Whangarei Harbour has 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.
Mount Manaia looking towards Whangarei City
A 35km road trip to Whangarei Heads takes you along the indented northern shore of this wonderful waterway, the largest enclosed harbour on New Zealand’s east coast.
If you’ve only got a few minutes to enjoy the Whangarei Harbour, circumnavigate Whangarei’s airport at Onerahi via Beach Road, and you’ll get commanding views over this often overlooked gem of nature including Motu Matakohe, also known as Limestone Island, a 37ha (100 acre) island just off the suburb of Onerahi.
An easy 45 minute walk for all ages featuring mangroves and estuarine life.
Matakohe/Limestone Island Scenic Reserve
A special project by the people of Whangarei to recreate a bush clad island as a refuge for rare and threatened birds, plants and wildlife including Kiwi. Thousands of volunteers have crossed the channel in small boats to re-establish tens of thousands of native plants. Among this emerging forest is a protected Maori Pa site and the ruins of a 100 year old limestone quarry and cement works.
Great for swimming, sailing and windsurfing. Line fishing off the point. Harbour side picnic areas under sprawling mature Pohutukawa trees.
The Pines Golf Club
Picturesque 18 hole golf course with spectacular harbour views. Visitors welcome.
Excellent launching for trailer boats. New marina under construction. The Parua Bay Tavern sits quaintly on the waters edge. Small store, takeaways, café opposite on Te Rongo Road, with an art gallery further up. 2km along the main road is the second heart of the Parua Bay community, a school, garage, petrol station, hair dresser, sports ground, small shopping complex and community hall.
Nestles under nature’s dramatic rock and bush clad Mount Manaia. A residential seaside suburb. Safe swimming, picnic areas, BBQ, playground, store, café and takeaways. The quaint white wooden St James church built on the foreshore in 1858 is still used for Sunday worship.
Reotahi Beach, Mt Aubrey and Walkways
Baches perch on the lower slopes of Mt Aubrey overlooking Reotahi Beach, where the Reotahi walkways system begins. A 30 minute stroll around the harbours edge, with stunning sea views, passes the historic remains of a freezing works. More demanding tracks crisscross Mt Aubrey (a further 1.5 hours) with spectacular harbour and gulf views.
Mount Manaia Walkway
Mount Manaia towers 460 metres above the harbour entrance – its dramatic rock peaks are steeped in Maori legend. A one hour climb through beautiful native bush is rewarded with spectacular coastal and harbour views. Entrance to the well maintained track is from the Early Settlers Memorial. No dogs in this Kiwi Zone.
Taurikura and Urquharts Bay,
A natural volcanic rock causeway disappearing into the sea has many people guessing. According to Maori legend it is an unfinished work for the great chief Manaia who had a lover across the harbour. Safe swimming, pleasant beach, picnic area and playground. General store and art gallery.
Urquharts and Woolshed Bays
Outermost of the harbour bays, this crescent of foreshore is fringed with fine examples of the kiwi bach at one end and green paddocks at the other. Just inside a headland bearing the concrete remains of a World War Two gun emplacement is Woolshed Bay, a favourite anchorage for many boaties. A car park leads to a range of walkways crisscrossing the rugged Bream Head Scenic Reserve
An easy 20 minute walk from the Woolshed Bay car park to an idyllic white, sandy, Pohutukawa fringed beach, which seems a world away from civilization. No dogs.
Bream Head Scenic Reserve
One of the country’s premiere coastal forest reserves and a refuge for a variety of rare flora and fauna, including kiwi sanctuary, steeped in myths and lore associated with its iconic headlands. Entrances from Urquharts Bay or Ocean Beach are well signposted. A serious walk with magnificent coastal panoramas to offshore islands and spectacular harbour views. The full walk takes about 6 hours one way. Shorter walks available such as the 3 hour hike to Peach Cove and return. No dogs in this Kiwi zone. Full map and details in Department of Conservation brochure or phone DOC 09 430 2470.
Enjoy the surf from either side of the break at Ocean Beach.
At the end of the Whangarei Heads Road lies the powerful Pacific sweep of Ocean Beach. After the tranquility of the inner harbour coves, Ocean Beach has a new energy with its often powerful surf and awesome views. Surfing, body boarding, beach combing - walk north for hours or fossick in rock pools to the south.
Pohutukawa fringed beach with rocky outcrops.
A unique coastal community split by an estuary and joined by a footbridge. You can fish from the long bridge across a channel which leads to a glorious ocean beach frequented by surfers. Store, campground, surf lessons, boat ramp. The Pataua Olive Grove is just metres from the estuary with olive mill and press. Tasting and sales of fresh olive oil.
Note the Mangroves
The inlets and estuaries of Taiharuru and Pataua provide a perfect example of Northland’s unique mangrove forests. Kayak the clear waters through these estuarine trees, and view a whole eco system of plants, fish, wildlife and birds.
Alternative Return Route
via Owhiwa, Mt Tiger then Whareora Roads, offering great coastal views. Look out for A.H Reed Memorial Park on Whareora Road where fine stands of 500 year old Kauri trees are easily viewed from the tree top boardwalk.
Originally a Pa site. From 1857 the island was used to graze sheep. For some years before 1900 the Rutherford Brothers operated a Limeworks until 1902 when it was purchased by John Wilson & Co. (later known as Portland Cement Co). For 15 years the island was quite a township. The island’s one great disadvantage was it had no natural water supply and by 1918 the settlement on the island became a thing of the past.
Before Onerahi and Parua Bay were connected by road, Parua Bay was a centre where launches and larger vessels ran a service to Whangarei. The harbourside tavern is steeped in history, originally a dairy company, then converted to a high class hotel in the 1940’s.
One of the many legends is that the five figures represent the paramount chief Manaia, his two children, Pito the beautiful wife he mischievously stole from the chief Hautatu, with Hautatu in pursuit in the rear brandishing his mere ready to strike his wife down. The figures were all turned to stone as the God of Thunder spoke from the skies.
The Natural Causeway. Legend has it that Manaia became tired of paddling across the harbour to meet his lady love, and ordered the slaves to build a bridge to the other side of the harbour. Before it was finished he had tired of her and the bridge was never completed.
Bream Head Scenic Reserve
This imposing peninsula is of special significance to the Ngatiwai Iwi. They revere the mountain (Te Whara) as an ancestor and consider the area the tracks pass through as wahi tapu (sacred places). There is archaeological evidence of dense early occupation. The steep rocks which form Bream Head are the eroded remains of a range of volcanoes which erupted approximately 20 million years ago.