With a stunning coastal, rural and city environment, in an all-year round sub-tropical environment, Whangarei is Northland’s only city, largest commercial centre and a mere two hours drive north from Auckland.
This Northland city has so many attractions to offer visitors it’s hard to know where to start. But we can start off by mentioning the district’s aquatic playground of 100 beaches, pristine harbours and off-shore islands. The very heart of the city is closed to traffic and is a mixture of the urban- a buoyant retail centre, art galleries, museums, restaurants and cafes, bars and clubs, library and event- and the tropical.
The Town Basin precinct is an international yachting community hub, uniquely positioned in the city centre and founded on the city’s reputation for a warm welcome and excellence in boat building and maintenance. It is a wonderful place for everyone, an environment with water, grass, trees, people, great shopping, art, culture and entertainment, history and heritage…and overnight motorhome parking!
An aquatic playground
With no point of the Whangarei District more than 40kms from the Pacific Ocean, the eastern seaboard is a true aquatic playground.
There are more than 100 bays and beaches between Bream Tail in the south and Bland Bay in the north, while the coastline is watched over by offshore islands dominated by the Poor Knights and Hen and Chickens group, where terrestrial and marine reserves conserve unique flora and fauna.
Daily dive and sightseeing trips leave from Tutukaka for the Poor Knights Islands and getting out to the islands you are likely to encounter an array of sea birds, dolphins, surface feeding schools of fish and possibly a pod of whales.
Swimming, body surfing and board-riding are favourites on the open ocean beaches, along with snorkelling and fossicking in the shallows and rock pools. Fishing is an obvious attraction from both the shore and boats. Charters for fishing, diving and sightseeing are available from the marinas and main boat ramps, but Tutukaka harbour is the main port for a fleet of dive and eco charter vessels and several game fishing boats. Kayaking is another popular way of getting up close with the coast, from intimate estuary exploration to serious open-sea voyages.
The great outdoors
Along the Northland coast, stands of gnarled pohutukawa grow strongly, their bright crimson flowers enhancing the joy of every Christmas. The kowhai which bloom bright yellow in the early spring are another special treat. Away from the coast there is plenty more to see and do. Included in the surviving stands of luxuriant original rainforest are giant kauri trees revered in Maori folklore and much sought after by early European settlers as an incredibly strong, relatively light, straight grained and durable timber.
Most of the flat and easier contoured land has long been put to use in pastoral farming, horticulture and production forestry. But significant stands of native forest are common on the steeper contours where many are protected as public owned reserves and other privately owned areas are covenanted under the National Trust. Throughout the district, you can explore these and other features at a leisurely pace from the many bush and coastal walkways. These range from easy strolls to extreme clambers, and many feature stunning views of harbour and coastline.
Art has long been a vital thread in the Whangarei community, with the region boasting more artisans per head of population than any other in New Zealand. All manner of successful painters, potters, weavers, carvers and sculptors have been inspired by the light on the bush and coast.
While some of these artists are eccentric, reclusive types, many share their creativity by taking part in collaborative works, opening their studios to visitors and holding all sorts of art classes. In particular the Northland Craft Trust’s ‘Quarry Summer Do’ has a national reputation.
Frequent Artisans Fairs have become hugely popular, especially in the summer months. Supported by buskers and local foods these are vibrant gatherings of artists, crafts people and their wares. Between times, a wide range of these works can be seen and purchased from the many galleries dotted throughout the district.
For Local Activities see the above Directory Tab.
Whangarei District Council Telephone: 09 430 4200