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Northland's Great Short Walks

Get your walking shoes on to see Northland's magnificence.

  • 18

Created by Roadtrippers Australasia - October 8th 2017

On these seventeen walks dotted around the North Island you'll find mighty strolls across coastal tracks, farmland capers, the ridiculous beauty of three waterfalls, some caves to explore and ancient Kauri trees to marvel at (that you can only admire from viewing platforms and designated spots to protect them from dieback).

Remember, before embarking on any walk: plan your trip, check the weather, tell someone where you're going and take gear including water, food, warm clothing, jacket, torch, basic first aid kit and a map of where you're walking. To ensure you have an awesome adventure, check out these interactive guides from the NZ Mountain Safety Council.

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"Whangarei Falls"

5km, 2-3 hours, loop, moderate fitness required.

Recognised as one of New Zealand’s most beautiful coastal walks, and just 80 minutes drive from the centre of Auckland, this is an easy wander to include as part of a daytrip to this region. Parking at the Mangawhai Surf Club (be warned this can be very busy during the height of summer), there you’ll find the first signpost pointing to the track. With the walk featuring coastal paths, sandy surfaces and plenty of well-formed steps and boulders, the views along the way are panoramic and include sweeping visions of the Hauraki Gulf, including the Mokohinau Islands, Aotea/Great Barrier and Hauturu/Little Barrier.

Along the way be sure to keep your eyes out for an interesting natural formation known as the ‘giant staircase’. Because parts of the track pass through private land, do please keep to the paths and know that in spring, segments of the route can be closed for lambing and because this is farmland, dogs are never permitted. Also do bear in mind, you must do the walk three hours either side of low tide and be sure to have plenty of water, sturdy shoes, sunscreen and rain gear, (and please note that in winter you should expect a certain amount of mud). And when you’ve completed the walk, make sure you leave time for a swim (if it’s warm enough) and an ice cream from the ice cream stand by the carpark – you’ll deserve it!

Piroa Falls

The track is a short, steep zigzag down through bush into the gorge.

You cross the Ahuroa River on a concrete slab bridge with 'Rotary 1983' engraved on it (the track was built and upgraded courtesy of Maungaturoto Rotary Club).

About five minutes after crossing the bridge you can view the picturesque Piroa Falls from beneath.

The river has a number of swimming holes along the track making it a worthwhile family trip. Getting there Piroa Falls is located in the Waipu Gorge Scenic Reserve, signposted on SH1 at the foot of the northern side of the Brynderwyn Hills.

Follow Waipu Gorge Road for about 7 km until you reach the car park and track indicated by a DOC sign.

Cape Reinga Lighthouse

Perched at the spectacular northern tip of the North Island, the white-washed Cape Reinga lighthouse is reached by a gentle 1km stroll flanked by some of New Zealand's most spectacular beaches. To the southwest and fringed by dunes, Te Werahi Beach curves gently to touch Cape Maria van Diemen, while east from Cape Reinga, the gob smackingly beautiful Spirits Bay is known to local Maori as the final departure point for souls heading to the spiritual homeland. Take the walk (around four hours return) on the well-maintained track from Cape Reinga to isolated Tapotupotu Bay. The views are spectacular and it’s the perfect spot for a dip to cool off after your big walk. However perhaps the best time for the Cape is sunset, so you can pitch a tent for the night at the DOC Tapotupotu Camp grounds and see both the setting and the rising sun.

Tutukaka & Kukutauwhao Island - The Tutukaka Lighthouse Walk

A short walk that will get the heart pumping - from the steep climbs to the mind blowing views of the stunning Tutukaka Coast. You have the choice of two walks, a short 200m, easy track to the south side of the headland (Tutukaka Harbour) which should take about 10 minutes, and the main track to the Tutukaka lighthouse, which is at times steep (so a reasonable level of fitness is needed.) To reach the lighthouse, from the parking area, a grass track leads along the headland through a mix of pohutukawa and other native trees. And there are viewing seats dotted along the track. A well maintained set of steps (they are steep!) provide access down to the small beach and further on the causeway which guides you alongside the old lighthouse power poles, across to Kukutauwhao Island. The beach is accessible at all times however, if you want to cross to Kukutauwhao Island, you need to do this as close to low tide as possible. Once on the island, the track offers great views of the northern coastline and then leads through mostly native trees (manuka, flax and cabbage trees) into the interior of the island. The track finishes at the Tutukaka lighthouse where your you'll see amazing views up to Cape Brett and south to Cape Rodney. Photo opportunities abound! Head back down the same way you came up but try and take the time to explore some of the nooks and crannys around the island before you head back across the causeway and up the steps.

