The Whangarei Heads Road starts right at the Whangarei Town Basin or yacht harbour, and after a short drive you can turn left up Memorial Drive and reach the summit of Mount Parihaka, with a panoramic view over Whangarei town and the harbour.
Next comes a village called Onerahi which we recommend to explore on your return trip. The Whangarei airport here is situated on an old volcano which you can circumnavigate by the water (the official geological name for this region is actually “The Onerahi Chaos”). There is also a Mangrove walk along the old railway line and a view to Limestone Island, where young kiwibirds are getting accustomed to the wild.
At Waikaraka and Tamaterau you start to enjoy the Pohutukawa lined coastal road and the calm bays on the way, all the way to Parua Bay, after which we recommend to take the right turnoff towards McLeod Bay and Ocean Beach.
McLeod Bay is another typically Kiwi style small seaside place, you’ll love the view of the sandbank at low tide when time seems to stand still, and Mount Manaia towering above the landscape..
At the end of the bay you can detour to Reotahi behind Mount Aubry and get a close look at New Zealand’s only oil refinery across the harbour entry or walk up or around Mount Aubry and learn about the freezing works ruins from where frozen meat was shipped to England nearly 100 years ago, as well as about a small island marine reserve.
We’d love to send you up fantastic Mount Manaia but we bet most prefer to continue along the coast to Taurikura and Urquharts Bay. How about walking to hidden Smuggler’s Cove from the end of Urquharts Bay..?
Well, even if you don’t, you won’t regret continuing on to the wildest surf beach in the region: Ocean Beach. It stretches for kilometres and you can always find a solitary peaceful stretch to watch the dotterels or oystercatchers and soak in the fresh energy of this untouched piece of nature. The views from the sandy shoulder to the right will reward your effort, it’s a beautiful spot even on a rainy day. The coastal forest around 476m tall Bream Head is the most precious one left in Northland, with an increasing kiwi population and plans to turn the area into a predator free mainland island.
If you are still in discovery mode then take the road to laid back Pataua South and walk across the estuary footbridge to Pataua North with many holiday baches and a surf beach. There is also a hidden and beautiful surf beach on the south side behind the camping grounds, take your boogieboards!
If you are keen to explore the really out of the way places then check out the little Taiharuru peninsula near Pataua. Like in most Whangarei coastlines, you are going to find a beautiful beach where you could enjoy life for hours. If you can spot the sign then explore the Huitau Walk to an ancient Maori pa site on a clifftop, with a hidden bay behind. The Taiharuru road ends at a quiet estuary settlement.