The Must-Dos in Whangarei
Despite being a sunny city in the subtropical part of the North Island, Whangarei is too often overlooked when planning a road trip in New Zealand. That makes it all the more appealing for travellers wanting to get an off-the-beaten-track experience while still enjoying the convenience of being close to a city. Surrounding Whangarei are beautiful beaches, volcanic-formed mountains and rolling farmland which provides a stunning natural playground for activities. Find out what sort of activities with this list of the best things to do in Whangarei!
For more help planning your trip, don’t forget to check out The Complete Guide to Whangarei.
1. Check out Whangarei Falls and the AH Reed Kauri Park
Linked by a gorgeous riverside walkway, Whangarei Falls and AH Reed Kauri Park are two natural attractions in Whangarei you can’t miss! Be blown away by the beauty of the 26m (85ft)-high waterfall, then follow the Hatea River Walk to a boardwalk through ancient kauri forest. The AH Reed Kauri Park is home to some of the largest trees in New Zealand. Find out more about these walks in the 12 Whangarei Walks You Can’t Miss.
Location: Whangarei Falls is well signposted on Ngunguru Road, Tikipunga, approximately 5km (3 miles) from Whangarei city centre. Alternatively, you can park at the AH Reed Park at Whareora Road, Tikipunga.
2. Walk the Hatea Loop Walkway
Starting in the picturesque city centre of the Town Basin, the Hatea Walkway highlights the best of Whangarei city in a 4.2km (3.6 miles) walk. See Maori sculptures, amazing bridges turned into works of art, and learn about the local heritage through interpretation panels. This is the must-do in Whangarei to really make the most of the city centre.
Location: Town Basin, Quayside just off Dent Street.
3. Visit the Whangarei Quarry Gardens
This disused quarry turned subtropical garden paradise is an example that anything is possible! The Whangarei Quarry Gardens, a free attraction just outside of the city, benefits from the subtropical climate that is perfect for weird and wonderful exotic flora to thrive. Enjoy the network of walkways, have a bite to eat at the on-site cafe and check out the art gallery. See more like this in the 18 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Whangarei.
Location: Russell Road, just off State Highway One, approximately 4km (2 miles) from Whangarei city centre.
4. See the Birds at the Whangarei Native Bird Recovery Centre
The Whangarei Native Bird Recovery Centre is like an animal hospital for native birds that have been found injured in the local area. Before the birds are released back into the wild, they are put in aviaries until they learn how to fly again. The aviaries are open to the public, giving you a unique opportunity to get a close-up view of some of New Zealand’s rarest wildlife. You may even be lucky to see Sparky, the resident kiwi bird.
Location: State Highway 14, Maunu (next to Kiwi North), approximately 6km (3.7 miles) from Whangarei city centre.
5. Take a Road Trip to the Whangarei Heads
You can’t visit Whangarei without exploring Whangarei Heads! You’ll find some of the best beaches in the area, as well as hikes and drives to magnificent viewpoints. Hike the Mt Manaia Track or visit the Bream Head Reserve – a kiwi habitat and breathtaking pohutukawa forest. Learn more about the things to do in the area in our 12 Things to Do at Whangarei Heads. Plus, check out more worthy road trips in The Best Day Trips from Whangarei.
Location: From the city, take Riverside Drive, then Onerahi Road past the airport and follow the coastal road.
6. Explore Abbey Caves
See glowworms and get adventurous on the Abbey Caves walk! The 2-hour loop walk has three different caves to explore with rocky entrances and most having streams at the bottom of the cave. Whether you want to explore the whole caves or just want to peak into the entrances, you’re sure to have awesome fun at these natural wonders!
Location: Abbey Caves Road, approximately 4km (2 miles) from Whangarei city centre.
7. Experience Nature and Heritage at Kiwi North
Kiwi North is packed with so many Whangarei highlights that it would almost be a crime to miss it out when visiting the area! Not only is Kiwi North a nature park with a kiwi house, but it also has the Whangarei Museum and Heritage Park. See real kiwi birds, native lizards like the gecko and tuatara, and more wildlife before you explore the history of Whangarei through its fascinating museum. See old-worldly buildings and miniature trains at the heritage park. See more activities like this in the 10 Things to Do in Whangarei with Kids.