Waipu Caves

The Waipu Caves are completely undeveloped, unguided and absolutely free. Entry is at your own risk. The Cave System is considered regionally important for geomorphology, because it includes the largest cave passage in Northland. Bones of bats, birds, amphibians and reptiles may be found along with the remains of fossil invertebrates. Entry to the cave is wide and the ground can be muddy. Stalactites hang from the ceiling and just to the left of the entrance is an enormous stalagmite. Even with torches, it is recommended that you pause inside the cave’s entrance for a few minutes to allow your eyes to adjust. Continuing in, there are no tracks or paths in the cave and wading through water and clambering over mud banks may be necessary. There is a cold shower outside the cave that you can use to clean up afterwards - in places, it will be narrow and tight. The cave is in three sections with the third chamber being the best for viewing the ‘galaxy’ of glow-worms. This area also features limestone /karst rocks and boulders that have weathered into beautiful, surreal shapes. These rocks provide habitats for plant that grow on calcerous soils.

Tokatoka Peak

Tokatoka Peak is an extraordinary mountain near the edge of the Wairoa River in Northland. It only takes 20 minutes to walk to the summit. This outlandish mountain, like something from a fantasy landscape, is actually a rare phenomenon – it’s the plug of an ancient volcano. The material around the plug has eroded over time, leaving only the hardened lava core. It is located on Tokatoka Road, off State Highway 12, 17 kilometres south of Dargaville. Tokatoka is a very distinctive landmark in the Kaipara district. The track surface is variable from grass, roots, soil and rock. The track ascends continuously; nearing the top there is a particularly steep but short climb of 20 metres before the summit. From the top of this peak, the 360-degree views are stunning. It almost feels like being on top of the world and makes the 20-minute climb well worth it. You get great views towards Dargaville and of the Kaipara. On a clear day, you are able to see Bream Head and the Tangihua range towards the east.

Waipoua Forest

Waipoua, and the adjoining forests of Mataraua and Waima, make up the largest remaining tract of native forest in Northland. The drive on SH12 winds through magnificent stands of tall kauri, rimu and northern rata, and offers extensive views in a few places.

Good walking tracks give easy access to the most spectacular attractions of the forest: the giant trees named Tane Mahuta, Te Matua Ngahere, Four Sisters, and the Yakas Tree, as well as the historic Waipoua Forest Lookout Tower.

PLEASE NOTE: to help prevent dieback (an awful disease that is killing Kauri trees) stick to the track, follow all instructions to wash your footwear and check with DOC before entering the forest that it's still OK.

Four Sisters Walk

The walk is a short loop that takes you through kauri and rimu vegetation to see the 'Four Sisters', an impressive stand of four tall and graceful kauri trees growing extremely close together.

A viewing platform encircles the trees and protects the habitat from any disturbance.

Getting there: The Four Sisters Walk is sign posted 'Kauri Walks' from State Highway 12, which runs through the Waipoua Forest.

From the car park, there is a track sign for the three walks available for recreational walking, the 'Four Sisters', 'Te Matua Ngahere' and the 'Yakas Kauri'.

The track meanders through native bush bringing you to a central point from which you can access the three tracks. From here, the 'Four Sisters' track is well signposted and located on the right hand side of this open space.

Nature and conservation: It is very important that you keep to the walking track at all times. Kauri trees have very sensitive surface roots, and foot traffic around the tree endangers their life span.

Kauri trees occasionally create unusual growth forms. At times, the trunks of two, three, four, five and even six trees can grow joined together at the base of the trees. You can see similar growth in Trounson Kauri Park to the south.

PLEASE NOTE: to help prevent dieback (an awful disease that is killing Kauri trees) stick to the track, follow all instructions to wash your footwear and check with DOC before entering the forest that it's still OK.

Flagstaff Hill Track

The Flagstaff Hill Loop Track takes you through regenerating kanuka/manuka scrub down into the Waipara/Watering Bay stream and wetland then back up to one of New Zealand’s most iconic historic sites - Te Maiki/Flagstaff Hill. On this walk you may very well come across the endangered North Island weka, which has been successfully reintroduced to the Russell Peninsula by the Russell Landcare Trust. A section of this track crosses private land – walkers are welcome. Please respect the signage in place for no dogs, even on a lead, and keep to the formed track.

10,000 Steps Northland: This track equates to about 3,333 steps. Getting there: At low tide: Walk north from the northern end of The Strand, Kororareka Bay along the beaches to Watering Bay. Turn inland along the Flagstaff Hill Loop Track. Take the left-hand fork in the track and climb through regenerating coastal forest to reach Titore Way. Turn right onto the road, walk 300 metres along this road to a sign marking the final leg of the Flagstaff Hill Loop Track. This leg takes you up through regenerating coastal scrub to the famous flagstaff, 360-degree views of the Bay of Islands and the Flagstaff Hill summit (Te Maiki).

