And by WOW I mean ‘Holy Shit this is BEAUTIFUL!’
“Whangarei? Where, what n who the hell is that? How in god’s name am I meant to pronounce that?” I hear you say… Well here’s your first lesson! In the Maori language Wh = a ‘fuh’ sound, so Whang – a – rei is said Fung – a – rrrrrrei (gotta roll the r’s bro!) Got it? Alrighty moving on!
Whangarei is my home town, it has the slogan ‘city of a 100 beaches’ (true), it’s in Northland, near the top of NZ, which has another slogan, the ‘Winterless North’ (not true). Buuuut we did have a pretty awesome summer I must say, better than the Irish summer I’d just come from, so I wanted to get oot n aboot and replenish my vitamin d levels, and by crikey I did just that!
This post explores just a few of the walking tracks that are right here in my own backyard. I knew NZ was beautiful but holy moly, my home region of Northland has been blowing my mind with its stunning scenes since I came home from living overseas 6 months ago.
So read on and maybe your next mini (or major!) adventure will spring to mind! (As in hurry up and come visit NZ!)
Mangawhai Cliff Walk
This one might just be my favourite me thinks. The excitement of exploring unchartered territory started with the drive out to Mangawhai Heads. It was my first time out to this seaside village and the walk starts you off with copious lungful’s of fresh ocean air while walking along the surf beach. After 10 minutes you arrive at the bottom of some stairs which lead up to the ‘cliff’ part. The walk is a 3 hour loop of magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean; turquoise turns deep blue where sail boats glide in peace along the horizon.
I felt like a hobbit walking through the palm lined track, gnarled old Pohutukawas overhead straining toward the sea. Native Nikau palms dot the hill on the way down the hundreds of stairs at the end of the track. If I had timed it right, around low tide, I could’ve walked back along the beach and rocks to complete the loop. Buuuuuut I didn’t. So I had to hike back up the killer stairs and retrace my steps to the starting point. But I didn’t mind, it just meant I got to see the stunning scenery again!
Matapouri/Whale Bay Loop
I love this walk for the mere fact it brought me back to Whale Bay. I hadn’t been for about 12 years or so. Back when I didn’t enjoy walking and all I thought of was the ‘trek’ back up to the car park from the beach. Why put yourself through that when you can just go to Matapouri?! Thought my younger, lazy self). But oh my gosh, what a beautiful hidden paradise it is. Whale Bay was just so stunning, and rather empty on an early March weekday, which suited us (hi Lisa!) just fine.
Further on were those coastal views I can’t get enough of. Green paddocks to the right only adding to the contrast. There are some stairs, but nothing too strenuous. It finishes with a walk along my favourite beach – Matapouri. What a stunner. The walk is maybe 45 minutes all up without the swim at Whale Bay. But I’m willing to bet it always takes longer than that with all the stops to appreciate the views. I could sit and look at dem blues for hours…
Tutukaka Lighthouse Walk
Another one of my must do’s for the summer was the walk out to the Tutukaka Lighthouse. But this one needs a bit more planning. To get to the lighthouse you must cross over the little rocky beach between the mainland and the small island the lighthouse sits on. It adds to the adventure for sure!
The first bit was nice and easy, a short stroll through grassy fields, with the descent down some stairs (which had me only slightly worried for the climb back up) to the pebbly foreshore. We arrived about an hour and a half before low tide and we could make it across easy!
Then there was the other side. It was a bit more of a hike than I thought it would be and it seemed to never end! Was good exercise I’ll tell ya that for free. But at the top we had incredible 360 degree views of Godzone – the 50 shades of green hills and inlets as far as the eye could see, boats moored safely in the marina, and the world-famous Poor Knight Islands out to sea.
Busby Head Track
This is also one of my faves, it was just the right amount of exercise. I was lucky to have brilliant blue sky above and beautiful blue water below, this hour and a half track had a bit of everything. You walk through paddocks full of bulls (that had me hiding behind a gate until I called my dad and he told me they were steers!) past the old gun emplacements from world war 2, up a hill (this is where the exercise bit comes in) along the ridge up to Busby Head then down to the secluded Smugglers Cove where a couple of yachts are anchored for the afternoon. It was so cool! I went for a swim even though it was pretty windy to give my mask and snorkel a whirl.
Probably the most popular walk/climb in Whangarei, and one we recommend a lot to tourists at the Visitor Information Centre. It’s hard work for those who aren’t super fit but the views from the top make it all worth it I promise. It took my friend (hi Jessa!) and I about 50 minutes to get up, and that was a damn struggle for me! It was 6 years since I’d last been up and my mission is to get fit and do it AT LEAST once a year.
The pain is rewarded on the way up by glimpses of the bright blue ocean. At the 3 quarter mark you can veer off the track to a ‘hidden’ lookout point, with magnificent views out to the beautiful white sand of Ocean Beach. At the top you get even more magnificent views of Whangarei Harbour and coast while you wait for your lungs and legs to recover. If it’s summer then cool off at any one of the surrounding beaches and stop for food or a well deserved beverage at the Parua Bay Tavern on the way back. Perfecto!