Four nights in and around Whangārei
Auckland – Whangārei - Tutukākā – Auckland
Whangārei is the perfect place to explore. With only a two-hour drive from Auckland or a 25-minute flight to Whangārei Airport, this makes for a true kiwi-style get-away.
Whangārei is New Zealand’s northern-most city, nestled between forest-clad hills at the heart of the beautiful Whangārei Harbour. It’s known for its vibrant art, Māori history, fresh sub-tropical produce, stunning beaches, and marine playground. It is the gateway to the beautiful Whangārei Heads and the world-famous Tutukākā Coast which is the launching point to the Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve. This itinerary is suitable for FIT’s, families, and groups.
Auckland – Whangārei
As you are heading to the Whangarei, call in at the funky Eutopia Café in Kaiwaka for a rest stop en-route.
Get your bearings with the Northland Journey Where Giant’s Gather, as you arrive at Whangārei Town Basin. If you are hungry consider Aqua Restaurant for lunch or a snack, which is at the harbour side of the marina, accessible from the large brick walkway at the Hundertwasser Art Centre & Wairau Māori Art Gallery.
Once you are replenished visit the newly opened Hundertwasser Art Centre & Wairau Māori Art Gallery and take a guided tour of the last creative architecturally designed building that Friedensreich Hundertwasser designed before he died. You will be amazed by the uniqueness, romanticism, and creativity in the building itself, with uneven floors and a forested roof with over 4000 trees and plants. There are over 80 pieces of original artwork on display, plus original photos, and information about Hundertwasser and his life. There is a lift for easy access to the first floor and living roof has stunning views of the Whangarei marina and district. Allow 1-2 hours for this visit.
Then head to Kiwi North’s Museum, Kiwi House, and Heritage Park, where you can encounter a tuatara, New Zealand’s only dinosaur, and visit Northland’s only nocturnal house where day is turned into night to create a natural living environment for New Zealand’s elusive iconic bird, the kiwi. Watch them foraging for their live food and interacting in their enclosure just as they would in the wild. Cameras provide excellent viewing when they are inside their burrows preening, napping, or simply doing the housework. Visit the historic Clarke Homestead and museum where you can see local artifacts and Moa bones recently discovered in Northland. Allow 1-2 hours for this visit.
Whangarei has plenty of motels, B&B’s, and a reasonable selection of hotels. For groups consider The Distinction Hotel opposite the Town Basin or The Quest in the centre of the city, or the Top Ten Holiday Park in a scenic setting with spacious surrounds is great for families.
For dinner try The Quay or Number 8, both the Town Basin and easy to walk to from city accommodation options.
Join the Tu Tika Tour experience which is an authentic and unique experience with your local Māori guides Merv & Rangimarie. The tour which takes place from 9am-12.30pm is a liberating experience immersing your mind, body, and soul on your journey of discovery. You will have an informal welcome into their home, then experience a majestic waterfall, visit kauri trees and significant sights in the area, learning about magical flora and fauna. This is a very private and exclusive cultural experience that inspires, informs, entertains, and will awaken your senses to many new things to see, hear, taste, touch, and smell. You will even learn some basic Māori language and a song. Lunch is included and the tour picks up and drops off in the city.
In the afternoon, check out the Whangārei Quarry Gardens and onsite Quail Café, or visit Clapham’s Clock Museum for a guided tour in the Town Basin with over 1500 timepieces that will amaze and entertain you. This is great for families. Take the self-guided Whangārei Street Art Trail around the city or take a walk around the Hātea Loop alongside the river with many sculptures to enjoy. For more adventurous activity visit Heads Up Adventure and jump on a monster scooter with tracks for all ages and abilities.
For dinner try Loco at the Town Basin or AstroBoy in the centre of the city.
Only half an hour north-east of Whangārei, follow the Northland Journey Into The Wide Blue Yonder to Tutukākā which is the gateway to the Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve. These are 25km offshore and have been rated by the famous Jacques Cousteau as one of the top-ten dive sites in the world - the water is known for its clarity and an abundance of sea life. Sea currents and visibility up to 30 meters underwater allow the diver, (and kayaker or snorkeler) to see a highly populated, rich, and diverse tapestry of marine life. There are two experiences on offer here, the Dive Tutukākā experience which departs at 8am returns around 4.30pm or The Perfect Day Cruise which leaves at 10.30am & returns about 4.30pm, where you can enjoy, kayaking, snorkelling or hop on a SUP. Make sure you are at their depo in good time to board the boat.
There is a good selection of accommodation offerings here, for couples consider Lodge 9, for groups consider Quality Ocean’s Hotel or Pacific Rendezvous, there is also a the Tutukākā Holiday Park very close to the marina which is great for families.
For dinner visit Schnapper Rock, try the local fish and home grown produce.
The Tutukākā coast offers an abundance of fantastic beaches and walks if you are wanting to explore by foot. Take a horse trek to explore the world-famous coastline with Sandy Bay Horse Treks, where you can relax and immerse yourself in nature or explore the coast, you can take a trail ride or the exclusive ocean swim trail, where you can swim your horses. They also offer glamping. Tutukākā also has a Surf School if you are wanting to learn how to surf with professionals, look out for the Tutukākā Surf shop in the main centre.
For dinner try Wahi restaurant at Tutukaka, or grab a pizza at Marina Pizzeria.
Tutukākā – Auckland
Head back to Auckland and if you are not in a rush turn off SH1 and follow the Northland Journey The Welcoming Coast through the Scottish town of Waipu where you can visit the Waipu Museum, call at McLeod’s Pizza Barn for a craft beer brewed on site and try one of their famous pizzas. Or stop for an ice cream at Waipu Cove or a bite to eat at The Cove Café. Waipu Cove is a great safe place for a swim with patrolled beaches between April to October. Then follow the coastal route exploring Lang’s Beach and Mangawhai where a stop at Bennetts Chocolates is a must if you have a sweet tooth. This scenic loop brings you back to SH1.