Once at the summit, take the path down to the carpark. At the carpark, there are two options: cross the carpark and take the short track up to the sundial for more stunning views of the Bay of Islands and Russell township or turn right to continue the Flagstaff Hill Loop Track down to the top of Wellington Street and from there to Russell township.

At high tide: The Flagstaff Hill Loop Track starts at the intersection of Wellington and Kent Streets, near the boatramp on The Strand in Russell. Walk approximately 300 metres up Wellington Street - look out for a sign on your left. This high tide alternative track takes you down into the Kororareka Reserve. At the intersection of the tracks in the valley turn right and follow the Flagstaff Hill Loop Track to Titore Way. See the low tide description for further route directions from here.

Note: Wellington Street is very narrow. If you are walking, watch out for vehicles; if you are driving look out for pedestrians.

Know before you go: Freedom camping is not allowed on Fagstaff Hill/Te Maiki. And please do not cycle on the Flagstaff Hill Loop Track as it is not designed for mountain-biking.

Motuarohia (Roberton) Island Track

The well-marked track climbs up the pa in the centre of the island. At the top of the pa, take some time to sit and enjoy the spectacular 360-degree views of the surrounding Bay of Islands.

Getting there: The track starts just above high tide towards the western end of Twin Lagoon Bay, the main beach on Motuarohia/Roberton Island. Motuarohia/Roberton Island is the first island that the commercial boat cruises visit after leaving Paihia or Russell. You can also catch a water taxi, paddle a kayak, ride a jet-ski or take your own boat out to Motuarohia.

Transport options are available from: Bay of Islands i-SITE in Paihia Russell Booking & Information Office.

Trippers Tips : For your own safety please avoid leaving the tracks as there are cliffs and steep bluffs on the island. And there is a strict no dogs policy to protect the wildlife. Fires by permit only.

Cape Brett Walkway/Lighthouse

Either 16km – 8hour walk or take the shorter 6km – 2.5hour walk.

Picturesque Cape Brett juts out into the Pacific Ocean at the eastern end of the Bay of Islands, and there on that lonely promontory sits a windswept lighthouse that’s been keeping seafarers safe since 1906. With two ways to attack this walk, you can choose to do it the eight hour, 16km hard way from Oke Bay in Rawhiti or, if you’re feeling more indulgent, arrange for a water taxi to take you from Russell (or Paihia) and deposit you at Deep Water Cove. This second option means the walk to the lighthouse will be a much more leisurely two and a half hours, or 6km. And whichever way you do it, you will be serenaded as you go by choirs of local birds as you pass through regenerating native bush and traverse spectacular coastal paths.

Winding and weaving along undulating paths, occasionally quite steep and narrow, sometimes you’ll be sheltered beneath Manuka canopies, and other times you’ll find exposed and narrow single-file trails, and eventually you’ll be deposited at the welcoming Department of Conservation hut.

As you enjoy the coastal sections do keep an eye out for the seals and dolphins that regularly visit these shores.

So which way will you do it? Do you take the water taxi to Deepwater Cover and then let it transport you back to historic Russell at the end of a modest hike? Or do you walk in with all your gear and food and stay a night or two before heading back to the road? Bearing in mind the latter option requires you to be pretty fit and very well prepared. The hut is very alluring though, with its spectacular views, cooking facilities and 23 beds - but bookings are essential.

It’s also important to note, if you’re driving yourself to the start of the track, you’re well advised to organise secure parking and you will also need to pay a track maintenance fee for crossing private land between Rawhiti and Deepwater Cove, $20 children $40 adults. Considering all of that, unless you like doing the hard yards, the water taxi idea is very practical – no fees, no car cares, no worries.

Whangarei Falls

Whangarei Falls is a picturesque waterfall, falling vertically for 26.3 metres over basalt cliffs. Three viewing platforms allow easy access to the dramatic views and a circular walk around the falls allows them to be seen from all angles.

Akeake Historic Reserve Track

The main Akeake Historic Reserve track begins at the boat-ramp end of Opito Bay beach. Look for the track sign at the start of a right-of-way located between two houses. A series of steps climb to a four-way junction. You have three choices of track at this point. Lizzie (Lizard Bay) Time: 15 min Go straight ahead to the pebble beach known locally as Lizzie (Lizard) Bay. This bay is sheltered from most winds and is a popular swimming and fishing spot.

