Helen is one of our regular tour leaders, who particularly enjoys leading some of our more active walking and cycling tours. While we are unable to take our travellers to exciting destinations overseas, she is keen to share some of her favourite Northland walks.
The focus of the trip is on short walks which give access to highlight features of each area. All are on well made paths. Almost all are around an hour or less, and, if you find you have had enough on any of the days, all have the option of allowing you to stay with the bus to meet the group at the end of the walk, or have a more leisurely start on some days.
$3,250 per person, share twin
$730 single supplement
22 – 29 March, 2022
Able to walk 1 -2 hours
All paths are well-made
• Accommodation in 4-star hotels & 5-star motel
• 7 breakfasts & 4 dinners
• Transport in a Luxury Mercedes sprinter Coach
• Services of your knowledgeable Tour Leader/Driver Helen Tait
• Domestic airfares
• Travel insurance
We meet at 1.00pm at the Mercure Auckland, Queen Street Hotel to meet fellow group members. Luggage can be stored prior to check in later in the afternoon.
We will walk to the ferry building, and take a 10 minute ferry ride to the picturesque harbourside suburb of Devonport (bring your Gold Card if you are lucky enough to have one) We will walk along the waterfront with its luxury waterfront homes and up to North Head for impressive views back to the city., There is the option of a visit to the New Zealand Navy Museum before heading back to Devonport to stroll through the township and perhaps stop for a well-earned ice cream or a drink.
We take the ferry back to Auckland to check-in at the hotel, where we have a welcome dinner this evening.
Our first stop is at Parry Kauri Park, one of the last reserves that allow people to see kauri trees, although some of the tracks have been closed.
Our journey then takes us through to the award winning Matakohe Kauri Museum. At 4,500 sq. metres, the museum is Northland’s largest indoor attraction, and tells the story of the kauri tree and the people who developed industries to harvest the rich resources of our ancient kauri forests. The Kauri Museum’s gum collection is the world’s best and biggest, an exquisite sight. Kauri gum is Aotearoa New Zealand’s version of amber. Our kauri gum shines with the light of the thousands of years it has taken the resin of the kauri tree to form juvenile amber. The Smith Wing shows huge kauri logs and displays actual equipment for felling trees, transporting logs, milling timber and collecting kauri gum. It features a blacksmith’s workshop and a model dam.
We then travel through green rolling farmland, past Dargaville, the Kumara capital of New Zealand; then a total contrast in landscape, as we enjoy a bush walk through the dramatic kauri trees of Trounson Kauri Park. The restoration project here includes a 586-hectare forest reserve and farmland. The project aims to restore the former richness of native biodiversity this forest once boasted, and to let visitors enjoy a glimpse of what pristine kauri forests were once like. It is home to several threatened species, such as North Island brown kiwi, kūkupa (New Zealand pigeon), pekapeka (bats) and kauri snails. It also incorporates a magnificent dense stand of kauri that has long been recognised as one of the best examples in the country. It has the highest-density of North Island brown kiwi populations in Northland, under threat from a northward-advancing ferret population. Most of the forest was gifted to the Crown by James Trounson, an early settler, and officially opened in 1921.
We then head further North through the lush expanse of the Waipoua Kauri forest, making a stop for a short walk to pay our respects to Tāne Mahuta, also called God of the Forest, a giant kauri tree – the largest kauri known to stand today, named for the Māori god of forests and of birds. The tree’s age is unknown but is estimated to be between 1,250 and 2,500 years.
Our destination for the day is Omapere and the spectacular Rangi Point sand dunes. Spiritually significant to local Maori, the North Head Dunes are a natural wonder. The area contains an array of interesting features, from sacred areas that visitors are asked to respect, to huge sand sculptures and massive sand canyons. A gallery of natural erosion, a world of shifting sands, wind scarred bluffs and delicate temporary overhangs. From the summit of the dunes is a limitless vision of the coast line and the Tasman Sea. It is in its own unique way one of New Zealand’s most spectacular and memorable landscapes.
We will have dinner this evening at our hotel.
We head North via the Rawene ferry across the historic Hokianga harbour, to Kohukohu, where we will have a short stop to explore local art galleries, before heading on to the Waipahihi Wildlife Sanctuary. Here 100 acres of native bush, pasture, streams, waterfalls and wetlands have been fully protected under a QE II Trust covenant. We will then travel through rolling farmland to get to our first glimpse of 90 mile beach at Ahipara, where we stop for a brief walk.
Then it’s on via Kaitaia to Taipa Beach, our home for the next two nights, where we will have time to walk on golden sand, and to visit the galleries and shops of the attractive port township of Mangonui.
On the way we may stop off at Taumarumaru Reserve located on a steep rocky headland. The reserve contains three pa sites, two on the headland (Ohumuhumu and Otanenui) and one on the central ridge (Taumarumaru). Found within the reserve are remnants of Maori occupation of the area.
We have a relaxing end to the afternoon at the picturesquely sited Dancing Petrel Vineyard to enjoy a wine-tasting treat, and then to stop off in Mangonui to enjoy the famous fish and chips – or other luscious food choices.
The Cape Reinga-Spirits Bay region of the Far North has great significance for Māori. According to traditional belief, when the spirits of the dead return to Hawaiki, the homeland of their ancestors, they travel along sacred pathways of the Muriwhenua (land’s end).
