Waipoua Kauri Forest and Hokianga Harbour
Some of our guests prefer to see the giant Kauri trees of Northland in one day and come back to sleep in Whangarei. We suggest driving via Dargaville and Baylys Beach and then heading up the west coast. After Dargaville you can make a detour to the biggest dune lakes in New Zealand - the Kai Iwi Lakes, usually lively with waterskis and boats.
If you don’t want to miss any chance to see Kauri trees then head off to the Trounson Kauri Park Walk. It’s not a long walk and you will see many big Kauris there, apparently very densely populated with Kiwi birds. It already gives a very good impression of the ancient Northland forests. If you continue on the unsealed road and make a loop then you’ll pass the quirky Donnellys Crossing hamlet, once the centre of an important logging railway line.
Back on State Highway 12 one of the most beautiful stretches of New Zealand road begins (although it can be a nightmare when you’re in a hurry...). Lots of curves up and down through native bush, you can see many Kauri trees in the forest, the ones with very high branch tops. The road is lined with hundreds of tree ferns. In Waipoua Forest we recommend two short walks to the largest Kauri trees existing, Te Matua Ngahere (Father of the Forest) and Tane Mahuta (Lord of the Forest), who once were only allowed to be approached by Maori priests. Both are unique, Tane Mahuta in height and Te Matua Ngahere in width, both radiate with personality and both walks are worth it. “The Four Sisters” are also right on the track to Te Matua Ngahere, the “Yakas Kauri” is the 7th largest Kauri and another short walk away.
Not far away is the Hokianga Harbour, with the best view from a signalled lookout point that turns off left before descending to Opononi. There is a short walk through dense low bush to view the huge sand dunes north of the harbour. You can probably see the currents at the harbour entry, a dangerous pathway for boats. The famous Polynesian discoverer Kupe once made the Hokianga his destination, then he returned home to send his people back here.
The detour to the harbour village of Rawene is definitely worth it, a lovely sight with early settler homes, churches and houses on stilts. At Kaikohe you can decide to take in the Bay of Islands or return to Whangarei via the Twin Bridges Gorge. On the way you can take a specially healing dip into the Ngawha Springs hot pools (comparing against Rotorua probably like comparing Rawene against Auckland - maybe you’ll love it). The last highlight may be the Wairua Falls just before Poroti. Less known than the Whangarei Falls and not as high, but they give the impression of a miniature Niagara Falls and you won’t have to walk to see them. If you do go to the bottom then look out for old car wrecks which were once driven down the cliff (maybe James Dean was once travelling around here, too). You’ll pass the Whangarei Museum and Heritage Park with the Kiwi House just before coming to Whangarei.