Tareha pa Time: 30 min. Turn right along the well-marked track over a pre-European defensive ditch to the viewing platform on Tareha pa. A great spot to watch the sun rise over the Te Puna and Kerikeri inlets, Moturoa and Cocked Hat Islands and east toward Rakaumangamanga and the Cape Brett Peninsula. Before the ditch, there is another sign, which directs you to a track to your right. This short walk has great views but steep drop-offs, so care should be taken. The track then joins the top end of Opito Bay Road and drops back down to the boat ramp.

Views of Tareha Point and the Akeake Historic Reserve Time: 30 min one way Turn left at the junction and the track takes you westward to a seat with a view of Tareha Point and the Akeake Historic Reserve. Continue for another 5 minutes, the track exits on to a private (shared) driveway, follow this to Opito Bay Road. Turn left downhill to the beach and then back to the beginning of the Akeake Historic Reserve track by the boat ramp. Getting there Akeake Historic Reserve is 13 km north east of Kerikeri. Leave Kerikeri on Landing Bay Road. Turn left onto Karipo Rd, right onto Redcliffs Rd, right into Rangitane Rd, then left into Opito Bay Rd. Follow the road east to Opito Bay. The main entrance to the reserve is opposite the boat ramp at the eastern end of Opito Bay beach. Look for the Akeake Historic Reserve sign on the Ake Ake Rd corner. It marks the entrance to the track, which leads between houses and enters the Akeake Historic Reserve.

Trippers Tips : Please note you will encounter steep cliffs alongside the track, so take care and supervise young children. And remember, no dogs or fires due to risks to wildlife and fauna, especially as Akeake Historic Reserve is a kiwi habitat.

Hongi Hika Walk

Hongi Hika Walk links with Kororipo Pā Historic Walk to connect Kerikeri and Hone Heke Roads. Starting from Hone Heke Road, this well-formed track meanders through mature gums and regenerating native forest, across a small bridge to a fork in the track approximately 70 m from the bridge. Turn left to exit at the carpark just below the historic St James Church, or take the right-hand fork and walk on up on to the Kororipo pā site.

Getting there: The track is within Hongi Hika Recreation Reserve in Kerikeri. You can reach the Hongi Hika Track from three different entry points: from the St James carpark at 209 Kerikeri Road; from Hone Heke Road on the NorthTec campus boundary; or from the junction of Kororipo Pā Track.

History and culture: The Hongi Hika track runs along the same pathway used by pre-European Maori warriors to access the bountiful Kerikeri River from their permanent residences further inland. The Kororipo pā served as Hongi Hika’s coastal fortified settlement and played an important role in New Zealand’s musket war campaigns.

Trippers Tips : Parking and picnicking area available at the northern side of the bridge over the Kerikeri River, and at the end of the Rainbow Falls Road.

Rainbow Falls Kerikeri

The Māori name for Rainbow Falls on the Kerikeri River is Waianiwaniwa which means Waters of the Rainbow. They are one of the most visited attractions in the district. It is possible to drive almost to the falls, with walking also possible from the Stone Store basin.

Manginangina Kauri Walk

This short boardwalk is one of Northland's icon sites providing an outstanding experience. The track winds through a mature stand of kauri, swamp forest and associated vegetation. Interpretive panels help you understand and enjoy this special forest ecosystem.

PLEASE NOTE: to help prevent dieback (an awful disease that is killing Kauri trees) stick to the track, follow all instructions to wash your footwear and check with DOC before entering the forest that it's still OK.

Signal Station Track

Length: 813 m - 15 min one way
The track follows the top of the cliffs, then enters tall manuka and suddenly opens out at the headland and grassed lookout. The grassy terraces provide sheltered picnic sites and wonderful views up the harbour away from the prevailing westerly winds. There is access to the harbour via the Martin’s Bay track.

Getting there: Signal Station Track starts from the Arai Te Uru Recreational Reserve carpark. Arai Te Uru Recreational Reserve is at Hokianga Heads, 56 km west of Kaikohe. From Kaikohe, travel west along SH12 through Omapere. Take a right into Signal Station Rd. The reserve and carpark is at the end of the road.

Nature and conservation: Vegetation is predominantly flax, manuka, bracken and cabbage trees.

History and culture: The Signal Station was in operation from 1838 - 1951 to guide ships over through the treacherous harbour entrance until being replaced by an automated lighthouse. Today all that remains is a few upright timbers and a horizontal beam. The Hokianga Society's brochure on this area features excellent historical information and details on each of the numbered sites. You can purchase the brochure from the Hokianga Visitor Center. The area holds great significance to Maori and should be treated with respect at all times.

Tripper Tips : There are steep drop-offs on the reserve, so please ensure your children are supervised at all times. And the nearest loos are at Omapere.

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