We will travel to the Cape and walk from Tapotupotu Beach to the iconic lighthouse – start of the famous Te Araroa track, which runs the length of New Zealand. To the west is Cape Maria Van Dieman and Motuopao Island, to the east is Piwhane/Spirits Bay and Hikurua/de Serville Cliffs, the North Island’s most northern point.
Offshore, you can witness the immense power of two mighty oceans merging. The currents of the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet in a foaming swell of broken water over the Columbia Bank. At times, the churning waves erupt in explosions of spray and spume. On a clear day you might be lucky enough to see the Three Kings Islands on the distant horizon.
On our return we will stop for further walks on 90 mile beach, including Te Paki Stream and the dramatic Sand Dunes, where we can climb to the top for spectacular views, and the fun of sliding down, or just take a quieter stroll around the bottom of the dunes.
This evening we have dinner at the Taipa Beach Resort.
We start the day with a visit to fascinating Butler Point, a privately owned 26 hectare property near Mangonui. Over the last four decades the proprietors of Butler Point, Lindo and Laetitia Ferguson, have developed the property into a macadamia orchard and one of the Far North’s most fascinating heritage tourism destinations. Butler Point is notable for its association with the early history of the Far North. On the property are a Whaling Museum, acknowledged as one of the most comprehensive private museums of its kind in New Zealand; Butler House, the residence of Captain William Butler built in 1847; and Gardens of exotic and native flora, including extensive stands of ancient pohutukawa trees. The Whaling Museum and Butler House are recognised by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust as nationally significant heritage buildings. The gardens have been recognised as a ‘Garden of Significance’ with the New Zealand Gardens Trust (NZGT). A pa on the property provides evidence of earlier occupation by Maori. European manufactured items show that early historic contact occurred between Maori and visiting whalers.
We will have time to walk through the bush clad peninsula before heading on to Kerikeri, where our first stop will be the historic Old Stone Store. The Stone Store is New Zealand’s oldest surviving stone building. Part of the second Church Missionary Society station in New Zealand, the store was designed by John Hobbs to replace an earlier wooden storehouse. We will then walk alongside the Kerikeri river to Rainbow Falls, another must-see attraction. Puriri, totara, karaka, and manuka shelter the path to the falls three stunning viewing platforms. The Te Araroa Trail joins the Kerikeri River Track at this point. During our time in Kerikeri we will stop off for a great choice of lunch options before we head on to Paihia, where we will stay for the next two nights.
This evening we can try one of Paihia’s many restaurants.
We head off this morning on the most popular dolphin watching cruise in the Bay of Islands, and for good reason! We board our cruise in Paihia and take in the stunning views as we glide out through the islands and along the Rakaumangamanga Peninsula to Cape Brett, where a historic lighthouse keeps watch over Piercy Island/Motukōkako, or as it is popularly known the ‘Hole in the Rock’. We will be keeping careful watch for dolphins along the way.
On our return we’ll stop off for lunch and a walk through the historic township of Russell.
Back to Paihia and on to a visit to the Waitangi Treaty House and recently redeveloped Te Kōngahu Museum of Waitangi which holds a stunning collection of stories and taonga that bring to life the history of Waitangi, one of New Zealand’s most important historic sites.
Following our visit we head out on a unique walk via bush tracks and elevated boardwalks over a mangrove swamp to Haruru Falls.
Some of the restaurant choices we missed last night will be waiting for us this evening.
After an early morning coastal walk towards Opua, we continue our journey with a stop at Kawakawa to visit the most famous toilets of New Zealand, the ones that were created and build by Friedensreich Hundertwasser, the artist who was born in Vienna in 1928.
We will learn more of Hundertwasser and his legacy when we reach Whangarei city centre where we will have a walk around the interesting Town Basin area, and be introduced to the exciting Hundertwasser Art Centre Project, a huge museum, build in the style the Vienna artist was known for in his dramatic and eccentric architecture. The project has been advanced over many years by a dedicated group of Whangarei locals, and has required a lot of passion to stick to the idea. They managed to raise 26 million in two years to proceed.
We will then head out of town to the Whangarei Falls, before heading out to Whangarei Heads where there will be a choice of a challenging climb up Mt Manaia (420m.) for stunning views from the summit, The track leads you under nīkau palms and kauri stands with glimpses of northern rātā hanging from pōhutukawa among a cluster of jagged bush-covered peaks. For those who do not fancy the steep climb, there will be a a more leisurely coastal option.
We then head back to Whangarei to our very nice accommodation, and a farewell dinner at a city restaurant.
We follow the spectacular coastal drive down to Mangawhai Heads for a beautiful coastal walk, where we will see a great range of seabirds. The walk provides breathtaking coastal views that extend from Bream Head in the north down to the Tāwharanui Peninsula in the south. The Coromandel Peninsula and Great Barrier Island/Aotea are often seen on the horizon.
The track starts along the beach, then climbs quite steeply for about 20 minutes to a lookout point. It then winds past ancient pōhutukawa teetering on the sheer slopes before descending to the stony beach below. From here, depending on the tide, we may walk back along the beach.
After our walk, we will stop off for a short walk to the Dome Forest Lookout before a well-earned lunch stop in Warkworth, before travelling back to central Auckland and on to Auckland airport.
Helen lives in Christchurch and is a keen skier, cyclist and walker. She has led tours for Tours Direct for over 10 years, and loves sharing her enthusiasm for a wide range of places and cultures. She specially likes to share walking and cycling tours, at a relaxed pace suited to travellers for whom this might be a first.