Wooleys Bay on the Tutukākā Coast. © Russell Street

Loved by the locals: Whangārei


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1. Chocolate dipped

The small settlement on the river at Mangawhai (as opposed to the bach town at the Heads down the road) is little more than a bend in the road, but it’s a frequently visited bend. Aficionados will recognise the name as the home of chocolatiers Bennetts of Mangawhai, and its chocolate shop and café are always buzzing at weekends.

While there are truly too many treats to choose from, the peanut-butter filled chocolate mice were a surprise hit with our family.

There’s also a great community market over the road at the Village Hall on Saturdays.

What's your favourite Bennetts truffle? #tasteofnewzealand

A post shared by Bennetts Of Mangawhai (@bennettschocolates) on Sep 11, 2017 at 5:00pm PDT

2. The good oil

You might not think about where that petrol in your car is coming from very often, but take a detour of State Highway One at Ruakākā and the visitor centre at the Marsden Point oil refinery will tell you all about it. There’s a huge scale-model of the refinery and information panels, videos and information about the pipeline to Auckland. And there’s a café. Who knew?

A post shared by Freya Puharich (@freya_jasmine) on Aug 28, 2017 at 10:57pm PDT

3. Beaches and baches

The coast north of Whangārei city is a great place to hire a bach and enjoy the Kiwi summer or have the place nearly to yourself for a winter weekend. Places like Pātaua – the North and South sections linked only by a footbridge – Taiharuru and Ngunguru are all classic Kiwi bach settlements, where kids can run around and fossick on the beach.

Further north there’s the Whananaki and Whangaruru Harbours, where there are old-school campgrounds, spreading pōhutukawa trees and easy boat launching.

Pink skies over the Ngunguru Sandspit.

A post shared by New Zealand Tours! (@soleventures) on Aug 13, 2017 at 6:18pm PDT

4. Bridging Whangārei

Whangārei has become quite the place to go for pontists – that’s people who fancy bridges - with the construction of Te Matau a Pohe (a lifting bascule road bridge over the Hatea River) and the Kotuitui Whiti foot and cycle bridge over the Waiarohia Stream. They’re both part of a 4.2 km loop for walkers and cyclists around the upper river, which passes the shops and galleries of the Town Basin and passes local sculpture and information panels about the area’s heritage. Keep your blood sugar up with a stop at the Fudge Farm at the Town Basin.

5. ‘Toot’

Tutukākā Marina is the jumping-off point for most charter trips out to the Poor Knights Islands, but what the locals called ‘Toot’ is a nice place to while away a few hours in its own right. The walk out to the Tutukākā Light is steep in places – there’s a big down, then a big up – but the views up and down the coast are spectacular. Check out the launches and the huge stingrays in the marina, then grab a fish burger at the Whangārei Deep Sea Anglers Club restaurant or, for something a bit more upmarket, dine at Schnappa Rock near the entrance to the marina.

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1 comment


24 July 2018 | By ole20nz

You didn't mention our favourite Whangarai place and that is the wonderful waterfall. It is well worth a look for anyone visiting Whangarai.

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