Scroll on down and find out about the top things to do in Whangarei, NZ.
Subtropical Whangarei, known as the City by the Sea, is the northern most city in New Zealand and is surrounded by natural beauty on land and at sea. Mount Parahaka, a volcanic dome, dominates the city’s landscape. It was once the site of the largest Maori Pa (fortified village) in New Zealand. Venture outside the city and you will find several beaches. Whangarei is a laid-back beach city, but there is plenty to see and do in and around the city.
Modern architecture blends seamlessly with colorful colonial architecture quayside at the town basin, which is the center for dining and entertainment and a gathering place for locals and visitors alike. The compact town center at the town basin has stylish cafes and restaurants, museums, specialty shops and a thriving art community. Sitting at a harbor-side cafe, you will have a view of the many yachts from all over the world anchored in the harbor. Head out of town and you will find numerous opportunities for hiking, walking, boating, diving and snorkeling.
1. Claphams National Clock Museum
Photo is only for illustrative purposes
Overlooking the marina in Whangarei’s town basin is a streamlined futuristic looking building of concrete and glass. As you look at the Southern Hemisphere’s largest sundial just outside, you will hear the Westminster chimes of Big Ben. The sundial and chimes are a clue that you are about to enter Whangarei’s National Clock Museum, home to over 1,600 clocks and timepieces, making it the largest collection of clocks in the Southern Hemisphere.
The museum had its beginnings in the personal clock collection of Archibald Clapham who housed 400 clocks in his family home. He gladly made his home available to those who wanted to come and see his collection. In 1961, Archie, as he was known, gifted his collection to the community and the collection has since grown to include many rare and whimsical clocks, some dating to the 17th-century. Included in the collection are sun, sand and water clocks, rare antique clocks, backwards clocks, French dancing girl clocks and even clocks that make tea. There is also a collection of music boxes. The clock museum is filled with fun and surprises.
Claphams National Clock Museum
Opening Hours Daily 9:00 am-5:00 pm
Address: Dent Street, Quayside, Town Basin, Whangarei 0111, New Zealand
Website: Claphams National Clock Museum
2. Mount Parihaka and Whangarei Falls
Mount Parihaka is an old eroded volcanic cone, visible from many places in Whangarei. The summit of Mount Parihaka is a popular vista for sweeping views of the city and the harbor, and the hike to the top is a popular trek for Whangarei locals. There are three all weather walking trails along the Hatea River that ascend up the slopes to the summit. There is also a network of mountain biking trails. Cars can reach the summit via Memorial Drive where there is a parking lot at the summit.
Situated to the north of Whangarei city is Whangarei Falls, native New Zealand bush and walkways. At the falls there are three platforms from which you can view the waterfall. You can reach the falls off Ngunguru Road at the northeast end of Whangarei. There is parking, a picnic area, and free entry.
Address: Memorial Drive, Whangarei Heads, New Zealand
Website: Mount Parihaka
3. Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve
The Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve is considered one of the best diving and snorkeling spots in the world. Jacques Cousteau rated the area as one of the top ten dives in the world. The islands are the remains of a group of ancient volcanoes where underneath the water the volcanoes have been hollowed and shaped into a web of caves, arches, tunnels and cliffs. Because of the underwater seascape and biodiversity, the sea surrounding the islands has been a marine reserve since 1981.
In the upper reaches of the reserve, there are kelp forests and sunlit waters. Venture further on down below the surface and you will be enveloped in the dark waters of the islands’ many caves. Above the water, the islands are home to many rare birds such as the Buller’s Shearwaters who nest on the main islands every year. A number of charter dive boats operate from Tutukaka Harbour, which is 30 kilometers from Whangarei. Boaters can enjoy the coastline, archways, and clear waters but are not permitted to land on any part of the islands or rocks.
Poor Knights Island Marine Reserve
Address: Northland, New Zealand. The Poor Knights Islands can be easily reached by boat from almost any port in Hauraki Gulf and Northland. Charter boats from Whangarei, Tutukaka, and the Bay of Islands visit the islands
Website: Poor Knights Island Marine Reserve
4. Mair Park
A former estate, Mair Park was gifted to the city of Whangarei in 1914 and contains mature lowland forest. The Hatea River, which runs through the park, contains still ponds which make it a favorite habitat for ducks. The park also contains a children’s playground, toilets, and a BBQ. There are three walking trails in the park, Section 1, 2, and 3. Each track can be walked separately and the trails are all weather tracks. You will most likely see wildlife along the trails, which is unusual as the park is close to the city center.
