I have not walked any of the Northland section except from Opua to Kerikeri, so the way I have broken it into days is entirely speculative. Crossing the Whangarei Heads is a crucial section and if you have to wait around some hours for a boat or make your way by land to Whangarei itself then this affects how all the following sections are ‘chunked’. I have assumed your next day after Waipū starts at Taurikura, at the north side of Whangarei Heads, but you might simply be passing through here from Marsden Point or Whangarei.
48. Mangawhai Heads–Waipū: 30 km (maps 25, 24)
Mangawhai–Bream Tail Walkway: 3.5 hrs, 7 km (map 25)
From the carpark on the beach at Mangawhai Heads (end of Wintle St) get onto DoC’s Mangawhai Walkway along the cliffs. The TA trail comes out on a tarmac driveway. Cross over and go down and up a kauri bush gully on a well-benched zig-zaging track. Then head over a hill and descend a bush line to a marshy area and up a spur onto pasture land. The trail goes to a subdivision driveway and from a few metres along it takes off over pasture to Bream Tail Rd. After 1.8 km on this you are at its junction with Cove Rd.
Cullen–Brynderwyn Walkway, 5-6 hrs, 14 km (maps 25, 24)
Head south-east down Cove Rd, then exit right onto a short bush walk to Tarata Pl. This detour is part of the access agreement. Go south along this road. From the end of the road head west on the Langsview Track (aka Brynderwyn Walkway). At the high points of 297 and 276m there are great views in every direction.
Turn right into Cullen Rd, a 4WD track that eventually becomes a sealed road and walk 7.5 km on it to where it meets Cove Rd at Waipū Cove (the settlement, not the actual cove on the coast). Note that there can be forestry operations on Cullen Rd, on weekdays and sometimes Saturday. Wear a high-visibility jacket or pack cover if you have one and don’t wear headphones. Observe signage and any instructions.
- DragonSpell Retreat – Cullen Rd, Waipū (look out for the signs at very end of Cullen Rd, 7.5km up from Cove Rd, about the intersection of grid lines 1737 and 6008, but you are asked to call ahead first. Fee is a koha/donation. firstname.lastname@example.org. May not still be going. No reply to my email.
- Waipu hotel – 4 South Rd, Waipū. Cheap rooms ($50 and $70) and camping (possibly this is for campervans though – you will need to check). 09 432 0306, 022 184 6776.
- Camp Waipu Cove – 869 Cove Rd, Waipū, about 1200m south of where Cullen Rd meets Cove Rd. Cottages, camping and backpacker accommodation. Mention you are walking Te Araroa for a 25% discount. 09 432 0410.
49. Waipū to Whangārei Heads (at Taurikura): 25 km (maps 24, 23)
Bream Bay Walk
Continue north alongside Cove Rd for 6.5 km to Waipū on the Waipū Cycleway and Walkway that begins in Waipū Cove. As of Dec 2021 there is a section in the middle where the walkway is not yet completed and you need to walk on Cove Rd. There are a few takeaways, restaurants, cafés and a Four Square store in Waipū. Turn right at the settlement into Nova Scotia Drive and then right again into Uretiti Rd and one final right turn into Tip Rd to take you to the beach. Then it is 5.5 km north along the beach to Ruakākā. You pass the DoC Uretiti Beach camping ground on the way (behind the dunes).
You can cross the Ruakākā River mouth at low tide from the rock/concrete wall (at the point at the northernmost end of the Ruakākā Beach Holiday Park ?) It is dangerous to do so at other times though. Check the NIWA tide tables for Bream Bay. Up to 2hrs either side of low tide is do-able. You can try a kayak crossing by contacting Simon Ellison (Ruakākā Kayaking, ph 09 432 8668 or 021 233 6748 – and he would prefer a call than a text), who can assist with a kayak crossing. Please arrange a day in advance, and a koha (donation) is requested. (Confirmed correct Nov 2022). Note that there is a wildlife sanctuary on the opposite side of the river, with many migrant and wading birds, so please do not walk inside the fenced-off nesting areas. The other option if the tide is not low is to cross the bridge at the southern end of the camp ground to walk north on Marsden Point Rd and then cross to the beach at Peter Snell Rd just before the Ruakākā shopping complex (where there are a couple of decent sized supermarkets).
The trail heads north along the beach to Marsden Point. There is a track in the dunes just past the power station if wind on the beach is getting you down, and one further inland as well (Ruakākā Pipeline Rd Track) that starts from Sime Rd.
