The Top Activities and Attractions 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 provide a stunning natural playground. Make the most of this playground with this list of the best things to do in 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 26 m (85 ft)-high waterfall, then follow the Hatea River Walk to a boardwalk through ancient kauri forest with some of the largest trees in New Zealand. Find out more about these walks in the 20 Best Walks in Whangarei & Whangarei Heads.
Location: Whangarei Falls is well signposted on Ngunguru Road, Tikipunga, approximately 5 km (3 mi) from Whangarei city centre. Alternatively, you can park at the AH Reed Kauri Park on Whareora Road, Tikipunga.
2. Walk the Hatea Loop Walkway
Starting in the picturesque city centre of the Town Basin, the Hatea Loop Walkway highlights the best of Whangarei city in a 4.2 km (3.6 mi) walk/cycle trail. See Maori sculptures and amazing bridges turned into works of art, and learn about the local heritage through interpretation panels. This is a must-do in Whangarei if you want to 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 20 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Whangarei.
Location: 37A Russell Road, Kensington, Whangarei, approximately 4 km (2 mi) from Whangarei city centre just off State Highway 1.
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. See where else to see a kiwi in the 20 Best Places to See a Kiwi Bird in New Zealand.
Location: 500 State Highway 14, Maunu (next to Kiwi North), approximately 6 km (3.7 mi) 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 Te Whara Track – the latter a kiwi habitat with breathtaking pohutukawa forest. Learn more about the things to do in the area in our 15 Best 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 Whangarei Heads 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 peek into the entrances, you’re sure to have awesome fun at these natural wonders!
Location: 71 Abbey Caves Road, approximately 6.5 km (4.2 mi) 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 nocturnal 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. Finally, see old-worldly buildings and miniature trains at the heritage park. Check out more activities like this in the 15 Best Things to Do in Whangarei with Kids.
Location: 500 State Highway 14, Maunu, approximately 6 km (4 mi) from Whangarei city centre.
8. Walk 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 pā site (fortified Maori village) in New Zealand which is represented by the large carved rock seen from the lookout. There are a couple of walks to the top that are accessible from the city. Additionally, there are mountain biking trails on the east side of the mountain – see the 20 Best Walks in Whangarei to learn more.
Location: The Hokianga/Dobbie Track to the summit starts from Mair Park. The Ross Track starts from Dundas Road. Both are approximately 2 km (1 mi) from Whangarei city centre.
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 in our 10 Best Things to Do in Tutukaka.
Location: Tutukaka, approximately 28 km (18 mi) 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? You don’t know what you don’t know about clocks until you’ve seen this quirky collection. Plus, it’s one of the 20 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Whangarei.
Location: Dent Street, Quayside, Town Basin.
11. Go Horse Trekking on the Coast
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 Glamping & Horse Tours 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 10 Best Luxury Experiences in Whangarei!
Location: Tuidale Stables – 51 Uretiti Road, Waipu. Sandy Bay Glamping & Horse Tours – 5 Mcauslin Road, Sandy Bay. Coastal Riding Whangarei Heads – 47 Harambee Road, Taiharuru.
12. Connect with the Maori Culture with Tu Tika Tours
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! See more experiences like this around the country in the 10 Best Maori Tours in New Zealand.
Location: Pick-ups are included from Whangarei.
13. Marvel at the Whimsical Artwork of the Hundertwasser Art Centre with Wairau Māori Art Gallery
Immerse in the life, art and legacy of the Austrian artist, Friedensreich Hundertwasser, who spent half of his life in Northland with many architectural displays around the region. It all comes together at the Hundertwasser Art Centre with Wairau Māori Art Gallery with three exhibitions of whimsical and cultural art. Add it to your bucket list along with the 10 Best Museums in New Zealand!
Location: 81 Dent Street, Town Basin.
14. Golf in Paradise
Experience the great outdoors of Whangarei in a unique way at one of the serene golf courses in and around the city. The Waipu Golf Club is a superbly-maintained 18-hole course that features breathtaking views of islands, ocean and Bream Bay Beach. The Pines Golf Club is a short drive from the city in the Whangarei Heads, boasting sweeping views along with an interesting array of challenges. Northland Golf Club is a comprehensive club with lessons, a driving range and excellent food. And, of course, there’s always the Whangarei Golf Club; your inner-city parkland green on Mt Denby. Find more courses across the country in the 20 Best Golf Courses in New Zealand.
Location: Waipu Golf Club – 3229 State Highway 1, Waipu. The Pines Golf Club – 750 Whangarei Heads Road, Onerahi. Northland Golf Club – 160A Pipiwai Road, Kamo. Whangarei Golf Club – Par Lane, Tikipunga.
15. Explore the Coast by Kayak
Paddle somewhere stunning like the Whangarei Harbour, the Tutukaka Coast or even the Poor Knights Islands; there are plenty of options in Whangarei! Pacific Coast Kayaks offers a seemingly never-ending menu of small-group and often private kayak tours ranging from half-day adventures to overnight expeditions. See how these tours compare to the 10 Best Spots for Sea Kayaking in New Zealand.
Location: 70 Beach Road, Onerahi, approximately 8 km (5 mi) from Whangarei city centre.
16. 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 in, 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). Of course, a visit to the Town Basin is not complete until you’ve experienced the whimsical works of the Hundertwasser Art Centre with Wairau Maori Art Gallery (81 Dent Street). See more activities like this in the 10 Most Romantic Things to Do in Whangarei.
