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Whangarei Heads Walks

We have wonderful walks in the Whangarei Heads

                     “Walk the Walks”

Mt Manaia is the ultimate climb in the area. 441m, about 1.5 hours. And it gives fabulous views of the whole surrounding area.

For a picnic there is the lovely gentle grass walk to Smugglers Cove (about 15mins ) or to the gun emplacement, (about 20 minutes). Both tracks leave      from the south end of Urquharts Bay. (see below)

Other walks are around the Reotahi point, up Kauri Mountain and the ridge tramps over Mt Aubrey and the Bream Head Ridge. (see below)

See for a complete list of walks, with, if you want them, links to their DoC information pages etc.

See below for reviews of three of these walks Manaia, Smugglers and Peach Cove


The iconic Mount Manaia walking track was officially reopened Labour weekend 2010 after extensive work on upgrading the track by the Department of Conservation. Following on from upgrades on the Smugglers Bay/Busby Head and Peach Cove tracks in the Bream Head area in 2009, the Mount Manaia track is now of the same calibre and offers walkers an easy access, (although still steep) walk to the summit.

To get there from Whangarei, take the road out towards Onerahi and turn off on to the Whangarei Heads Road. Follow this for approximately 20km out to McLeods Bay. Just past McLeods Bay on the left side you will find the Mount Manaia Club where you will find a DOC sign indicating parking for the Mount Manaia track. Please note there are no toilets at the beginning of the track.

The track starts right at the carpark initially winding up to a viewing area and outlook before you enter the bush. There is a nice seating area here and signs at the beginning of the track as it enters the bush outlining the history of the mountain. Even from here you can get nice views of the harbour.

As the track enters the bush, the new carved pou and sculptures welcome you into the bush. The track is now wider, level and stone chipped the whole way and also has a couple new footbridges and boardwalks. It would be suitable for many people to walk although you will need a reasonable level of fitness as it does include quite a number of stairs to get to the summit.

Along the way you will get to peak through the trees and get wonderful views of the Whangarei Harbour and Hen and Chicken Islands. You also pass through a variety of native bush including some impressive tree ferns and Kauri trees. The area is very special ecologically where there are a few species of plants that are only found here in the world.

Once you reach the top, there is short walk to the summit and viewing from the magnificent rock spires. The views of the harbour and out to the Hen and Chicken Islands are spectacular and on a clear day you can basically see right over to the West Coast. Make sure to pack your camera.

You will have to take the same way down once you have snapped all your pictures and had a rest. A round trip (depending on how often you stop and rest at the top) will take you around 1½ - 2hours   (3.5km or 4,375 steps) if you have a reasonable level of fitness.

Enjoy another Northland gem!




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


Endless blue skies and gorgeous temperatures are the perfect combination for climbing some of Northlands beautiful mountains.

Mount Aubrey (Mount Manaia’s sister mountain) is situated 30 km from Whangarei on the Whangarei Heads Road. Driving towards Ocean Beach on the Whangarei Heads Road, turn right Into Reotahi Road and stop at Tiller Park. There is a sign for the walkway at Tiller Park – be aware that it does not to tell you how far and how long the track is. Depending on your walking speed and ability, this track could be accomplished in 2 - 4 hours. For those more accustomed to walking hills, you may be able to walk this track faster. Be prepared and wear good footwear, cover up from the elements and remember to bring water and a snack.

The track is very well formed from Tiller Park and has you quickly climbing. The stone steps and handrails are a welcome addition as well as the surrounding bush that keep you in the shade. There are plenty of rest spots with seats and opportunities to stand and admire the views over McLeod’s Bay and Mount Manaia. Looking up at the craggy rock formations of Mount Aubrey conjures up many different images in your mind. It is calling you to carry on and make the summit.

 The volcanic rock formations in the area provide quite a unique sky line - the crags and rock statues are natural anthropomorphic outcrops that creep out of a variety of native climbing bush and trees. If you are a quiet walker you will be serenaded by birds and bugs of all sorts.

When you descend down through the cooling bush, you will steal glimpses of the New Zealand Refinery which seems only a stone’s throw away. There is a bit of loose gravel on the way down which can be slippery to the unstable walker, take care and use the natural hand holds provided by the close trees. You will soon emerge out of the bush and heading left will take you down to Little Munro Bay where you can sneak in a much deserved swim if desired.

The easy way back to Tiller Park is via the coast on a wide and gorgeous track that takes you past the ruins of the nearly 100 year old Reotahi meat works (this is where frozen meat was shipped to England). You will also pass the Motukarara marine reserve with its markers and signage. The track ends at Reotahi Bay where you will have to walk back up the road to Tiller Park carpark.

This is a truly spectacular walk with plenty to look at and admire. Stepping it out was difficult to measure but in approximation this walk will have you achieving well over 7,000 steps. Add some huff and puff and you are achieving great gains to better health, body and mind

Enjoy (Thanks to )

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