Five reasons why the Northland Journey Where Giants Gather is perfect for inquisitive minds
Where Giants Gather is the journey of geological, legendary and historical giants, where last memories are made along the meandering road toward the coast. Perfect for those who seek a little meaning in their travels and those with curiousity who love to learn the stories of their destinations. Here’s five reasons why inquisitive minds will love this journey:
1. The intrigue of the Hatea Arts Precinct
Anyone who loves art and the stories behind the pieces needs to include a stop at the Hātea Art Precinct to their Northland itinerary. You can spend hours discovering this hub of creative spaces. Explore the galleries and curated exhibitions at the Whangarei Art Museum, try your hand at glass blowing and shop for locally produced ceramics, prints, furniture and jewellery at Burning Issues Gallery and pop into historic Reyburn House to admire the visual art of local creatives. In February the long-awaited Hundertwasser Art Centre opens to the public. The centre will house a permanent display of renowned Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s work and the Wairau Māori Art Gallery, New Zealand’s first dedicated gallery of nationally and internationally recognised contemporary Māori art. Based on a design by the late artist, the building itself is a piece of art. Decorated in brightly coloured mosaic and crowned with a gold cupola, it’s transformed the town basin into an artistic wonderland
2. The city views from Mt Parihaka
Enjoy incredible panoramic views of Whangarei, mountain bike trails, bush walk tracks and fascinating history at Parihaka. An ancient volcano, the Parihaka Scenic Reserve was once reputedly the site of the largest pā in New Zealand. Many significant sites can be found here including visible remains of fortified settlement including three pā site, housing terraces, storage pits and defensive palisades along its ridgeline.
3. The history of Matakohe-Limestone Island
Get off the mainland and spend some time uncovering the stories behind this significant site for local Māori. Once a pa site, then the location of a quarry and cement works and now a nature reserve, Matakohe-Limestone Island has a surprisingly rich history for such a small island. Just 500m from Onerahi Wharf, the islands can be reached by boat or kayak. If you don’t own your own boat or kayak, don’t worry there are also commercial boats, cruises and kayak tours that can take you there.
4. The legends of Mt Manaia
Mt Manaia really is the jewel in the Whangarei Heads crown. This sacred and unique maunga must be treated with respect. It of great importance to many iwi, hapū and local folk and features heavily in the ancient legends that have been passed down by their tūpuna. 420 metres above sea level, it’s a vigorous climb to the summit where you will be rewarded with dramatic 360 degree views of the area including the harbour, Bream Bay, Hen and Chicken Islands and out to the ocean. The 4km return hike to the summit will take around 2 hours.
5. The sites around Urquharts Bay
This sheltered, picturesque bay is the starting point for the Smugglers Bay Loop Track. There is plenty to keep you interested on this easy 3km walk that takes you through coastal forest around Busby Head to beautiful Smugglers Bay before heading back to the carpark at Urquharts Bay. Along the way you will encounter historic Māori and European sites, including a WWII era gun emplacement. Smugglers Bay is a great spot for swimming, snorkelling, diving and fishing.