Location: 500 State Highway 14, Maunu, approximately 6km (4 miles) from Whangarei city centre.
8. Walk (or Drive) Up Mt Parihaka
Mt Parihaka is not only a mountain with amazing views but it’s also a culturally significant area. The mountain was once the largest pa site (fortified Maori village) in New Zealand which is represented by the large carved rock seen from the lookout. You can either drive to the summit of this ancient volcano or walk on three different tracks to reach the top – see the 12 Whangarei Walks You Can’t Miss.
Location: Drive via Memorial Drive. The Hokianga/Dobbie Track and Drummond Track to the summit start from Mair Park. The Ross Track starts from Dundas Road.
9. Explore the Poor Knights Islands and the Tutukaka Coast
Another unmissable road trip from Whangarei is to the Tutukaka Coast. This coastal paradise is lined with golden-sand beaches and native forest that you’ll want to discover. What’s more, just off the coast are the famous Poor Knights Islands. This top dive site is a marine reserve with a wealth of aquatic life that you can see through snorkelling or scuba diving. The islands themselves are a must-see, formed by an ancient volcano with various arches and giant caves that local guides will no doubt show you. Find out more about this area is our 10 Terrific Things to Do in Tutukaka.
Location: Tutukaka, approximately 28km (18 miles) from Whangarei city centre.
10. Visit Claphams National Clock Museum
New Zealand is known for having a few quirky attractions and the Claphams National Clock Museum is definitely one of them! Check out the largest clock collection in the Southern Hemisphere because, why not?
Location: Dent Street.
11. Go Horse Trekking
Take in the amazing coastal scenery and rolling farmlands of Whangarei and Whangarei Heads through a horse trekking tour. Stables such as Tuidale Stables, Sandy Bay Horse Trekking and Coastal Riding Whangarei Heads offer trips for most abilities and ages, whether you’re looking for first-time riding with the kids or an experience for intermediate riders where you can even take the horses for a swim. We also list this activity in the 8 Luxury Activities in Whangarei and 10 Things to Do in Whangarei with Kids.
Location: Tuidale Stables – Bream Bay, Sandy Bay Horse Trekking – Matapouri, and Coastal Riding Whangarei Heads – Whangarei Heads.
12. Connect with the Maori Culture
Embark on a cultural and spiritual journey with Tu Tika Tours to learn all Maori life in New Zealand. Tu Tika Tours offer two-hour and five-hour experiences packed with authentic activities, including a traditional Maori welcoming ceremony, morning tea with traditional Maori cuisine, a weaving class, a singing lesson, a tour of Whangarei’s top sights and hidden gems, a Maori cooking lesson and more! Find out more about Tu Tika Tours on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Location: Pick-ups available from Whangarei.
13. Relax at the Town Basin
It’s not all active adventures in Whangarei, as you can certainly enjoy some downtime in the city. A great place to relax is at the Town Basin, an attractive bustling part of Whangarei city centre by a marina. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants to indulge at, as well as an interesting arts and crafts scene. Check out the Steve Haywood Master Jeweller (10 Quayside Way) or watch the art of glassblowing at the Burning Issues Gallery (8 Quayside). Community art galleries, a clock museum, a riverside walkway (see point #2) and more are nearby. See more activities like this in the 10 Romantic Activities in Whangarei for Couples.
Location: The Town Basin in Whangarei city centre.
14. Do a Whangarei Food Tour
If you’re a bit of a foodie, don’t miss the action-packed Delicious Whangarei Tour with Piwakawaka Tours. On the itinerary is a morning boost at a local espresso bar, tastings at a honey manufacturer and cheese factory, local snacks at Langs Beach an olive grove and a boutique chocolatier visit. The tour concludes with a winemaker’s lunch at a local vineyard. Find out more about Piwakawaka Tours on Viator and Tripadvisor. Plus, check out more like this in the 9 Things to Do in Whangarei for Foodies.
Location: Pick-ups are from The Hub, Town Basin, 91 Dent St, Whangarei or the Tarewa i-SITE, 92 Otaika Road, Raumanga, Whangarei city.