Whangarei – the Winterless North
A city that has started from humble beginnings to prosper into a modern and vibrant city. Surrounded by farmlands and orchards; expansive harbour and coastline, pristine sandy beaches that rival those throughout New Zealand.
Northland is home to some of the best activities throughout New Zealand.
Dive! Tutukaka tours around Poor Knights Island; a world renowned marine reserve, sub-tropical currents enveloping the marine sea life hidden beneath is crystal-clear depths. Steep cliffs plummet a hundred metres below sea level, sea stars clinging to the cliff face. Caves, archways and fissures jutting from the cliff face; tempting the thrill-seeker to scout the secrets they hold. The colourful array of sea creatures beckons the imagination, fish suddenly popping out from the reefs swirling in the current. Dive in shallow or deep waters to encounter the magical marine life. Black groper, mosaic moray and Lord Howe coral fish will explore alongside you, every now and then a stingray will cruise by.
Luxurious cruise ships tour around the islands. Take the Yukon Charters to open the gateway to the world’s best diving off the coast of Poor Knight’s Islands.
Travel along the expansive blue ocean to Sailfish Cove Wines. Specialising in Chardonnay and Cabernet blends, producing olive oil from their olive grove will be sure to guarantee a longer stay. The Sailfish Cove boutique lodge offers you cosy accommodation, supplying local artisan breads, cheeses, olives, smoked fish, mussels and Makana chocolates to whet your appetite.
Green Sea Eco charters allows you to sightsee around the coastal islands, snorkel on the surface of the warm waters, dive amongst marine life only found in this area, or fish for your meal. This exciting adventure is led by a marine biologist, where you can choose to stay aboard for half a day, full day, or wait until night falls to watch the full moon skim across the water to highlight the sea life on the overnight tour.
There are many other diving and kayaking opportunities ready to display the best of New Zealand’s waters.
But there’s more to Whangarei than just the water adventures. The bountiful array of walkways, coves to explore, beaches, reserves, gardens and parks; each offering a unique experience to the culture of Whangarei.
Town Basin to Whangarei Falls Walkway is a must-do. Follow the long bridge extending over the bubbling stream to a tidal inlet leading you to Hatea River. Plunge into native forest that surrounds the wooden walkway, running close to centuries-old kauri tress. Listen to the Paranui Falls cascade down the cliff face in the AH Reed Memorial park. Track the sound of the thundering water to the Whangarei Falls; a twenty-five metre surging waterfall, known as the most photogenic waterfall in New Zealand. Three platforms circling around the waterfall enables a sight from every angle.
Immerse yourself in Gecko Land, or become lost in the Abbey caves, where only the glow worms provide you with light.
Top Activities for the Family
But wait, a visitor cannot leave Whangarei without experiencing the nature tours that engage you in nocturnal kiwi life.
Take the time to visit Kiwi North Museum, Kiwi House and the Heritage Park all in one convenient location. Silently gaze through the glass as the kiwi forages around for food, learn about kiwi conservation, and encourage your child to spot a native gecko.
Explore the museum home to Maori treasures.
On a bright summer day, the ‘Live Days’ provide a wealth of fun with train rides, sled rides, hay cart rides, fresh food and refreshments.
Stroll across Zion Wildlife Garden’s countryside retreat; a sanctuary for some of the world’s rarest big cats. Explore the grounds with the many tours that allow you to get up close and personal with cheetahs, engage with the latest cubs, watch your guide feed the cheetahs; or take the ‘behind the scenes experience’, and be a worker for the day.
Stroll through the gardens to meet lions, tigers and the baboon; most precious the endangered white tiger.
Or take Captain Percy’s Historic River Cruise along the tranquil Ngunguru River, viewing birds hide in the trees, wildlife popping out to see what is disturbing their serenity.
Explore Bream Bay/Waipu, named by Captain Cook for the large catch of ‘bream’ or snapper. Crystal clear waters surround estuaries, wildlife refuges and native bush. Relax in the sun on a charter and try to catch a snapper, swim amongst the kingfish, hike through land blanketed in green, and discover the glow worm caves hidden amongst the wildlife.
Disembark at Whananaki/Whangaruru Harbour; where a number of endangered bird species flutter in the sea breeze.
Camp close to small craggy islands, farmland, bush, estuary, beaches and bays; home to a uniquely small community.
Discover Whangarei Heads; clear waters laced with marine life, from shellfish to dolphins and orca. Travel along the channels that provided Maori canoes passage to the islands.
Branch off the main road to Onerahi, suddenly encountering Motu Matakohe, known as Limestone Island. Thousands of volunteers establishing a green haven for endangered species, walkways and bays allowing beautiful views of the coast.
And don’t forget Whangerei City, the heart of where everything starts and finishes. Markets, museums and quaint shops to tempt you to buy little trinkets.
Cruise to the outskirts of the city to visit Longview Estate; Northland’s oldest established vineyard. Hear the birds chirping as you wander through the 6.5 hectares of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Syrah, Chardonnay, White Diamond and Gerwurztraminer Current, sampling the grapes as you go. The intense fruit flavours of the wines offer a refreshing accompaniment to any meal.
Whangarei offers a glimpse to what Northland has to offer.
Whangerei New Zealand, “Things to do”, Accessed 20/07/2011
Zion Wildlife Gardens, “Tours’, Accessed 20/07/2011
Whangarei Museum, “Kiwi House, Museum, Heritage Park”, Accessed 20/07/11