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8 Best Things to Do in Waipu & Bream Bay

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Awesome Activities in Bream Bay

Just south of Whangarei, Bream Bay is a sweeping arch of white-sand beaches, wildlife havens and small coastal communities. Waipu is the main town in the Bream Bay area, famous for its Scottish heritage, among being the centre of some amazing outdoor activities. Explore glowworm caves, surf the waves, see magnificent waterfalls and more in the Bream Bay and Waipu area! Discover it all with this list of things to do in Waipu and Bream Bay!

While Bream Bay is full of things to keep you busy, don’t miss the attractions in the surrounding towns too!

1. Check Out Waipu Cove

Bream Bay is full of stunning beaches so let’s kick this list off with one of the best, Waipu Cove! This white-sand beach is perfect for swimming, surfing and fishing. The best place for swimming is at the south end of the beach. There is also a campground, convenience store and cafe in the small settlement backing the beach.

Location: Cove Road, Waipu.

Bernard Spragg. NZ on Flickr© Bernard Spragg. NZ on Flickr

2. Visit the Waipu Museum

Waipu has a proud Scottish heritage where you can learn the stories of the early settlers of the area in the Waipu Museum. Not only that, the museum has displays on some of the world’s greatest migrations of the Scottish Highlanders who travelled to Nova Scotia, Australia and then Waipu. There’s also information on heritage trails where you can visit more historic sites around the town.

Location: 36 The Centre, Waipu.

Paul Hudson on Flickr© Paul Hudson on Flickr

3. Explore the Waipu Caves

As one of the best free glowworm caves in New Zealand, Waipu Caves is not to be missed! The short walk to the caves takes you across farmland to a cave nestled among native trees. See amazing limestone formations like stalactites and stalagmites and explore the main cavern which is 175m (574ft) long. There is a shallow stream running in the bottom of the cave so be prepared to get your feet wet. Check out more free caves in our list of 10 Free Glowworm Caves in New Zealand.

Location: Waipu Caves Road, 13km (8 miles) northwest of Waipu. The most straightforward route is via Shoemaker Road.

russellstreet on Flickr© russellstreet on Flickr

4. Relax on Langs Beach

Another amazing beach in the Waipu/Bream Bay area, Langs Beach is a beautiful white-sand beach with craggy headlands and gnarling pohutukawa trees. It’s a great spot to do all your beachy activities from swimming to surfing.

Location: 11km (7 miles) south of Waipu on Cove Road.

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5. Watch the Sunrise from Ruakaka Beach

Spanning 13km (8 miles), Ruakaka Beach is an amazing place for a stroll and to feel the sand between your toes. This beach is more “pristine” than the other beaches in Bream Bay and is ever-changing with the tide. It’s a popular spot for surfing and kite-surfing, but simply a walk along the beach at sunrise will still amaze!

Location: Ruakaka Beach Road. 10km (6 miles) north of Waipu.

IIP Photo Archive on Flickr© IIP Photo Archive on Flickr

6. Camp at Uretiti Beach

No, we are not done with giving you amazing beaches to visit in Bream Bay just yet! Another one to add to the list is the stunning sandy shores of Uretiti Beach. The beach is good for surfing, fishing, swimming and horse riding. What’s more, there’s a scenic DOC campsite just behind the sand dunes which makes an amazing place to wake up in the morning.

Location: The campsite is signposted off State Highway 1, 5km (3 miles) north of Waipu.


7. See Piroa Falls

Sure, there are a lot of waterfalls in New Zealand, but Piroa Falls are among some of the most picturesque! The waterfall is accessed down a 10-minute walk through forest and the Ahuroa River. The river by the waterfall makes an amazing swimming spot in summer (or winter, after all, this is the “Winterless North”).

Location: 14km (9 miles) south of Waipu. From State Highway 1, take Waipu Gorge Road until you see the Piroa Falls signposted.

russellstreet on Flickr© russellstreet on Flickr

8. Birdwatch at the Ruakaka and Waipu Estuaries

The estuaries at Waipu and Ruakaka provide a unique habitat for rare New Zealand birds, such as the New Zealand dotterel and New Zealand fairy tern. Keep an eye out for oystercatchers, wrybill, reef heron and migrating godwits too!

Location: The Waipu Estuary is accessible from Johnson Point Road, off Cove Road in Waipu. The Ruakaka Estuary is accessible from Ruakaka Beach.

NZPocketGuide.com© NZPocketGuide.com

9. Find the Waipu Pancake Rocks

That’s right, Waipu has its own “pancake rocks” much like their famous counterparts found in the South Island in Punakaiki. The limestone rocks appearing in a stacked formation can be seen in many parts of Waipu but best along the Waipu Coastal Trail.

Location: 9km (5.6 miles) south of Waipu via Cove Road. Start the Waipu Coastal Trail from the southern end of Waipu Cove beach by crossing the stream opposite the last concrete barbecue area. Alternatively (and to avoid wet feet if the tide is in), start from Waterman Drive or Ding Bay.

8 Best Things to Do in Waipu & Bream Bay© Unsplash

[TEMPORARILY CLOSED] Visit the Marsden Point Oil Refinery

When you were planning your trip to “100% Pure New Zealand”, we’re sure visiting an oil refinery was not on your to-do list. Nevertheless, even an oil refinery has been turned into a tourist attraction with the Marsden Point Oil Refinery, also known as Refining NZ, having its own visitor centre. Check out the working scale model of the refinery complete with a light and sound show!

Location: Ralph Trimmer Drive, Marsden Point.

Follash on Wikipedia© Follash on Wikipedia

[CLOSED] Hike the Brynderwyn Walkway

[Update: the Brynderwyn Walkway is closed due to kauri dieback].

This 12km walk takes you on top of the Brynderwyn Ranges for some epic coastal and inland views. Walk through forest that provides habitat for native birds and even the rare Hochstetter frog. The track winds through a mix of forestry roads and farmland. The walk takes approximately 6 hours to complete one-way.

Location: There are two entrances to the walk. The most popular is the Western Entrance via the summit of Brynderwyns – opposite an old cafe off State Highway 1. Alternatively, the Eastern Entrance is at the top of Cullen Road, which runs off Cove Road south of Waipu.

Sids1 on Flickr© Sids1 on Flickr


Laura S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor in chief and co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in New Zealand over 10 years ago and with a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to travel New Zealand. She knows Aotearoa inside-out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience New Zealand’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also editor of several other South Pacific travel guides and is the co-host of NZ Pocket Guide’s live New Zealand travel Q&As on YouTube.

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