Opening Hours: Open 24 hours
Address: Riverside, Whangarei 0112, New Zealand
Website: Mair Park
5. Kiwi North
Kiwi North has the only captive Kiwi and Tuatara viewing facility in Northland and covers volcanic farmland, forest and bush. The site has a museum, nocturnal kiwi house and heritage park. The Kiwi House is kept dark as the Kiwi is a nocturnal animal so visitors can see the bird in its natural environment. You can also view Tuataras, nocturnal reptiles, in the Kiwi House. The Heritage Park is a collection of historic buildings representative of Northland’s early colonial architectural history between the late 1850s to the early 1900s. There is a family homestead, chapel, school, writer’s study, and women’s jail. The Whangarei Museum at Kiwi North contains over 40,000 items including natural history displays, historical items of the Maori taonga, photographic collections of early Maori and settler life, a military collection, and social history collections.
Opening Hours: Daily 10 am-4 pm
Address: 500 State Highway 14, Maunu, Whangarei 0179, New Zealand
Website: Kiwi North
6. AH Reed Memorial Kauri Park
In just a 15 minute drive from Whangarei, you can find yourself canopy walking among the treetops in a 500 year old Kauri forest. The AH Reed Memorial Kauri Park has two canopy loop trails, the Elizabeth/Alexander and the Alexander/McKinnon, that take you to a waterfall, or over the Wai Koromiko stream where you can get a bird’s eye view of the forest. A longer walk will take you along the Hatea River to Whangarei Falls. Or you can opt for a quiet walk along the river’s flats, through open pastures and lush bush. There are several loop tracks through the park, and one is designed to be suitable for the less able and wheelchair users.
AH Reed Memorial Kauri Park
Address: 99 Whareora Rd, Whareora 0175, New Zealand
Website: AH Reed Memorial Kauri Park
7. Tarewa Park
Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing
Tarewa Park is a public park very close to the southern border of the city. Tarewa Park has picnic facilities, playground facilities, and a skateboard area. There is one soccer field that has restrooms, locker rooms, and soccer equipment. A miniature steam railway operates on most Sundays of the year and a garden maze will challenge your patience and memory.
Opening Hours: Open 24 hours
Address: 92 Otaika Road Whangarei, Northland 0110, NZ
8. Adventure Forest
Photo is only for illustrative purposes
Tree-mendous is how Adventure Forest describes their tree top adventures in the Glenbervie Forest. They have circuits for all ages and abilities consisting of tree-climbing, zip lines, and canopy walkways. There are 12 tree-top challenge courses that have wire traverses, tight ropes, swings, nets, and wobbly bridges. The staff provides safety gear and training and their belay system will prevent you from disconnecting from the lifelines.
Opening Hours: Daily 10:00 am-5:00 pm
Address: 160 Maruata Rd, Glenbervie, Whangarei 0173, New Zealand
Website: Adventure Forest
9. Mount Manaia Track
Mount Manaia is located at Taurikura Bay, Whangarei Heads, which lies just east of Whangarei City. Mount Manaia is one of a cluster of jagged, bush-covered hills that make for a dramatic backdrop to the harbor entrance into Whangarei. The Mount Manaia track climbs through native bush to the summit. About half-way to the top you will pass an impressive area of large tree ferns. As you ascend, the views become more and more spectacular until you reach the easily accessible look-out point at the summit. There are great views of Bream Head, The Hen and Chicken Islands, and of course Whangarei Harbor. Ample parking is provided at the foot of the trail on Whangarei Heads Road.
Mount Manaia Track
Opening Hours: 7:00 am-7:00 pm
Address: Whangarei Heads Road, Whangarei 0192, New Zealand
Website: Mount Manaia Track
Whangarei is a subtropical climate due to the absence of winter cold, which makes for year round weather that will keep you outdoors doing as many recreational activities as you can physically take on - boating, diving, snorkeling, trekking up mountains, zip-lining, canopy walking, or heading to one of the nearby beaches. To unwind after an active day, head to a quayside cafe and watch the boats in the harbor. There are activities for all skill levels, so there’s no excuse for not getting out and enjoying what Whangarei has to offer.
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