Location: Town Basin, Whangarei city centre.
17. Learn How to Surf in Tutukaka
There’s never a bad time to learn something new, especially when it is something as awesome as surfing in Tutukaka! NZ Surf Academy offers adult surf lessons at Sandy Bay, Woolleys and Matapouri beaches on the Tutukaka Coast, while Tutukaka Surf Northland NZ is another great surf school at Sandy Bay. See how this compares to surfing elsewhere in the 10 Best Places to Surf on the North Island.
Location: Tutukaka Coast, approximately 30 km (19 mi) from Whangarei city centre. Meeting points are arranged with the operators.
18. Check Out the Whangarei Markets
Experience a real Kiwi market with arts, crafts and local produce for sale! You’ll pick up some authentic souvenirs to take home and try some yummy treats. There’s also live music adding to the vibe.
Markets in Whangarei
- Artisans Market – 3-7 pm, Saturday from Labour Weekend through summer – Town Basin
- Whangarei Growers Market – 6-10 am, Saturday – 17 Water Street
- The Canopy Night Market – 5 pm fortnightly Fridays through summer – Town Basin
- Tikipunga Market – 6:30-11 am, Sunday – Corner of Wanaka Street and Denby Crescent.
See more like this in the 10 Best Foodie Experiences in Whangarei.
19. Get in Some Beach Time at Ruakaka Beach
You can find fantastic beaches in all directions from Whangarei, many of which are situated down the Whangarei Heads Road. However, if you venture south on State Highway 1, you’ll find the stunning 13 km (8-mi) long Ruakaka Beach and its quaint seaside village. The expanse of sand and shells features amazing views of the Whangarei Heads in the distance, which you can enjoy along with safe swimming thanks to the surfguard patrols in summer. See more beaches in the area in the 10 Best Beaches in Whangarei.
Location: Ruakaka Beach Road, approximately 30 km (19 mi) from Whangarei city centre.
20. Visit the Packard Motor Museum
Although a little out of town, Whangarei has another museum/collection up its sleeve in the form of the Packard Motor Museum. Check out the unique collection of Packard cars, as well as other vintage vehicles and all sorts of treasures to discover! The museum is open from Tuesday to Saturday.
Location: Old Dairy Factory, 1146, State Highway 14, Maungatapere, approximately 12.5 km (8 mi) from Whangarei city centre.
21. 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 175 m (574 ft) long. There is a shallow stream running in the bottom of the cave so be prepared to get your feet wet. Check out more experiences nearby in the 10 Best Things to Do in Waipu & Bream Bay.
Location: Waipu Caves Road, approximately 30 km (18.5 mi) south of Whangarei.
22. Catch “Red Fish” on a Fishing Charter
Try your luck at catching some of the “red fish” of the Whangarei waters, including granddaddy hapuku, pink maomao, red pigfish, crayfish and more on a private fishing charter. Oakura Bay Fish, Dive & Cruise offers a range of small-boat fishing charters ranging from a two-hour “Learn to Fish” trip to a 10-hour “Serious! Full-day Fishing Adventure”. Weather permitting, trips also include cruises to the Hole in the Rock or the Poor Knights Islands. There are also Bream Bay Charters in Bream Bay and Cronin Fishing Charters at Whangarei Heads for more options nearby.
Location: a-Oakura Bay Fish, Dive & Cruise – 207 Oakura Beach Road, RD4 Hikurangi. Bream Bay Charters – 58 Rauiri Drive, Marsden Cove. Cronin Fishing Charters – 71 Ritchie Road, Parua Bay. All are approximately 24-50 km (15-31 mi) from Whangarei city centre.
23. Check Out Botanica
This free and perfect rainy-day activity incorporates both a fernery and a conservatory with a mix of exotic and native plants. The fernery holds one of the largest collections of native ferns in New Zealand with one of the highlights being the resident eels. On the other side of Botanica is the conservatory holding interesting displays of cacti, tropical plants and Japanese gardens.
Location: 2 First Avenue, Whangarei city centre.
24. Visit the Whangarei Art Museum
For a good dose of culture, take a look around the Whangarei Art Museum with its ever-changing displays of local and international art. There is a mix of heritage and contemporary pieces to enjoy in this free-entry venue.
Location: 91 Dent Street, Town Basin.
25. Hike in the Pukenui Forest
Escape the city to the nearby Pukenui Forest, which hosts a couple of excellent walking trails. The family-friendly option is the 3-4-hour Pukenui Forest Trail, which meanders along a picturesque stream through kauri and totara forest. Alternatively, the Taraire Ridge Track is a more technical trail that crosses a ridge through stunning native forest. Allow 4-5 hours for this loop track. See more like this in the 20 Best Walks in Whangarei.
Location: End of Amalin Drive, Three Mile Bush. Both trails start by crossing a boundary fence and a stream before reaching the official trailheads.
More Things to Do Near Whangarei
That’s it for our list of things to do in Whangarei. For dining recommendations check out The Food Guide to Whangarei: Places to Eat & Food Tours, as well as places to stay in the 10 Best Hotels in Whangarei. Plus, check out these activities in the surrounding towns:
- 15 Best Things to Do at Whangarei Heads
- 10 Best Things to Do in Waipu & Bream Bay
- 10 Best Things to Do in Tutukaka
Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed, you’re likely to find it in The Complete Guide to Whangarei.