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.
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?
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.
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.
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Te Matau a Pohe, The Fish Hook of Pohe - the international award winning bascule (opening) bridge that crosses the Hatea River, Whangarei. Walk across the bridge as part of the Hatea Loop walkway and see it open daily at 12 noon. Dreamy photo by @jayme_visuals #WhangareiNZ #WhangareiLoveItHere #Whangarei #NZMustDo #Travel #NewZealand #NZ
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.