KIWI: The Gems and Jewels of the Tutukaka CoastI had three days to discover what was new and refreshing about this eastern part of Northland. It soon became obvious it is the perfect place to tackle a few outdoor pursuits and adventures such as hiking, sea fishing, diving, snorkelling and kayaking. All right up my outdoor alley I have to say.
AUTHOR & PHOTOGRAPHER: ©Shane Boocock 2013
Stepping across six swinging logs that are suspended 15 meters in the air between two giant trees and then flying through the air for 110 meters on a zip line is certainly a great way to spend your first day in Northland. Without doubt the fastest way to get the heart pounding and the adrenalin flowing.
I had three days to discover what was new and refreshing about this eastern part of Northland. It soon became obvious it is the perfect place to tackle a few outdoor pursuits and adventures such as hiking, sea fishing, diving, snorkelling and kayaking. All right up my outdoor alley I have to say.
If you are exploring the Whangarei district and the Tutukaka Coast, visiting the Adventure Forest should be one of the first things listed on every thrill seeker’s list. This is Northland’s unique tree-top adventure course with seven circuits all with varying degrees of difficulty and adventure levels. In total the forest is criss-crossed with a total of 80 activities including Tarzan jumps, spiders webs, crazy swings and 20 flying foxes (zip-lines), and yes I gave all 20 a thorough test. This is a great place to visit with your mates or family, including young ones of all ages.
Stepping aboard the catamaran, A Perfect Day, in perfect spring weather and glorious sunshine for a full day of cruising is a different way to experience this part of Northland. This giant catamaran holds 75 people but on our little 45 minutes trip out to the Poor Knights Islands, one of the special gems in this part of the world, we only had 20 people on board, so the trip was roomy and relaxing.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Poor Knights Islands, they were named by Captain James Cook in 1769, and the origin of why they were so named still remains a mystery. However a few bits of true world trivia include the fact that they are home to the world’s largest sea cave (a Guinness book of records statistic). They were also once named in the top 10 best places to dive in the world by the famous oceanographer Jacques Cousteau. The islands are also the endemic home to the Poor Knights Islands Lily (xeronema callistemon) as well as one of the largest pohutukawa forest canopies in the world.
The islands are a complete marine and nature reserve with pending World Heritage status. Once we had anchored it was time to don wetsuits for some snorkelling in warm waters that are swept down from the Coral Sea . . . waters that are teeming with marine life. With a stand-up paddle board and two single and two double sit on kayaks it also gave some of the people on board the opportunity to leisurely glide below the sheer rock face and enter a few arches and dark caves . . . including the world’s largest cave, Rikorico (it’s calculated volume is 221,494 cubic metres, and it measures 130m long, 35m high and 80m wide). The acoustics are said to be so good Neil Finn performed ‘uncut’ inside the cave.
For anyone who loves bush walks this region has some stunning coastal tracks designed for short strolls to long hikes. Some walkways in this region cross private land so please respect the privacy of those living near the tracks and use stiles to cross fences where provided. Try the Whananaki Coastal Walkway which is approximately two hours each way. For hikers who want a small taste of the bush and to see some pristine beaches then a hike to Whale Bay and onto to Matapouri Bay will take just over an hour. A walk to the Tutukaka Headland Lighthouse will take about an hour or so to return. A longer journey is the Tane Moana to Te Araroa Walkway which is two hours one way or four hours return.
Sea kayaking is a pleasure that everyone should try once in their lifetime and our coastline, protected harbours and inlets are perfect for the first time paddler as well as the experienced kayaker. It’s a great sport for families and small groups and with just a little sea-kayak instruction easy to master. It’s different from the open-top sit on kayaks that you often find on day cruises that tend to be more stable and buoyant. A modern day sea kayak is designed with a longer trip in mind and includes a spray sheet and sealed compartments for gear stowage etc.
I was recently out on Whangarei Harbour with Mark Garry and his wife, Sharon who own Pacific Coast Kayaks. In perfect weather and with little wind we paddled clockwise around Makakohe-Limestone Island which harbours a wealth of Maori history and European settlement.
Not having been in a sea kayak for a number of years it took me a few minutes to get used to the unique feel and responsive nature of the vessel, especially the foot pedals that operate the rudder that makes a huge difference to the steering capabilities of a kayak. Once we were underway it soon became apparent how much easier it was to guide the kayak and it was surprisingly comfortable unlike a sit-on top kayak.
Nestled in the Whangarei Harbour and only a few minutes from the Onerahi foreshore is one of the jewels in the Whangarei district, Makakohe-Limestone Island. It has an interesting past and a promising future. The intriguing ruins of the limestone cement works on the island are definitely worth investigating as a small restoration project slowly reveals more details. The cement works were first established on the island in 1848 whose ruins and two of the original kilns are well preserved. At its height the limeworks became a major industry employing 270 people most of whom lived and worked on the island. The island was gazetted as a scenic reserve in 1999. In 2001 the first kiwi (with the cute names of Glen and Helga) were released and today there is an active breeding program.
This region also has a thriving arts community and superb museums, excellent cafes, restaurants and bars, especially down in the sensational riverside development known plainly as the ‘Basin’ in the heart of Whangarei. Add some fabulous accommodation options and a wealth of natural beauty and you’ll find it’s as good, if not better than anywhere else in New Zealand.
There are a lot of superlatives to describe the Whangarei and Tutukaka Coastline but sometimes it’s best to be just plain honest. If you are seeking adventure, culture and natural beauty in a place where the locals are passionate about their environment and in love their stunning scenery both on land and out at sea, then you won’t be disappointed in visiting this region the next time you are heading north. It’s simply amazing what you’ll find in Northland.
A Perfect Day Ocean Cruise
Pacific Coast Kayaks
Tutukaka Coast Tracks and Walks
Restaurants in Tutukaka:
- Bistro Moochas (in the Whangarei Deep Sea Angling Club)
- Oceans Knights (In the Oceans Resort Hotel)
- Schnappa Rock (Great local bar and restaurant)
- Marina Pizzeria (On the Marina)
Oceans Resort Hotel, Marina Drive, Tutukaka
Lupton Lodge, Glenbervie, Whangarei
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