Whangarei is the warmest city in New Zealand, practically all tropical plants will grow here (as you can see in the Quarry Garden), the region also boasts more artists per head of population than any other in New Zealand. The diverse landscape includes 26 extinct volcanoes, magnificent viewpoints, amazing sea views, sweeping rural countryside, bizarre limestone formations, peaceful bush reserves, subtropical gardens etc.
A short distance from Whangarei are the scenic
Tutukaka Coast and the Whangarei Heads with dozens of gorgeous bays and beaches, from sheltered sandy coves to calm harbour bays to wild surf beaches, all within 30 minutes drive from town. The Poor Knights Islands on the Tutukaka Coast benefit from warm northerly currents and are teeming with marine life in their protected reserve, offering the best diving in New Zealand and the best subtropical diving in the world – a top 10 dive spot according to Cousteau!
Also on this page are the areas between Whangarei and the Bay of Islands and the beaches on the way from Auckland.
The marina in Whangarei is called Town Basin, this is where the Hatea river meets the Whangarei Harbour, with lots of nice Victorian houses and international yachts, don’t miss it.
Kayak trip in the Whangarei Town Basin, checking out those yachts.
Two Hawaiian ocean going canoes paid a visit to Whangarei during their world trip.
The second tourism hotspot – the 26 m Whangarei Falls, there’s a 20 min loop walk and a trail along the river to AH Reed Park and the Town Basin.
The Whangarei Falls after a storm.
A 500 year old Kauri tree in AH Reed Park, there’s also a canpoy walk and a second big tree.
The new bascule bridge over the river is pretty cool, the design is based on a fish hook and it’s name is Te Matau a Pohe.
The wonderful Whangarei Quarry Gardens, incredibly this was once a dump, all based on volunteer work.
One of the local shops advertises in style.
The carved city marae in Porowini Avenue.
Whangarei has a pretty cool library with magazines, newspapers and cafe – if it’s raining maybe?
Aerial view over Whangarei, the end of a coastal flight to the Bay of Islands.
Whale Bay on the Tutukaka Coast must be one of the prettiest bays in New Zealand, sheltered, very quiet thanks to the 10 min walk, also reachable from Matapouri Bay.
The Tutukaka Marina is the launch point for the Poor Knights Islands.
And that’s what the snorkelling’s like!
And here the boat is inside the biggest sea cave in the world (Rikoriko Cave)!
That’s the cave from outside, like an Italian grotto.
Walking to the Tutukaka Lighthouse (access from Landowner’s Lane).
Stunning native clematis along the Lighthouse Walk.
Tutukaka Harbour and Tutukaka Head Lighthouse from above during the coastal flight.
Matapouri Bay is one of these special places, lots of corners to explore and the walk to Whale Bay is great.
Whangaumu (or Wellington) Bay is the closest ocean beach on the Tutukaka Coast.
Ngunguru is the first seaside spot on the Tukukaka Coast, very pretty, with a big sandspit in front.
Tane Moana is a giant 1000 year old Kauri on the Tutukaka Coast, but the walk is a bit long.
Tutukaka is famous for big game fishing, here spectacular Marlins – I’d prefer to dive with them!
Ocean Beach is the superb finish of the Whangarei Heads drive, actually 7 kms long, great views from the sand dunes left and right.
And that’s the view from the sand dune on the right, the start of the Bream Head track.
Top of Bream Head, another extinct volcanoe and the highest around here. Either walk all the way to Smugglers Bay or make a loop via the Peach Cove carpark.
View towards the rocks underneath Bream Head from the water, this one’s called the ‘Old Woman’.
This is hidden Smugglers Bay, Lion Rock in the background leads towards Bream Head.
The wonderful loop walk around Smugglers Bay.
One of the best views of the Whangarei Heads: Mount Manaia, here halfway up the track, looking towards Urquhart Bay and the Smugglers Bay ridge.
The bush along the Mount Manaia track is one of the best, I spotted a Kaka parrot there.
Further up Mount Manaia, me on a bald rock over Taurikura, loved it!
Top of Mount Manaia, looking down to Mount Aubrey and McLeod Bay, totally worth the climb.
Little Munro Bay underneath Mount Manaia.
This is Mount Aubrey seen from Reotahi, it’s possible to walk all around this mountain or climb over it halfway.
Top of Mount Aubrey – Whangarei Heads! Amazing 360° view from the rock on top, the final climb is a bit tricky but the views are amazing!
This is the bush on the Mount Aubrey walk, ocean side.
If you’ve been to Ocean Beach there are other places to explore in the Whangarei Heads, such as Pataua South here.
Pataua South campground, in between the harbour and a beach called ‘Frogtown’.
Whangarei Heads shopping experience, here in Taurikura.
The natural Taurikura causeway, only at low tide.
The old ruins of the manager’s house on Limestone Island in the middle of Whangarei Harbour. Once New Zealand’s first cement factory, now a conservation heaven with rare animals and plants, this is where the local Kiwi chicks grow up before being released into the bush. Catch a cruise from the Town Basin to get there.
The Abbey Caves are a cool place to explore, either take a torch into the three wet caves and check out the glowworms or just walk the loop, this photo is taken in the magical Rock Forest.
Who would have thought to find a Lion Park in Whangarei! The famous New Zealand Lion Man and once established his park here, lots of white and Barbary lions and white tigers, pretty special. Zion from the Narnia films lives here!
Got pretty close to the cheetahs, at least the camera did.
North of Whangarei is Whananaki, with two settlement South (picture) and North. From Sandy Bay you can also walk to Whananaki.
Just north of Whangarei is Hikurangi, here a lovely little church.
Mimiwhangata is between Whananaki and Helena Bay (I got there via ‘Pig’s Head Road’…), a stunning peninsula but the adventurous road is not recommended for campervans.
Ngahau Bay is close to Helena Bay on the Old Russell Road.
Ruapekapeka Pa is a historic battle site near Kawakawa, where chief Kawiti survived a siege by the British for a whole 2 years – the beginning of trench warfare!
Th real highlight – of course – are the famous Hundertwasser toilets in Kawakawa, designed by the Austrian artist who lived nearby.
South of Whangarei Harbour is One Tree Point, here the view from the boat ramp, close to the new Marsden Cove Marina.
And even further south on 28 km long Bream Bay is Ruakaka Beach, a perfect short stop when travelling on Highway 1 (you can also stop at Uretiti Beach).