A drive along the Whangārei 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.
Bream Head Scenic Reserve
The Bream Head Scenic Reserve is a coastal headland 45km east of Whangārei. It supports a diversity of species, contains unique archaeological, historical and landscape features. With sustained and intensive pest control, the ecosystem is flourishing; new species have been found, birds are being reintroduced and species that were only occasional visitors from the offshore islands, Marotere (Hen and Chickens group) are now breeding within the reserve.
Te Whara (Bream Head) Track is the challenging but incredibly rewarding hike through the reserve. Parts are steep and narrow and the track can be uneven, but you will walk through some of the best coastal forest in New Zealand and be rewarded with truly breath taking views along the way. This area is an important kiwi habitat and strictly no dogs are allowed.
The Whangārei Harbour's bountiful waters are alive with marine life including occasional visits from dolphin and orca, and even humpback whales! Channels which once provided passage for Māori 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. The Whangārei airport is located here and offers some great vantage points for impressive views down the Whangārei Harbour and to Matakohe / Limestone Island. The Onerahi foreshore has grassed areas for relaxing in the shade of a pōhutukawa tree on a sunny day, a kids’ playground, jetty for fishing and ramp for easy launching of boats and kayaks.
Onerahi & Waimahanga Network Cycle / Walkways
Walk or bike the shared six kilometre route that connects the Hātea Loop walk to Onerahi and the Waimahanga Network including the Boswell Track (walk or bike) which rambles over a former railway route through a rich, diverse ecology of mangrove forests that grow between sea level and the high tide line.
Matakohe / Limestone Island
Originally a Māori pā site, Matakohe 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 released onto the mainland.
This harbour side picnic spot is just a short drive from the city centre and offers sheltered swimming, sailing and windsurfing in the harbour. 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.
A subtropical wonderland
Walk, hike, kayak, surf, swim or just relax on the beach, taking some time out at Whangārei Heads is a must do
Find accommodation in Whangārei Heads
Parua Bay Boat Launching
Parua Bay provides excellent facilities for launching trailer boats, giving 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 that was 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 arts 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 with spectacular harbour views.
Whangārei Harbour Marine Reserve
The reserve has two sites, one at Waikaraka and the other at Motukaroro/Passage Island that encompasses Reotahi. 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.
The majestic rocky outcrop of Mount Manaia dominates the skyline, towering 460 metres above the Whangārei Harbour. A vigorous one hour climb up (there's over 1,100 steps!) through beautiful native forest takes you to the top of the summit for breath taking 360 degree views.
In Māori 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 Māori legend, this causeway is an unfinished work by the great chief Manaia who had a lover across the harbour. Sadly, he tired of her before it was finished and the bridge was never completed.
Urquhart & Woolshed Bays
Urquhart and Woolshed Bays are located on the outer reaches of the Whangārei Harbour. Urquhart’s has boat launching and provides access to coastal walkways.
Smugglers Bay & the Smugglers Bay Loop (Busby Head) Track
The Smugglers Bay Loop track from the Urquharts Bay car park is an easy two hour loop walk that takes you around Busby Head to Smugglers Bay, an idyllic and secluded white sandy beach. The walk passes the WWII Bream Head gun emplacement at Home Point, built during World War II as a defence against possible invasion. The shorter alternative is the direct 20 minute walk over farmland to Smugglers Bay.
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. Te Whara track, between Urquharts Bay and Ocean Beach, takes approximately six hours to walk one way and has simply 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 Ngātiwai 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). Please stay on the track and be respectful.
Ocean Beach & Kauri Mountain Beach
At the end of Whangārei Heads Road is Ocean Beach, popular for surfing, body boarding or just relaxing. Dolphins are often seen just offshore and surf lifeguards patrol in the summer. A memorial to commemorate the sinking of the only navy ship lost to enemy action in New Zealand waters during World War II can be seen at the lookout. You can also start or finish the superb Te Whara Track from here. Over the dunes to the north of Ocean Beach is Kauri Mountain Beach, a remote and wild 5km long beach.
Enjoy gnarled pōhutukawa trees, sheltered swimming, clear waters for snorkelling and rock pools for children to explore.
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.
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 Pātaua North to enjoy the ocean-side beach.
Kiwi Call in 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 Whangārei Heads, all dogs must be kept on a leash and not allowed to roam - night and day.