1. Check out the Koutu Boulders
You might have heard of the Moeraki Boulders in the South Island but have you heard of the Koutu Boulders? Northland has its own set of perfectly spherical boulders found on the edge of the Hokianga Harbour. They are best seen along the beach at low tide!
Location: Waione Road off Koutu Loop Road. 8 minutes drive from Opononi.
2. Walk in the Arai Te Uru Reserve
The Arai Te Uru Reserve, or Hokianga Heads, is a culturally significant place where it is said the first Maori explorer, Kupe, arrived in New Zealand. There are several walks to enjoy the stunning coast of the Arai Te Uru area, including the 15-minute Signal Station Track to a scenic viewpoint, and the 4-hour Waimamaku Coastal Track. There’s also a 5-minute walk down to the picturesque Martins Bay.
Location: Signal Station Road off State Highway 12. 2-minute drive from Omapere.
3. Visit the Waipoua Forest
See some of the most breathtaking trees in New Zealand in the Waipoua Forest. Short walks lead to Tane Mahutu – the Lord of the Forest, and Tane Matua Ngahere – the Father of the Forest. These are the largest and oldest living kauri trees in New Zealand. Either enjoy the walks to the kauri trees via the walking tracks or take a cultural guided tour at night with pick-ups available in Opononi and Omapere. Learn more about kauri in Why is New Zealand so Fascinated with Kauri?
Location: 20-minute drive south from Omapere along State Highway 12.
4. Check out Waiotemarama Falls
For a picturesque bush walk and to see the beautiful Waiotemarama Falls, take the Waiotemarama Loop Walk. This 2h30minute loop takes you past large kauri stands and across a shallow stream to see a 20m waterfall. The track is not well maintained so provides quite the adventure! [Update: the track has been recently upgraded so should be in better shape].
Location: Waiotemarama Gorge Road (gravel road), 15 minutes from Omapere.
5. Experience the Maori culture at Motuti marae
Learn about the Maori culture and get a hands-on cultural experience at the Motuti Marae. A marae is a Moari meeting ground with a carved meeting house. Learn about the local customs of entering a marae and even take part in some workshops to learn how to do traditional weaving, carving and the Haka!
Location: Motuti Road, 1h10min drive from Opononi including the ferry crossing between Rawene and Kohukohu.
6. Discover art and puzzles at Labyrinth Woodworks
[Update: Labyrinth Woodworks has now moved to Rawene under the name “Simply FUN”]. Just next to the Waiotemarama Falls walk (see above) is the Labyrinth Woodworks, Maze & Puzzle Museum! It’s the most off-the-beaten-track puzzle museum you will find packed with all kinds of puzzles, board games and art. It’s a great place to pick up a souvenir or just try out a few fun puzzles.
Location: [Update, now located at 3 Clendon Esplanade, Rawene, 21km north of Opononi].Â Waiotemarama Gorge Road (gravel road), 15 minutes from Omapere.
7. Sandboard down the Niua Sand Dunes
The North Head sands dunes, otherwise known as Niua, are an amazing playground created by nature! Boat trips depart from Opononi to the sand dunes providing the body boards for you.
Location: Access by boat via Opononi Wharf.
8. Marvel at the Wairere Boulders
Explore this fascinating valley filled with weathered basalt rocks of all shapes and sizes. The Wairere Boulders Nature Park has a number of walks from 40 minutes to 2 hours to explore the large boulders, streams and 24 wooden structures. This place is an epic photo opportunity not to be missed!
Location: 70 McDonnell Road, Horeke. 45 minutes from Opononi.
9. Visit Horeke
This picturesque little port town is the second oldest town in New Zealand and a must-visit for lovers of history and charming towns. Taking a walk through the town will reveal New Zealand’s first pub, New Zealand’s first post office, the first murder trial, oldest headstones, first commercial shipyard and more!
Location: Horeke, 50 minutes from Opononi.
10. Step back in time in Rawene and Kohukohu
For more history on the Hokianga Harbour, visit Rawene and take the ferry to Kohukohu. Rawene is the third oldest European town in New Zealand with some excellent cafes, galleries like the Boatshed Gallery, and the historic Clendon House – a heritage house that witnessed the Treaty of Waitangi. You can also take the scenic car and passenger ferry trip over to Kohukohu where you can pick up a map and do a historic walk through the Victorian town or visit the art galleries: Village Arts and Art of This World Gallery.
Location: Rawene is 20 minutes drive from Opononi.