Part of an ancient chain of now extinct volcanoes, Mount Aubrey towers over the Whangarei Harbour in close proximity to its better-known cousin, Mount Manaia. Though much smaller than Manaia, climbing the top of Mount Aubrey is just as much worth the effort. With 216 metres above sea level, visitors can enjoy an almost unobstructed 360-degree view including the clear turquoise waters of the Reotahi Marine Reserve, the luscious mountain ranges of Whangarei Heads with native bush and wildlife as well as the Pacific coastline.
Mount Aubrey gets its name from Whangarei’s first Resident Magistrate, Collector of Customs and Emigration Officer. London-born Harcourt Richard Aubrey was also the postmaster for the Whangarei Heads region in the 1840s. To get there, simply follow signs for Whangarei airport, then turn left onto Whangarei Heads Road at the roundabout past the Onerahi shopping centre. Follow this scenic coastal route for about 13km through the settlements of Waikaraka, Tamaterau and Parua Bay.
Take a right turn once you passed through Parua Bay and follow the signs for Whangarei Heads until you get to McLeod Bay. From here there are different car parks from where you can start your hike to explore Mount Aubrey.
There are several starting points in McLeod Bay to explore Mount Aubrey via well maintained and clearly signposted tracks. The Mount Aubrey walkway itself extends from Tiller Car Park on Reotahi Road on one side to Little Munro Bay on the other side. The climb is considerably steep with countless flights of steps, but it doesn’t take long to get to the summit. Along the way, wooden seats invite you to stop and rest, catch your breath and admire your surroundings.
You can complete the Mount Aubrey Walkway in either direction, though the track is best completed as a loop in combination with the Reotahi Coastal Walkway. Following the water’s edge from Little Munro Bay around the base of Mount Aubrey, the track leads along several secluded water bays including the Reotahi Marine Reserve which is perfect for a swim to cool off from the heat. You will also pass the remnants of the Whangarei freezing works which were destroyed in a fire in 1921, before heading back to your starting point via Beach Road and Reotahi Road.
Mount Aubrey Walkway (Reotahi to Little Munro Bay): 1.5km, 2 hours one way or 3-hour loop including the Reotahi Coastal Walkway
Lookout and summit
The Mount Aubrey summit is closest situated to the Tiller Car Park, so if you just want to get to the top and back it’s best to start from there. The lookout is a short detour from the main track and worth the extra climb. However, it’s not for the faint-hearted as the ascent is over a loose rocky surface and up a barren rock face. The peak is exposed to the elements, therefore climbing it is not recommended during wet or extremely windy conditions. Just below the lookout, the saddle provides a lovely opportunity to recharge your batteries with a large grassy area creating the perfect picnic spot.
Official parking at Mount Aubrey is available at Tiller Car Park on Reotahi Road as well as at the end of Beach Road near the Reotahi Marine Reserve. You can also leave your vehicle along the beachfront in McLeod Bay for a longer hiking experience along the Reotahi Coastal Walkway.
Public toilets are available at the car park on Beach Road near the Reotahi Marine Reserve as well as at The Deck, a local café at the beginning of Reotahi Road overlooking the harbour.
Mount Aubrey is not suitable for wheelchairs or pushchairs and due to its steep ascent, not recommended for young children, either. However, the Reotahi Coastal Walkway is a great scenic walk suitable for the whole family and offers magnificent views of the extinct volcano and the surrounding bush.