The Complete Guide to Whangarei
The Complete Guide to Whangarei

The Complete Travel Guide to Whangarei [2023]

© David Kirkland – Northland Inc

How to Plan the Best Trip to Whangarei

Summer, or even winter, calls for a trip to Whangarei! New Zealand’s northernmost city offers a unique subtropical climate which can be made the most out of through its surrounding beaches, walking trails and one of the top scuba diving spots and natural wonders of the country, the Poor Knights Islands.

The city and surrounding region are rich in Maori heritage with the tours and experiences to match, while adventure, food, nature and relaxation are also part of the activity menu.

So plan your trip to Whangarei according to your unique travel style with this complete travel guide to Whangarei!

Common Questions About Whangarei

Let’s cut to the chase; what are the most common questions travellers have about visiting Whangarei?

What is Whangarei Known For?

Whangarei is known for being the northernmost city in New Zealand, particularly famous for its large picturesque waterfall and abundance of beaches.

Where is Whangarei Located?

In the Northland region of the North Island, approximately 2h15mins north of Auckland and 1 hour south of Paihia.

What is the Weather Usually Like in Whangarei?

Whangarei has a subtropical climate. The daily average temperature is 15.7°C/60.3°F, while yearly average rainfall is 1500mm/59.1″. Find out more in What is the Weather Like in New Zealand?

How Do You Get to Whangarei?

Whangarei is well connected to the rest of New Zealand by road and by air with its own domestic airport. The closest international airport is Auckland Airport with plenty of car rental options available. Whangarei is also on the main national bus route, which you can find more information about in Bus Networks in New Zealand.

How Many Days Do You Need in Whangarei?

One day is enough to see the city highlights, while 3-4 days will allow you to explore the surroundings, such as the Whangarei Heads.

The Complete Travel Guide to Whangarei© Sarah Orne - Northland Inc

What to Do in Whangarei

New Zealand’s northernmost city not only makes an appealing base for exploring the stunning Whangarei Heads and Tutukaka Coast – check out The Best Day Trips from Whangarei – but it has a few fun attractions of its own. Marvel at natural wonders, from Whangarei Falls to native birds at Kiwi North, and discover hidden gems like the free glowworm displays at Abbey Caves.

The Top Experiences in Whangarei

What are the must-dos? Here are some of the Whangarei highlights:

  • Get a photo of the majestic Whangarei Falls
  • See giant trees at the AH Reed Kauri Park and take on the other 12 Whangarei Walks You Can’t Miss
  • Visit the Whangarei Quarry Gardens
  • See the birds at the Whangarei Native Bird Recovery Centre
  • See glowworms at Abbey Caves
  • Experience nature and heritage at Kiwi North
  • Walk (or drive) up Mt Parihaka
  • Scuba dive or cruise around the Poor Knights Islands and the Tutukaka Coast
  • Visit Claphams National Clock Museum

… And the list continues over in our 15 Best Things to Do in Whangarei.

The Complete Travel Guide to Whangarei©

Where to Stay in Whangarei

Other than the accommodations we recommend on the righthand side of this complete travel guide to Whangarei (or at the bottom, if you’re reading this on mobile), we have compiled entire lists of places to stay based on price, what’s best for families or a couples’ getaway, as well as premium stays. What’s more, each list is compiled by real writers; not some algorithm.

The Complete Guide to Whangarei©

Whangarei for Budget Travellers

Whangarei offers plenty of free and cheap experiences for budget travellers. Waterfalls, kauri walks, gardens, glowworm caves and more make up the list of free things to do, while there’s enough variety of motels, hostels and holiday parks to keep the cost of your stay to a minimum. There is a local bus service to make getting around affordable, but having your own vehicle will allow you to explore Whangarei, Whangarei Heads, Waipu and beyond with ease. Check out more budget travel tips in The Guide to Whangarei on a Budget and Whangarei – Guide for Backpackers.

Things to Do in Whangarei on a Budget

  • Check out Whangarei Falls
  • See the glowworms at Abbey Caves
  • Visit the birds at the Whangarei Native Bird Recovery Centre
  • Explore the subtropical oasis of the Whangarei Quarry Gardens
  • Hike the Mt Manaia Track.

For more inspiration, head to the 18 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Whangarei.

Budget Accommodation in Whangarei

Scattered around the city are more motels than you can shake a stick at, which make a comfortable budget option. Alternatively, backpacker hostels and a couple of holiday parks are available. Find out more in the 10 Best Budget Accommodations in Whangarei and the 5 Best Backpacker Hostels in Whangarei.

The Complete Travel Guide to Whangarei© Unsplash

Whangarei for Luxury Travellers

Whangarei strikes the right balance of premium outdoor adventures and inner-city luxury for those looking to visit the city for a special occasion. Luxury lodges on acres of farmland and beachfront provide a “treat-yourself” stay, while experiences like horse trekking, scenic golf courses, private fishing charters and intimate Maori tours provide an extra memorable experience. Stay in the city in one of the boutique lodges of four-star hotels. Alternatively, luxury lodges await on the outskirts. Dive a little deeper into the luxury Whangarei experience in The Luxury Guide to Whangarei.

