Self Drive Whangarei & Matakana | Avis Car Rental

Whangarei & Matakana Self Drive Holiday

Whangarei is a harbour city that acts as the gateway to the north, but there are many wonderful attractions close by, so be sure to spend some time exploring. The walks around the region are particularly good, with waterfalls to visit, caves to admire and a coastline of unparalleled beaches to enjoy. Sites like Whangarei Heads and Waipu Cove are thrilling in their beauty and relaxing in their pace of life. The harbour is increasingly becoming a staging post for super yachts and the amenities in the city are continually improving with this excitement.





Tutukaka & the Poor Knights Islands

Tutukaka is a beautiful harbour and coast thirty minutes northeast of Whangarei. The lovely village of Ngunguru is the first stop for you as you drive up. Perhaps rent a kayak or enjoy some fish 'n chips. The beaches along this stretch are unmissable: Whale Bay, Matapouri, Wooleys Bay and Whangaumu would each be reason enough to make a visit. Tutukaka offers deep-sea fishing and is the point of departure for tours to the remarkable Poor Knights Islands. This destination has some of the best diving you could hope for, and non-divers should be certain they take the trip to explore the world's largest sea cave, the regenerated and ancient forest and Maori archaeology. A trip to the islands, 23 kilometres offshore, will take most of the day.

Tutukaka Cruise Website


A.H. Reed Memorial Kauri Park

Northland once had extensive Kauri forests, and this walk takes you to some of the few ancient trees remaining. A. H. Reed was an author and publisher who recorded Maori custom and native plant life, and was a particular fan of the Kauri, so it is very appropriate that his name hangs over the park. The highlight here is the canopy walkway, suitable for wheelchairs and prams, that takes you into the treeline to view 500 year-old Kauri. The canopy walk takes 15 minutes, and there are more challenging and slightly longer walks on offer also. Bush, waterfalls and birdlife just five minutes northeast of the Whangarei city centre.

Whangarei DC Website


Clapham's Clocks Museum

Be sure you make time to see the largest collection of clocks in the Southern Hemisphere. Archie Clapham was a local with a love of timepieces and his collection of quirky and historic clocks makes up the heart of this museum. With exhibits dating back to 1720 and an eye for the unusual, this is a fun excursion. The novelty clock wall is a special treat. The museum is part of the Quayside Town Basin, so after your moment in the time museum, stroll the galleries, cafes and shops and marvel at the vessels that call in to this international yachties haven.

Clapham's Clocks Website



Waipu Caves

Found half an hour south of Whangarei, this two kilometre walk takes you to the Waipu Caves. It is a wonderful walk across an otherworldly karst landscape. The ancient limestone has been weathered and dissolved by groundwater to create caves, sinkholes and strangely gnarled features. You will stroll past native trees, farmland and stunning views to the coast, harbour and Whangarei Heads. While the walk is suitable for those of moderate fitness the caves themselves are best left to experienced explorers, though there are tours you can arrange through the local i-Sites that will take you to the large stalactites, stalagmites and glow-worms to be found in the main 175 metre cave. Allow 2 hours for the walk and pack lunch as this is an undeveloped attraction. Drive 12km south of Whangarei on SH1. Just past Oakleigh turn right onto Springfield Road. Then turn onto Ormiston Road, then Waipu Caves Road. The walkway is well signposted.


Whangarei Falls

At 26.3 metres high these falls make for an impressive photo, and with picnic facilities in front of the cascading water it is a very special place to stop for lunch. The walk itself is around half an hour, and it contains steps, some uphills and a bit of a tricky rail-less bridge at the very beginning. All people of moderate fitness should be able to complete the walk, and all people of moderate bravery should be fine on the bridge on a windless day. You'll find the start of this walkway off a car park 5km up the road to Tutukaka. As with all public car parks, be sure to take valuables with you.

Whangarei DC Website


The International Rally of Whangarei

Whangarei goes rally mad around the middle of July. The city is the centrepiece for the Asia Pacific and New Zealand Rally Championship events that take place outside of Whangarei and through the North. The gravel road stages are said to be some of the best viewing in the world. There are also events in the city, with autograph signing, the ceremonial start, a technical display and prize giving.

Rally Whangarei Website


One and a half hours south of Whangarei is the Matakana Coast. Be sure to drive here and spend a day exploring. There are wineries, galleries, cafes and ceramic artists to visit on the cultural side, and the area offers some of the loveliest beaches in the country. Pakiri, Omaha, and Tawahranui are rightly famous, but smaller beaches like Matheson's Bay are also worth a visit. Matakana is an ideal place to stop and stretch your legs on your way back to Auckland. Here are a few must-dos.


Matakana Saturday Markets

Matakana is a touch of luxury in the countryside. This fast-growing spot boasts an award winning and splendidly appointed art-house movie complex, fine dining, a lovely wine bar, boutique shops that could be on any high street, art galleries and a gourmet deli. But as lovely as all this is, the thing that Matakana is rightly famous for is its Saturday market. People drive from all over the North and up from Auckland to crowd in and buy the best artisanal foods, freshest produce and locally sourced meats. It is a great place to grab brunch with fancy food stalls aplenty and excellent coffee. The markets are open Saturdays, 8am-1pm Matakana is a comfortable 80-minute drive from Whangarei down SH1. Take the well signposted left at Wellsford.



The Tawharanui peninsula is a finger of land that juts out into Hauraki Gulf that is a pest-free bird and nature wonderland. Such intensive conservation sites are usually found on islands, but due to the thinness of the peninsula a pest-proof fence could be erected. Visitors to this beach, that locals swear is the best in the world, enter through an electronic gate that helps keep unwanted predators out, and visitors are asked to remove all rubbish and be vigilant about what they bring with them. There are camping facilities and farming on the land and it is an example of conservation, leisure and human activities occurring in concert. The reserve has been successful in bringing back bellbirds to the mainland, and it is a great place to see the Native Wood Pigeon, the Kereru.

Auckland RC Website


Wilson's Cement Work Reserve

This is a somewhat hidden gem: travel five minutes south from central Warkworth and down a couple of side roads and you can find yourself in the old cement works. The flooded quarry here is a popular swimming spot. You can also admire the ruins of the old concrete production buildings, ruins that look much older than they are thanks to keen explosives practice carried out during World War II. Both local and American forces had their turn. The site stands like a memorial to some old battle, and much of it is roped off for fear of falling masonry. This is a great spot for a picnic and a swim, but be careful, it gets deep fast. The reserve is on Wilson Road (off Pulham Road), Warkworth.


Brick Bay

Brick Bay is a wonderful winery situated on a hill that looks down to the coast. The draining soils are perfect for growing grapes and the wines are excellent, but they aren't the only reason you should visit. The owners have replanted the property with native trees and established a sculpture trail. The walk begins at the Glass House, an architectural delight of a tasting room and café. From here you walk a series of boardwalks through bush, across open spaces and around water features. Works atop the pond are set off by the beautiful lilies. All statues are for sale and represent the very best of contemporary art.

Brick Bay Website



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