Whangārei Heads and the Te Whara Track

February 3, 2023
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WHANGĀREI, the northernmost city in Aotearoa New Zealand, lies at the heart of three coasts, the Tūtūkākā Coast, the Whangārei Heads, and Bream Bay. Here is a map that I saw at the Whangārei iSite, on Otaika Road.

There is an excellent PDF flier about Whangārei and the Whangārei Heads area on the tourist website Northland NZ, called Where Giants Gather. The flier includes a lovely map. Here is a detail from it, showing the Whangarei Heads.

Map detail courtesy of Northland NZ

The local stretch of New Zealand’s great national trail, Te Araroa, shown in faint dots, runs around the Whangārei Heads Peninsula. It runs southward from Pātaua over Kauri Mountain and then along Ocean Beach to join up with the Te Whara Track, before heading northward to Mount Manaia and Mount Aubrey, before crossing the water to Marsden Point.

If you are heading north on State Highway 1 from Auckland, the Whangārei Heads and Mount Manaia heave into view as you cross the Brynderwyn Range, about 40 km south of Whangarei as the crow flies. It’s a really dramatic sight.

Mount Manaia (left) and the Whangarei Heads (right), from the Brynderwyns. Photo by the Whangārei District Council via Northland NZ.

Let’s follow the local stretch of Te Araroa, starting at Pātaua. This is a charming little place. For reasons I will explain in a moment, the best way to get there by car is by driving east from Whangārei through Parua Bay, where you can also stop to check out the walk to Manganese Point and Motukiore Island.

Screenshot of an interactive Map by the New Zealand Department of Conservation with scale overlay added (2023). The background map data is by LINZ via NZ Topo Map, CC BY 4.0. North is at the top.

When you get to Pātaua you will find that it is divided between Pātaua North and Pātaua South, with only a footbridge between them.


That’s why it’s best to go by the Parua route if you are planning to do any more driving to the south of Pātaua.

There are some short local walking tracks at Pātaua. You can also drive down the peninsula. And as I mentioned you can also hike the Te Araroa Trail southward, starting along the flats of the Taiharuru River at low tide and then over Kauri Mountain via the recently upgraded Kauri Mountain Track and down to Ocean Beach, where you walk toward the Whangārei Heads.

Here are a couple of views of Ocean Beach. The memorial to HMS Pūriri, sunk by a mine near Bream Head in 1941, is near the southern end of the beach.

Ocean Beach near the start of the Te Whara Track

Surfers at Ocean Beach. Photo by the Whangārei District Council via Northland NZ.

The next attraction is the Whangārei Heads themselves, in the form of Bream Head at the southeastern end of the peninsula and Busby Head at the southwestern.

Bream Head. photo by ‘Glenn h’, 2 February 2008, CC-BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The Te Whara Track runs between Ocean Beach, north of Bream Head and the Te Whara Track Scenic Lookout, to Smugglers Bay near Busby Head. Three other tracks cross or branch off from the Te Whara Track, namely the Peach Cove Track, the Busby Head Track, and the romantically named Smugglers Bay Walk.

Imagery via Google Earth Pro (2021). Credits are embedded in the image. Northwest toward the top.

On the Te Whara Track, also known as the Bream Head Coastal Track. Photo via Northland NZ.

Smugglers Bay Loop Track. Photo via Northland NZ.

The next attraction is the spectacular, jungly, Mount Manaia, and Mount Aubrey to its southwest. You can see Mount Aubrey in front of Mount Manaia in this photo, taken from Marsden Point.

Mounts Aubrey and Manaia as seen from Marsden Point

Mount Aubrey is hidden behind Mount Manaia in this photo, taken from the other side.

Mt Manaia viewed from Taurikura township near the Whangarei Heads. Photo by ‘Follash’, 3 November 2007, public domain image via Wikimedia Commons.

You can climb Mount Manaia and Mount Aubrey, and there is also a low-level loop walk around Mount Aubrey.

The Mount Manaia Track. Photo via Northland NZ.

Really, if you live in New Zealand there’s not really all that much need to go to Tahiti or Hawai‘i or anywhere like that, it’s all right here. It’s incredible to think, too, that this subtropical, Polynesian terrain is in the same country as the ski capital of Queenstown: a town which is, admittedly, two hours closer to the South Pole by jet.

On the other side of the harbour entrance, near the Marsden Point oil refinery, the inhabitants of a new, canal-type waterfront development called Marsden Cove, modelled on the ones in Australia, benefit from a good view of Mounts Aubrey and Manaia and the mountainous range along which the Te Whara Track runs.

I made a video of the Whangarei Heads as seen from the Marsden Point area, and of Marsden Cove as well.

But with blurbs like ‘What does lifestyle mean for Kylie and Brendon’ and addresses like Poaka Place, Poaka being Māori for porky the pig of course, Marsden Cove also seems a bit like one of those Australian sendups. The Roman cynic Juvenal said it is hard not to write satire. This might be an example.

See, further,

If you liked this post, check out my award-winning new book about the North Island.

New Zealand



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