Luxury Activities in Whangarei

  • Enjoy a farm experience and indulge in spa treatments at Helena Bay Lodge
  • Dive the famous Poor Knights Islands with New Zealand Diving (more info and book tickets on Viator or Tripadvisor)
  • Test your swing at the stunning Waipu Golf Club
  • Immerse in an authentic Maori experience with Tu Tika Tours (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
  • Indulge in fine dining at TopSail, Tonic and more.

Get more details on each experience and more in the 8 Best Luxury Experiences in Whangarei.

Luxury Accommodation in Whangarei

Whangarei offers both inner-city comforts with hotels, boutique lodges and apartments, as well as luxury beachfront lodges outside of the city. Check out some of your options in the 5 Best Luxury Accommodations in Whangarei.

The Complete Travel Guide to Whangarei© Sarah Orne - Northland Inc

Whangarei for Families

An easy family escape awaits in Whangarei where there are both outdoor family adventures and indoor educational attractions to enjoy. Stay in one of the city’s hotels, motels, holiday parks or holiday homes, and treat the trip to cruising at the Poor Knights Islands, high-wire obstacle courses, horse riding, kiwi houses and more. Start planning your family getaway with The Guide to Whangarei for Families.

Family Activities in Whangarei

  • Cruise and snorkel at the Poor Knights Islands
  • Get some family beach time in at Ruakaka Beach
  • See kiwi birds at Kiwi North, Museum & Heritage Park
  • Zipline through the trees at Adventure Forest
  • Ride on “Monster Scooters” at Heads Up.

For more information on each activity, see the 10 Things to Do in Whangarei with Kids.

Family Accommodation in Whangarei

Whangarei has options for families with all budgets and needs. Motels are a good option for self-catering, while families looking for privacy and space will enjoy the holiday cottages available. Check out some of our top picks in the 10 Best Family Accommodations in Whangarei.

The Complete Guide to Whangarei©

Whangarei for Couples

Whether you’re celebrating something special or simply looking for a weekend escape together, Whangarei offers couples plenty of ways to bond. Enjoy private multi-day hikes on uncrowded trails, learn a new skill together like surfing or scuba diving, and end the day with a romantic meal in The Town Basin watching the boats in the marina. Boutique lodges, luxury lodges and hotels make the ideal stay for couples. For more advice check out The Honeymoon & Romantic Getaway Guide to Whangarei.

Romantic Activities in Whangarei

  • Embark on an uncrowded multi-day walk at the Bream Bay Coast Walks
  • Learn how to surf together in Tutukaka
  • Check out the art and cafe scene of The Town Basin
  • Explore Whangarei Heads on horseback
  • Test your teamwork in a double-kayak kayaking tour with Pacific Coast Kayaks.

Discover more about each experience in the 10 Most Romantic Things to Do in Whangarei for Couples.

Couples’ Accommodation in Whangarei

We’ve picked out some of the most romantic boutique lodges, B&Bs and even motels in the 5 Best Romantic Accommodations in Whangarei.

The Complete Guide to Whangarei© David Kirkland - Northland Inc

Whangarei for Foodies

Whangarei is a real hidden gem for foodies thanks to its artisans, food tours and cultural foodie experiences. Taste raw manuka honey, do a food discovery tour, learn to make a Maori hangi and more! That’s not to mention the range of eateries Whangarei has to offer, from creative street eats to contemporary New Zealand cuisine at fine dining restaurants. Get further inspired with The Food Guide to Whangarei: Places to Eat & Food Tours.

Activities in Whangarei for Foodies

  • Learn to make your own Maori hangi with Tu Tika Tours (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
  • Mingle with the growers at the Whangarei Growers Market
  • Taste raw manuka honey at Helmsdale Hives
  • Do a wine tasting at Te Whai Bay Wines
  • Taste artisan cheese at the Grinning Gecko Cheese Co.

Check out more food-tastic options in the 9 Best Foodies Experiences in Whangarei.

Where to Eat in Whangarei

  • Biggie Bagels (7 Bank Street)
  • TopSail (206 Beach Road)
  • Tonic (239 Kamo Road)
  • Split Bar & Restaurant (15 Rathbone Street)
  • Fat Camel (12 Quality Street)
  • Serenity Cafe (45 Quayside)

Foodie Accommodation in Whangarei

Foodies may be interested in B&Bs with exceptional breakfasts, easy dining at a hotel with a restaurant, or perhaps the option to spruce up their own meals in self-catering accommodation. We list a few options in the 10 Best Accommodations in Whangarei for Foodies.

More About Whangarei

That’s it for our complete travel guide to Whangarei but by no means the end of our Whangarei travel tips! Check out the following guides for more advice on what to do in the region:

Finally, plan more of your North Island trip using the North Island in Two Weeks: Road Trip Itinerary or North Island in One Week: Road Trip Itinerary. You’ll also find more advice for planning an epic NZ trip in The Best Travel Guide to New Zealand.


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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