the partnership between the kiwi and people of Whangarei Heads. It works to ensure that predator control, kiwi monitoring, landowner liaison and engagement, carries on to keep our kiwi population alive and growing. Visiting in the early months of winter is a great idea – kiwi can be heard calling almost every night before they start nesting. When you visit Whangarei Heads, dogs of all shapes and sizes should be kept on a leash and not allowed to roam - night and day.
This harbourside picnic spot is just a short drive from the city centre and is great for swimming, sailing and windsurfing. There is a great spot for line fishing off the rocks at the point of the beach.
The Pines Golf Club is an 18 hole golf course with spectacular harbour views. Visitors are welcome.
PARUA BAY MARINA
The Parua Bay Marina provides launching for trailer boats and easy access to the inner harbour, the harbour mouth, Bream Bay and the coast to the north. Just around the corner, the historic Parua Bay Tavern, riginally a dairy company then converted to a high class hotel in the 1940’s, provides refreshments and meals on the waters edge.
PARUA BAY VILLAGE
The Parua Bay village is a small, active community with shops and great cafes. Events are held throughout the year, many based on the strong creative community.
REOTAHI BEACH & WALKWAYS
The beach settlement of Reotahi perches on the lower slopes of Mt Aubrey and marks the start of a series of great scenic walkways. A 30 minute stroll around the harbour’s edge takes in views of the Whangärei Harbour Marine Reserve. More demanding tracks climb Mt Aubrey (two hours) with spectacular harbour views.
WHANGAREI HARBOUR MARINE RESERVE
The reserve has two sites, one at Waikaraka and the Reotahi site that encompasses Motukaroro/Passage Island. Here you can swim among large boulders, explore rock pools, kayak and snorkel around the island. The reserve is an important nursery for a diverse range of fish and marine life. There are strong tidal currents and flippers and a wetsuit are recommended if swimming to the island.
NORFOLK AVENUE LOOKOUT
Turn off Reotahi Road for a dramatic view of the Marsden Point oil refinery and the outer reaches of the harbour. There is a children’s playground and picnic area.
EARLY SETTLERS MEMORIAL
A plaque, located at the base of Mount Manaia, is dedicated to the memory of the district’s early European settlers, Scottish Highlanders with the names of McLeod, McGregor and Urquhart who gave their names to some of the area’s beaches. Find out more about their epic migration at the Waipü Museum.
MOUNT MANAIA WALKWAY
The majestic rocky outcrop of Mount Manaia dominates the skyline, towering 460 metres above the Whangarei Harbour. A vigorous one hour climb up through beautiful native forest takes you to the top of the summit for breathtaking 360 degree views.
In Mäori legend, the five key rock formations represent five people: the paramount chief Manaia, his two children, Pito the beautiful wife he mischievously stole from the chief Hautatu, and Hautatu in pursuit in the rear brandishing his mere (stone weapon) ready to strike his wife down. Legend says the figures were all turned to stone as the God of Thunder spoke from the skies.
This pleasant sandy beach is popular with families for its sheltered swimming, picnic areas and playground. Taurikura has a natural volcanic causeway or ‘jetty’ that projects from the shore into the middle of the bay. In Mäori legend, this causeway is an unfinished work by the great chief Manaia who had a lover across the harbour. He tired of her before it was finished and the bridge was never completed.
URQUHARTS & WOOLSHED BAYS
Urquharts and Woolshed Bays are located at the outermost reaches of the Whangärei Harbour. Urquhart’s has safe boat launching and the carpark at the end of the bay leads to a range of walkways including the secluded Smugglers Bay.
BUSBY HEAD & BREAM HEAD TRACK
From the Urquharts Bay carpark, an easy two hour loop walk takes you around Busby Head to Smugglers Bay, an idyllic and secluded white sandy beach. The walk passes a gun emplacement at Home Point, built during World War II as a defence against possible invasion. A shorter alternative is the 20 minute walk directly over farmland to Smugglers Bay.
BREAM HEAD SCENIC RESERVE / TE WHARA TRACK
The steep rocks which form Bream Head are the eroded remains of a range of volcanoes which erupted approximately 20 million years ago. Bream Head is one of the country’s premiere coastal forest reserves and a refuge for a variety
of rare flora and fauna, including kiwi. The track between Urquharts Bay and Ocean Beach takes six hours to walk one way and has magnificent coastal and harbour views. Shorter walks are available, such as the three-hour hike to Peach Cove.
There is a Department of Conservation hut at Peach Cove for overnight stays.
The imposing peninsula of Bream Head Scenic Reserve is of special significance to the Ngatiwai Iwi (tribe). The mountain, Te Whara, is revered as an ancestor and the area the tracks pass through is considered wahi tapu (a sacred place).
The beautiful and wild 5 kilometre long beach edges the pacific ocean and has powerful surf and dramatic sand dunes. Popular for surfing and body boarding or just relaxing. Dolphins are often seen just offshore. There are walks to the north and south of the beach. A memorial to commemorate the sinking of the only navy ship lost to enemy action in New Zealand waters during World War 2 can be seen at the lookout.
Pohutukawa trees, safe swimming, clear waters for snorkelling and rock pools for children to explore.
The inlets of the Taiharuru estuary provide a pristine example of Northland’s mangrove forests, a fascinating ecosystem that nature lovers will enjoy. Kayak the clear waters and get up close to the unique plants, fish, wildlife and birds.
This unique coastal community, a step back in time, has an estuary on one side and sandy surf beach on the other. Kayak the estuary or cross the long footbridge to Pataua North to enjoy the ocean-side beach.
According to Maori legend, the natural volcanic rock causeway disappearing into the sea at Taurikura, is an unfinished work for the great chief Manaia who had a lover across the harbour. Before it was finished he had tired of her and the bridge was never completed.