This was the kickstart of our adventures across Northland earlier this summer. We’ve heard so much about Whangarei having endless options for sight-seeing, walks and beautiful beaches that we made sure to stay for a couple of days to allow ourselves a decent amount of time to explore the area.
I’m so glad we did, because now that we’ve been, we honestly cannot wait to be back.
It’s a relaxing 2-hour drive up north from Auckland city, making it your next ideal weekend getaway if you haven’t been. I recommend staying two nights at least to give yourself enough time to explore, or even to just sunbathe and surf because this place is ideal for rest and relax.
Have a chat with locals to find out their favourite places; our conversations with our holiday campsite owner led us to discovering pretty mean recommendations and important timings that some places should be visited to get the best views.
A walk through the Town Basin and catch a bus to Whangarei Falls.
Located in the heart of the city, the Town Basin is a vibrant and family-friendly place to be with restaurants, museums, galleries, playgrounds and shops. Stop by to grab a bite, or take a leisurely stroll along the harbour-side walkway to admire the Sculpture Trail.
Five minutes away lies the Whangarei Falls, definitely a waterfall worth stopping for. There’s a few lookout areas and a short walk down some steps to an open space that’s great for picnics or photography shots; you could always hop onto a bus to get you back into town.
This waterfall holds some bittersweet memories as watch my drone crashed into a tree here, heh.
Cruising along the Tutukaka Coast, we found the Mermaid Pools.
Spend a day driving along the Tutukaka Coast, and you’ll be spoiled with beautiful coastal views of white sand beaches and blue oceans. This is where you get access to the Poor Knights Island, considered as New Zealand’s best places to dive; this is a great reason for our return in the future.
We stopped at Matapouri beach specifically to hunt for the famous Mermaid Pools. We arrived to very bad weather, but our patience paid off as the rain and clouds were completely taken over by sunshine after an hour or so for us to begin our walk.
The access to the pools are on the far left of Matapouri beach. Expect to do a 30-minute climb up a slippery mud trail, followed by a rocky descent to get yourself to the pools. This is where timing is key; the tides come in pretty quickly, so make your way earlier during the day to avoid missing out.
Exploring Abbey Caves.
On the outskirts of Whangarei lies Abbey Caves, a limestone outcrop that we were curious to check out. There are three different caves to explore in the area, although the track was very wet during that time of the year.
Be equipped with proper footwear, and beware of electric fencing as you go along the path.
Conquering Mount Manaia at the Whangarei Heads.
Another scenic drive to go for would be the Whangarei Heads that equally boasts of beautiful trails and walks, beachside cafes and fantastic sunset views. We were looking at hiking options when our campsite owner insisted that views up Mount Manaia are worth every bit of the 2-hour climb.
He was certainly right, clear skies that evening gave us aerial views of the city below us!
If hiking isn’t your thing, get yourself a hot pie at any local cafe and head over to a beach for an afternoon nap; we pretty much chilled at Ocean beach after all that walking.
Honestly, we were quite sorry to continue on our journey through Northland. I wouldn’t think twice about returning to thoroughly explore the coastal routes. Summer time would be the best time to visit Whangarei, when it’s all about the sun, sea and sands.
What are you waiting for, it’s now or never!