Whangarei Heads

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Whangarei Heads from the air

A drive along the Whangärei Heads road is one of the most scenic road trips imaginable. The road hugs the harbour and 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.

Local's Tips

The jetty at Urquharts Bay is ideal to take the kids sprat fishing. Pick up some handlines and bait and let them experience the thrill of fishing!

Bream Head Scenic Reserve

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 and no dogs are allowed.

Whangarei Harbour

The Whangarei Harbour bountiful waters are teeming 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.

Onerahi

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.

Onerahi & Waimahanga Cycle / Walkways

Walk or bike the shared six kilometre route that connects the Hätea Loop Walkway to Onerahi and the Waimahanga Walkway

The Waimahanga Walkway (walk or bike) rambles over a former railway route through a rich, diverse ecology of mangrove forests that grow between sea level and the high tide line. It will take about 30 minutes to walk one way.

Matakohe / Limestone Island

Originally a Maori pa site, this small island has been uninhabited since 1918. Ruins of past activities remain, however the island has now become a special project of regeneration of a native forest habitat 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 are then be released into the wider Whangarei Heads habitat.

Tamaterau

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.

Fore!

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, originally a dairy company then converted to a high class hotel in the 1940’s, provides refreshments and dining on the waters edge.

Parua Bay Village

The Parua Bay village is a small 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 other at Reotahi that encompasses Motukaroro/Passage Island. Swim among large boulders, explore rock pools, kayak and snorkel around the island. The reserve is a nursery for a diverse range of fish and marine life. There are strong tidal currents and fins and a wetsuit are recommended.

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

This 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 Waipu Museum.

Local's Tips

In Maori 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.

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.

Taurikura

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 Maori 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.

Urquhart & Woolshed Bays

Urquharts and Woolshed Bays are located on the outer reaches of the Whangarei Harbour. Urquhart’s has boat launching and park at the end of the bay to access a range of coastal walkways.

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 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).

Ocean Beach

The beautiful and wild 5 kilometre long beach edges the Pacific Ocean and has powerful surf and dramatic sand dunes. It is popular for surfing and body boarding or just relaxing. Dolphins are often seen just offshore. 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.

McGregors Bay

Enjoy gnarled ohutukawa trees, sheltered swimming, clear waters for snorkelling and rock pools for children to explore.

Taiharuru

The inlets of the Taiharuru estuary provide a pristine example of 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.

Pataua South

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.

Kiwi Call of the Wild

Backyard Kiwi works to ensure that predator control, kiwi monitoring, landowner liaison and engagement, keeps the kiwi population alive and growing. Visiting in the early months of winter and you may hear kiwi calling at night before they start nesting. When visiting Whangarei Heads, all dogs must be kept on a leash and not allowed to roam - night and day.