Natural Formations & Wonders

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Walk among the Kauri

© Footprints Waipoua

Within Northland’s landscapes many natural features can be found – these are unique geological formations, ancient fossils and aesthetically beautiful landforms.

Ancient Kauri & Fossils

Tane Mahuta - Living Kauri
Drive through the inspiring landscape of the Waipoua Forest, domain of Tane Mahuta: Lord of the Forest, and Te Matua Ngahere (Father of the Forest) - New Zealand’s largest living kauri trees. Learn of legends, gods and myths as Maori guides take you on a spiritual journey through Waipoua Forest, or explore the forest trails and discover the giant kauri trees, on your own.

Buried Kauri Forests
Unearth the secrets to a gum-digging trade of the bygone era. - A giant 100,000 year old Kauri tree has been exposed for viewing & is part of a vast forest buried beneath Gumdiggers Park (pictured right). Two Ancient Kauri Forests have been buried at this site by cataclysmic prehistoric events. Touch and feel these logs, some of which are over 100,000 years old!

Lake Ohia - A lake with no water!
This former lake marks the gum digging history and ancient forest remains. As a wetland there is water in the lake about 2 months a year and is home to swamp loving birds and shrub. It’s a short walk to get there and worth a look. Lake Ohia was drained back in the gum digging days and prior to that, it was home to a kauri forest (which basically was drowned about 30,000 years ago) hence the remnants of old fossil kauri that still exists.

Pouto Point - Fossilized Kauri Forest
NZ's oldest three storey lighthouse at Pouto Point overlooking the treacherous Kaipara Harbour. Nearby is the 63,000 year old fossilized kauri forest, while inland is the legendary Valley of the Wrecks, a one-time beach transformed by the shifting sands into a valley of secret treasures.

Boulders & Volcanic Rocks

The Koutu Boulders: Hokianga’s best kept secret
The Koutu Boulders: Hokianga’s best kept secret

The Koutu Boulders: Hokianga’s best kept secret
The shore line between Koutu point and Kauwhare point is littered with virtually identical spherical boulders called "Koutu Boulders", the largest measures 6 metres in diametre. (image left:

Wairere Boulders ‘One of a kind, on the planet’
It is the only valley worldwide which is formed by basalt boulders sitting on a clay base. There are thousands of boulders stacked on top of each other, some around 30 m high. They look like a stream of rocks and boulders flowing down towards the Hokianga Harbour.

Tokatoka Peak, near Dargaville
Tokatoka Peak, your chance to climb a rare volcanic phenomenon - the plug or lava core of a volcano overlooking the Wairoa River near Dargaville. Tokatoka is very significant to the local Maori people and features in their mythology and history.

View from Tokatoka Peak
View from Tokatoka Peak

Waro Limestone Reserve
At Hikurangi, featuring interesting limestone formations some 40 million years old. Thousands of people drive past but very, very few people stop or have ever heard of this place.


Riko Riko Sea Cave on the Poor Knight Islands
Riko Riko Sea Cave on the Poor Knight Islands

Riko Riko Cave
An eruption from a volcano formed a giant gas bubble that became Rikoriko Cave on the Poor Knight Islands, off the east coast of Tutukaka. The egg-shaped chamber has a volume of about 7,800,000 cubic feet. Live concerts – including Kiwi artist Neil Finn – have performed in the natural auditorium.

The Kawiti Caves at Waiomio
Meet Elvis and Priscilla in the Kawiti Caves just south of Kawakawa. The guided tours follow a wooden boardwalk through a 200 metre limestone cave system. Once inside, you will see thousands of glow worms spread across the ceiling surrounded by breath taking stalactites and stalagmites. Who’s Elvis and Priscilla you ask? They are the resident eels swimming in the stream.

Abbey Caves, Whangarei
Abbey Caves Reserve is 18.7 hectares in area and comprises of three significant caves, naturally sculptured limestone outcrops, bluffs, enclosed depressions and sink holes. The Organ Cave is the largest of the caves where, in the main chamber, you will see the large overhanging stalactites which look similar to church organ pipes. The Middle Cave and Ivy Cave are smaller but equally interesting and all of the caves have thousands of glow worms. The Caves are completely undeveloped and unguided.


Ngawha Springs
A hot water spring that reputedly has therapeutic properties for those who bathe in its waters, and is the source of the steam used at the Ngawha geothermal field's power station. Each pool has a different, but natural, chemical makeup with a separate healing function.

Sand Formations

Hokianga Sand Dunes
The fantastic heights of the sand dunes can be scaled and descended by body board - a water taxi from Opononi drops the adventurous over to the north head of the harbour and kids of all ages exhaust themselves by scaling the slithering mountain and sand tobogganing down – great fun. Then there's the 180m dunes from the south head viewpoint at Signal Station Road - imagine what Kupe would have seen over a millennium ago when he first sailed into Aotearoa.

The Parengarenga Harbour

Parengarenga Harbour
Parengarenga Harbour

The white sands stretch over thirty kilometres north of Rarawa to the straggling Parengarenga Harbour, a place largely forgotten by most New Zealanders until 1985, when it was identified as the drop-off point for the limpet mines (delivered by yacht from New Caledonia) that were used to sabotage the Rainbow Warrior. Bends in the road occasionally reveal glimpses of the silica sands of the harbour's southern headland, which are pure white except in late February and early March, when hundreds of thousands of bar-tailed godwits turn the vista black as they gather for their 12,000km journey to Siberia.

Sculptured sands, Ripiro Beach
At the southernmost tip of Kaipara’s North Head, mysterious-named landmarks such as the Valley of the Wrecks and NZ’s oldest wooden lighthouse stand in mute testimony to a history of seafaring disaster that has left 150 shipwrecks entombed – many without a trace - in the dunes and sandbars of Ripiro Beach. What is here today, is hidden tomorrow, courtesy of the ever-shifting sands with an eerie past.

Sculptured sands at Pouto
Sculptured sands at Pouto