SMUGGLERS BAY/BREAM HEAD (With thanks to www.10000stepsnorthland.co.nz)
Anytime is a great time of the year to enjoy Northland’s beautiful walks. Cooler temperature and sunny days mean you can enjoy the outdoors without sizzling in the hot summer temperatures. One such walk to enjoy close to Whangarei is the Department of Conservation’s Busby Head/Smugglers Bay track at Whangarei Heads – a great walk for all the family.
The Busby Head/Smugglers Bay track is part of the Bream Head Scenic Reserve located at Whangarei Heads. Bream Head Scenic Reserve is one of New Zealand’s premier coastal forest reserves and is the best example of its type in Northland so there is a lot to enjoy and see on this scenic walk.
To get there, take the Whangarei Heads road from Onerahi. The track starts at the Urquharts Bay carpark which is located at the end of Urquharts Bay Road off Whangarei Heads Road. There is plenty of room for parking, however there are no toilets at the start of the track. Dogs are not permitted in this area as the Department of Conservation, local Iwi, the Whangarei Heads Restoration Trust and the community are committed to restoring Bream Head, which includes a re-vegetation programme, weed and pest control. You may see predator traps beside the track. For your safety, they ask that you please do not interfere with them.
The track is a loop which takes you around Busby Head to Smugglers Bay and then back to the carpark. You have the option of going around Busby Head first and then to Smugglers Bay (which I recommend) or vice versa. It will take you approximately 1 ¼ – 1 ½ hrs depending on your walking speed and how long you wish to admire the views in places.
It is a well formed track that has been recently upgraded that passes through farmland to take you out to Busby Head. Along the way you will get to see the gun placement at Home Point, which was built during World War II as a defence against possible invasion. There is a picnic table here for you to rest at or enjoy a snack.
A few minutes on from here (taking the Busby Head to Smugglers Bay direction) you will start to wind through regenerated coastal forest and up a little hill where you can enjoy the views of Mount Manaia and the harbour. At the top of this little hill climb, the track splits in two.
The left giving you a shorter option to go back to the carpark (this would be approximately a 3km walk all up), or heading to the right option carries on to Busby Head and Smugglers Bay, which I would highly recommend
The section to Busby Head is quite sheltered offering relief from the sun. You will come to a signposted cross road where you can take the extra 5 minutes to walk out to the end of Busby Head and enjoy the panoramic views or continue onto Smugglers Bay. From the elevated track you get to enjoy stunning views of Smugglers Bay and the crystal clear blue water. The track slowly winds down to the bay where you can rest on the white sand beach and enjoy the tranquil views and the sound of the waves crashing on the beach.
After you have picked yourself up from the rest at Smugglers Bay, the track continues back across the farmland to the carpark at Urquharts Bay. Because the track does pass through farmland you may have to walk through paddocks with cows in them at times.
The total distance of the loop is approximately 5,600 steps or 4.5km. The track is undulating and with the little hill climb offers a little huff and puff along the way making this a great walk for its scenery and physical activity which is not too challenging.
For those ultra keen walkers, the track does connect on to a network of tracks that head out to Whangarei Heads. Check out the Department of Conservation’s website for more information www.doc.govt.nz