Exploring the best of Tutukaka Coast via Matapouri Headlands

Matapouri Bay is not only one of the most pristine white sandy beaches along the Tutukaka Coast, it is also the starting point for a scenic walkway along the region’s beautiful coastline and lush green native bush, offering views over crystal clear blue water with the chance of spotting native birds and marine life such as dolphins or whales. The Matapouri Headland Track leads all the way from Matapouri Bay to Whale Bay, both repeatedly ranked among New Zealand’s most beautiful beaches by travel company Lonely Planet.

The Tutukaka Coast itself is renown for its rocky coastline with numerous sheltered bays and charming beaches as well as picturesque bushwalks and the Poor Knights Marine Reserve, a Mecca for water sports fans including diving and snorkelling. Restaurants, shopping, art galleries and plenty of activities during the summer months make Tutukaka a popular tourist attraction for everyone.

To get to Tutukaka and Matapouri, leave Whangarei heading north towards Tikipunga along the Twin Coast Discovery Highway, following signs towards Whangarei Falls and Tutukaka Coast. Passing Whangarei Falls, follow the road for about 30 kilometres through the townships of Ngunguru and Tutukaka to Matapouri. From there, access to the beach and several bush tracks is on the right. Alternatively, keep going for another couple of kilometres and you will reach the Whale Bay car park, another access point to the Matapouri Headland Track.


The Matapouri Headland Track itself is a one-way hike between Matapouri Bay and Whale Bay which can be walked in either direction. However, there are several other bush walks interconnecting that allow you to continue your walk and form a loop inland through native bush back to your starting point.

Matapouri Headland Track

Starting at Matapouri Beach, head to the left along the shore towards Pebbly Beach. Access around the rocks is limited at high tide, so you need to plan ahead. The walkway to Pebbly Beach is at the end of Matapouri Beach leading across grassland and a crest to the left. The path is clearly signposted and not to be mistaken for the former track to the famous Mermaid Pools which have recently been cordoned off by local iwi to protect the native land.

To the left of Pebbly Beach, head up the stairs along the well-maintained coastal track, offering spectacular views across the entire bay. The path then follows a paddock fence with a short detour to a lookout on the right, before descending again towards the Whale Bay car park.

A few hundred metres before the car park, the track on the right leads down to Whale Bay. To return to Matapouri, either head back the way you came or choose from several inland options through native bush.

Matapouri Headland Track (Matapouri to Whale Bay car park): 1km, 40mins one way, track can be walked in either direction

Whale Bay Track

From the Whale Bay car park, follow the Matapouri Headland Track for about 300 metres until you reach the turnoff to Whale Bay on the left. The path down to the beach is well maintained, made of gravel, and allows for an easy walk just over half a kilometer, winding its way through the bush. Access to the beach is either via a number of stairs or by continuing on the stone surface a bit further to the end of Whale Bay where the toilets are located.

Whale Bay Track (from Whale Bay car park): 500m, 20mins one way

Morrison Reserve Track

If you have started the Matapouri Headland Track in Matapouri and would like to take a different return route, the Morrison Reserve Track will take you back to the village via inland, starting about 75 metres to the right from the Whale Bay car park. Follow the flight of stairs downhill. The track levels out at the bottom and leads you along the edge of the bush into a new residential area at the end of Ringer Avenue. From there, head back to Matapouri Beach via Morrison Road.

Morrison Reserve Track (Whale Bay car park to Matapouri): 500m, 20mins one way

Ridge Track

Offering an alternative route deeper through the bush, the Ridge Track starts around 160 metres away from the Whale Bay car park to the right, following a paddock fence downhill and a few sets of stairs before eventually joining the Morrison Reserve Track. From there the walkway leads back to Matapouri Beach via Ringer Ave and Morrison Road.

Ridge Track (Whale Bay car park to Matapouri): 300m, 15mins


Free public parking is available at Matapouri Beach at the end of Wehiwehi Road and Morrison Road as well as at the official Whale Bay car park about 2 kilometres north of Matapouri.


Public toilets are available at Matapouri Beach near the car park at the end of Wehiwehi Road as well as at the bottom of Whale Bay. There are no other toilet facilities along the way. A local dairy on the corner of Matapouri Road and Wehiwehi Road offers takeaway food, refreshments and everyday items.

The Matapouri Headland Track is not suitable for wheelchairs or pushchairs. However, especially the short walk to Whale Bay from the car park is a great place to take even younger children who will be able to explore the sheltered bay and its beach on a hot summer’s day. The coastal and inland tracks connecting Whale Bay car park and Matapouri Bay make a great scenic route suitable for older children. Due to some steep parts of the track, steady footwear and a reasonable level of fitness are recommended.