When it comes to beaches, we are pretty spoilt in Whangarei. To some, this area is known as the city of 100 beaches. And indeed, our amazing coastline offers anything from picturesque long white sandy beaches to rocky shores with hidden caves and rock pools full of interesting creatures. And no matter which way you go, it takes about half an hour and you’re near the water. Whether you fancy a swim, want to go fishing, diving or enjoy the thrill of being on a surfboard, there is a perfect beach out there for everybody. Here is our list of the best beaches in the Whangarei region.
Closest to town, the magnificent coastline of Tutukaka is home to numerous beaches and bays. The road winds its way from the city centre past Whangarei Falls towards the coast. Tutukaka is the main starting point for boat trips to the Poor Knights Island and is popular among locals and tourists alike for diving.
Matapouri and Whale Bay
One of the most pristine white sand beaches in the country, Matapouri is a favourite holiday destination for old and young. Free parking, a nearby shop, public toilets and a large grass area with a free BBQ make this beach perfect for a fun day out. Only downside: Because of its popularity, Matapouri tends to be crowded in summer (by New Zealand standards, anyway). Via a 40-minute walk along the coastline, however, you can make your way across to Whale Bay, another superb swimming spot with idyllic scenery. Whale Bay has no public road access, so it’s less frequented than Matapouri.
A paradise for surfers, Sandy Bay is a must-do for any water sports fanatic. It’s renown for spectacular waves, yet, is suitable for any age and level. There is a sheltered ‘kiddie corner’ for beginners and regular surf competitions for experts. Sandy Bay is considered one of the best surfing beaches on the entire east coast of New Zealand. If you don’t own a board, but would like to give it a go, you can hire one from the local surf shop in Tutukaka town.
One of 5 beaches along the Tutukaka Block Road, Kowharewa Bay is a sheltered alternative to open water beaches. The flat pebble beach is ideal for little ones as well as for kayaking. A little stream running into the ocean provides a safe opportunity for children to have some fun, as does a perfect climbing tree in the car park. There’s free parking, public toilets and a picnic area.
Only a few kilometres past the turnoff to Whangarei Airport starts the scenic route towards Whangarei Heads, another sublime beach-paradise. It’s a natural playground with stunning coastal views, volcanic peaks and lush native forest. Enjoy a unique snorkelling experience at Reotahi Marine Reserve.
Ocean and Kauri Mountain Beach
Right at the end of the road, Ocean Beach is the biggest and most popular beach in the area and patrolled by the local Life Saving Club during summer. Enjoy a stroll along the several kilometre-long stretches of golden sand, hike up the massive sand dunes for some great views or walk across to Kauri Mountain. It takes around 3 hours to walk the entire length of both beaches.
While Ocean Beach is highly frequented in summer, Kauri Mountain is still a bit of a hidden gem and only accessible via private farmland. It’s popular with local fisherman, offers some exciting walking tracks for all fitness levels and you will still find a private spot to sunbathe during the hot months. Public toilets and parking are available at Ocean Beach, while parking at Kauri Mountain is on private land.
Pataua North & South
Connected via footbridge that locals love jumping off at high tide, Pataua is a great holiday destination for the whole family. There is a campground and shop right by the estuary with a lagoon that makes a safe swimming spot for children. While Pataua North is a white sandy ocean beach, stretching for several kilometres and providing perfect surfing opportunities, Pataua South is more family-friendly and ideal for boogie-boarding.
Accessible only via foot from Urquharts Bay, Smuggler’s is a very secluded beach offering crystal clear water and superfine sand as white as snow. It’s a 20-minute hike from the car park through private farmland that is definitely worth it. Great spot for safe swimming and snorkelling, and dolphins, seals and occasionally whales have been spotted in the area.
Leaving Whangarei towards Auckland, you are entering Bream Bay including townships of Ruakaka, Waipu and One Tree Point. Typical for Northland’s east coast, you will find an array of stunning long white sand beaches perfect for swimming, walking and sunbathing. Waipu Cove and Ruakaka are both patrolled by lifeguards in summer. They are also home to the main campgrounds in the area with local shops making it perfect holiday destinations.
From the rocky side of Waipu Cove, follow the track to the Pancake Rocks, or drive a bit further to Langs Beach, another breath-taking beach. It’s even more marvellous in summer when countless Pohutukawa trees burst with crimson flowers. The more adventurous ones can try out Uretiti Camp Ground and Beach with a clothes optional section.
If you feel you’ve seen them all, venture a bit further away from the city and you still have ample choices in front of you. Here are a few of our favourites.
Only 45 minutes from Whangarei, Whananaki has become famous for its footbridge across the estuary, the longest in the Southern Hemisphere. It connects Whananaki North and South, both beaches providing various opportunities for swimming and fishing.
Continue driving past Bream Bay beaches and you end up in Mangawhai Heads. The township is forever growing and the local beaches a popular family-friendly destination. Swimming, fishing, surfing or boating, the choice is yours with an ocean beach on one side and a safer harbour beach on the other.