1. Cruise, scuba or snorkel at the Poor Knights Islands
We can’t kick off a list of things to do in Tutukaka without mentioning the Poor Knights Islands. Arguably the most incredible dive site in New Zealand, the Poor Knights Islands are a series of islands formed by an ancient volcano. The waters surrounding the islands are a marine reserve, giving you a chance to snorkel or dive among a vast array of fish, soft corals, sponges, vibrant anemones, kelp forests and more! Out of the water, the islands themselves are an amazing sight with numerous archways and the world’s largest sea cave, Rikoriko Cave.
Location: Tours depart from the Tutukaka Marina with Yukon Dive, Dive! Tutukaka, Perfect Day and more. Book your dive here.
2. Visit Ngunguru
Your watersports capital of the Tutukaka Coast, Ngunguru is a coastal village with the beach acting as an awesome natural playground. There are a water ski lane and boat ramp, however, if you don’t have your own gear, try surfing or kayaking where you can hire the gear in the village. An alternative dry option is to do the Ngunguru Mangrove Walkway, an easy 20-minute return walk through bush and across boardwalks through mangrove forests. The walk goes between Munroe Places and Kakariki Road. Finally, another walk, but only possible at low tide, is between Te Maika Road and Whangaumu Bay taking you along the beach.
Location: 3km south of Tutukaka on Ngunguru Road.
3. Walk to the Tutukaka Lighthouse
This 1-hour return walk is a must-do to get some awesome views of the Tutukaka Coast and of the Poor Knights Islands. Follow a grassy track across a headland to a reserve with native plants. You’ll then descend to a beach with a rocky causeway out to Kukutauwhao Island, which is best accessed at low tide. Climb to the top of the island where you’ll reach the Tutukaka Lighthouse!
Location: Start at Landowners Lane, about 400m north past the turn-off to the Tutukaka Marina.
4. Relax at Whale Bay
Possibly one of the most picturesque beaches in the Tutukaka area, Whale Bay is a curved white sand beach backed with native bush. The secluded beach can only be accessed by a 10-minute walk from the beach car park or along the Matapouri Bay to Whale Bay Loop Walk (see below). The beach is great for swimming and snorkelling with consistently clear waters.
Location: Matapouri is about 7km north of Tutukaka on Matapouri Road. Signposted off Matapouri Road at the roadside car park.
5. Do the Matapouri Bay to Whale Bay Loop Walk
This 45-minute loop walk takes you from one glorious beach to another. Start from either Ringer Avenue or the northern end of Matapouri Bay and enjoy this well-marked walk through native bush and to various viewpoints to Woolley’s Bay and beyond. There are side tracks to Whale Bay which is a must-do! The track loops back to where you started.
Location: Matapouri is about 7km north of Tutukaka on Matapouri Road. Start from either Ringer Avenue or the northern end of Matapouri Bay off Morrison Road.
6. Do the Tane Moana Walkway
See the largest kauri tree on the east coast, Tane Moana. The kauri measures 11m in circumference and is an incredible sight! The 4-hour return walk starts following a wide track across farmland into native forest where the path narrows taking you through gulleys and streams to cross. After seeing Tane Moana, the track continues to a logging road called Waiotoi Road where the track ends. However, we recommend returning the same way after seeing Tane Moana if you don’t have an extra car to park at this end of the track.
Location: End of Clements Road just outside of Matapouri. Matapouri is about 7km north of Tutukaka on Matapouri Road.
7. Surf at Sandy Bay
If you’re looking for some awesome surf spots during your Northland road trip then don’t miss Sandy Bay! Sandy Bay is one of the most popular east coast surf beaches in the Northland region. Plus, the beach is popular with families and a great little picnic spot. Surfboards can be hired from Tutukaka. Horse treks are also available at Sandy Bay.
Location: 10.5km north of Tutukaka along Matapouri Road.
8. Visit Whananaki
Get well and truly off the beaten track by visiting the remote coastal village of Whananaki. Check out the pristine estuary, sandspit and classic Kiwi baches dotted along the coastline. The village’s claim to fame is the 395m footbridge crossing the estuary making it the longest footbridge in the Southern Hemisphere! While there are campgrounds and picnic areas to enjoy, don’t miss the Whananaki Coastal Walkway (2 hours one way) providing some stunning coastal views.
Location: 43km drive north from Tutukaka. Take the Matapouri Road until it reaches the Marua Road. Turn left then right onto Jubilee Road until it meets the Whananaki North Road. Turn right and follow the road all the way to the coast.
9. Walk and camp at the Mimiwhangata Coastal Park
The Mimiwhangata Coastal Park is a hidden piece of paradise you’re going to be glad you discovered. The varied landscape is a mix of a working farm with livestock, sensitive area sand dunes home to incredibly rare special of Brown Teal/Pateke, and wetlands and bush areas. The waters off the shore are also a protected marine park. Make use of the campground and walking trails in the area for an evening in secluded paradise!
Location: 49km drive from Tutukaka. From Opuawhanga, take the Kaiikanu Road then turn off onto the Mimiwhangata Road.
10. Explore the Whangaruru Harbour
At the northern end of the Tutukaka Coast, the Whangaroa Harbour has several small communities in an otherwise relatively untouched coastal area. Popular places to visit are Oakura Bay with its beautiful beach and accommodation available, and Bland Bay on the northern shores of the harbour. For more beaches worth discovering, check out 22 Stunning Beaches in New Zealand.
Location: 70km drive from Tutukaka. Take State Highway 1 north, turn onto Russell Road and continue alongside the Whangaruru Harbour.