Whangarei Heads

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Whangarei Heads Harbour

© Northland Inc

Whangarei Harbour has long been a special place, its bountiful waters laced with marine life from simple shellfish to dolphin and orca; it’s the largest enclosed harbour on New Zealand’s east coast.


Mt Manaia - 1 hour walk with harbour views
Mt Manaia - 1 hour walk with harbour views

Channels which once provided passage for Maori canoes and sailing ships, now host cargo vessels, fishing boats and pleasure craft. A 35km road trip to Whangarei Heads takes you along the indented northern shore of this wonderful waterway, the largest enclosed harbour on NZ’s east coast.

Maori Legend

Mount Manaia: One of the many legends is that the five figures represent the paramount chief Manaia, his two children, Pito the beautiful wife he mischievously stole from the chief Hautatu, with Hautatu in pursuit in the rear brandishing his mere ready to strike his wife down. The figures were all turned to stone as the God of Thunder spoke from the skies.

Top picks

Best kept secret

6 km long white sands of Ocean Beach, a favourite with surfers.

Ocean Beach Surfer. Credit: www.travelshutter.net
Ocean Beach Surfer. Credit: www.travelshutter.net

Why Visit?

Mount Manaia towers 460 metres above the harbour entrance – its dramatic rock peaks are steeped in Maori legend. A one hour climb through beautiful native bush is rewarded with spectacular coastal and harbour views. Entrance to the well maintained track is from the Early Settlers Memorial.

Parua Bay has excellent launching for trailer boats. The Parua Bay Tavern sits quaintly on the waters edge near a small store, takeaways & café, with an art gallery further up. 2km along the main road is the second heart of the Parua Bay community, a school, garage, petrol station, hair dresser, sports ground and small shopping complex

The seaside village of McLeod Bay is set under the dramatic rock and bush clad Mount Manaia. Enjoy safe swimming, a children’s playground and picnic and BBQ areas. The quaint white wooden St James church built on the foreshore in 1858 is still used for Sunday worship.

At the end of the ‘Whangarei Heads Tourist Drive’ lies the powerful Pacific sweep of Ocean Beach. After the tranquillity of the inner harbour coves, Ocean Beach has a new energy with its often powerful surf and awesome views. Bounded by sand dunes and surging coast beyond. Surfing, body boarding, beach combing - walk north for hours, fossick in rock pools to the south.

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