1. Rock stars
Explore the ancient natural rock formations of the Wairere Boulders, inland from Hōreke. This valley full of rocks, eroded into weird and wonderful shapes, was rediscovered by Swiss immigrants who bought the land in the 1980s and built a network of tracks and platforms so visitors could view the boulders. The valley makes a fascinating side trip, but bring your sturdy shoes.
2. Coffee stop
New Zealand is no longer the coffee wasteland it used to be, and every now and then an unexpected gem turns up. The Landing Café in Ōpononi is one such find, with city-quality food and coffee and fantastic views looking out over the harbour. As well as the brunch menu there’s a great range of cabinet food and a warm welcome.
3. Church spotting
One of the iconic images of the Hokianga is of a little white church in a green landscape.
They’re dotted around in the most isolated places, reminders of populations long gone but communities are still proud of their heritage.
Among the most picturesque are the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption at Motukaraka, near Kohukohu; St Mary’s at Motuiti, where Catholic missionary Bishop Pompallier’s mortal remains rest; St Peter’s at Panguru; Ripeka Tapu at Rangi Point; Ōmanaia Church at Waima; and the strikingly situated St Gabriel’s at Pawarenga.
4. Kauri country
The first Europeans came to the Hokianga in search of kauri and did a pretty good job of clearing out the magnificent trees. However, the road south from the harbour still wends its way through the mighty Waipōua Forest, saved from logging in the 1950s and containing some of the largest living specimens. At the upper reaches of the harbour lie the Ōmahuta and Puketi forest reserves, comprising more than 21,000 hectares of unlogged native forest, with various trails to explore.
5. Biking trails
The Hokianga is the ‘other end’ of the Twin Coast Cycle Trail Pou Herenga Tai, which starts in the Bay of Islands.
The track runs along the harbour edge at Hōreke, then from Kaikohe to Ōkaihau, along a disused rail corridor and past wetlands, pine forests and native bush.
Rent bikes and arrange transport with Top Trail in Kaikohe, for the opportunity to explore the region at an appropriately slower pace.