Go round Marsden Point to the wharf area. Where the map shows a sharp right turn onto a wharf there are some toilets. The floating pontoon for pickup by boat to cross the harbour entrance is directly north of here, as per the map. And Cafe North is west of the toilets nearby at 12 Ralph Trimmer Drive, though possibly the entrance is on Port Marsden Highway. If you don’t have a boat pick up organised from the wharf you can keep going to the Marsden Cove Marina at 48 Rauiri Drive where you may be able to get a boat to take you to the other side (see under the next section below). The marina has a café, telephone and toilets. It’s a little complicated wending your way through this heavy industrial area and you might be better off giving Marsden Point a miss altogether if you want to go to the marina. Cut across to it via Rama Rd and then Marsden Bay Rd. There is a beach track into Rama Rd just before you get to Marsden Point Beach carpark.
Marsden Point has been the site of NZ’s only oil refinery, but it is switching from refining to being an fuel import terminal mid-2022.
There don’t seem to be any scheduled bus services between Marsden Point and Whangārei (36 km), nor on the other side to Whangarei Heads (27 km), which is a pity as Whangārei offers full-scale supermarkets for resupply and if you could get there by land and then around the other side to the heads then you avoid the boat crossing. Whangārei Coastal Commuter (see listing below) can take you from Marsden Point to Whangārei for $80, and from Whangārei to Whangārei Heads for $50 to $70 depending where you want to be dropped off. (Prices Nov 2022)
To cross the harbour entrance by sea to Whangārei Heads you can try Blair Jones or Peter (listed below) or try the marina already mentioned. If you do go over in a boat, make sure you are wearing a lifejacket (and likewise for any other boat rides on the trail – too many people drown every year in NZ in boating accidents). If you get dropped off at McLeods Bay you can walk round to Reotahi Bay by taking Stuart Rd. This becomes a track which goes to the end of Darch Point Rd. Turn right off this on Matuku St and from here a track goes to a driveway on Norfolk Rd. Go to the end of this road to a playground and onto another track that takes you to Reotahi Beach Rd.
From Reotahi Bay a track goes around to Little Munro Bay. Once there, head inland on Bay View Rd and then turn right into Whangārei Heads Rd. Stay on this around the bays. At the beginning of Taurikura Bay at 2311 Whangārei Heads Rd is the Taurikura General Store and public toilets. (Note that the store may not be open outside of summer peak visitor period, so call ahead if you are relying on it: 09 434 0151.)
- Uretiti Beach DOC Campsite – located between beach and SH 1, 5km north of Waipū. Campsites, toilets, water, showers ($2 coin operated if you want it hot). Camp office on-site. Backcountry passes can’t be used. Bookings required. 09 432 1051.
- Ruakaka Reserve Motor Camp – 21 Ruakākā Beach Rd, located on the beachfront/estuary. Tent sites and cabins. 09 432 7590.
- Ruakaka Beach Front Motel – 115 Ruakākā Beach Rd. The cheapest unit is $155 as at Oct 2022. 09 432 7166.
- Blair Jones – water taxi across the Whangārei Harbour to Reotahi. Times are 11:00am and 3:00pm (north to south, so presumably similar the other way). Pick up point at the floating pontoon shown on the TA map where the yellow route changes to blue (to the east of a large pile of wood chips) to Reotahi Beach on the other side. The charge is $20pp, with a minimum charge of $40 (i.e. for just one person). There is a cap of $60 per trip, and a maximum of five people (so it would be $12 pp if you had five). 021 114 7466, text msg preferred over a phone call. (Confirmed correct Nov 2022)
- Peter – also does water taxi but would like 24 hrs notice, 0274 172 440. He runs from the same pontoon as Blair to Reotahi Beach. (Confirmed correct Oct 2022)
- Whangārei Coastal Commuter – can take you to Tutukaka and Ngunguru, both settlements well north of Whangārei that are on the TA, but this is only really useful if you want to skip the section from Whangārei Heads or need to bail out when you are up there. 0800 435 355, 021 901 408. (Confirmed correct Oct 2022)
- Buslink – A bus service goes to the airport, which is on your way to Whangārei Heads. But there doesn’t appear to be a service to the Heads itself. There is also a service to and from Waipū and Mangawhai Heads on Thursdays.
- The Cell Block – 91 Cameron St, Whangārei. Very central hostel. Is a former cell prison cell block! 022 355 0557, email@example.com. There is a Whangārei YHA but it is a very long way from town.
- YWCA – 21 Rust Ave, Whangārei. Fairly central. 09 438 2926. firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Camping at Reotahi Reserve by TA walkers for one night is permitted provided you put your tent in the grass area over the fence and away from the toilets.
- Thistle Do – 25 Beach Rd, Reotahi, Whangārei Heads, 09 434 0006, 027 356 6526. Bach and tent sites.
- WHY (Whangarei Heads Yoga) Retreat – 16 Reotahi Rd, Mcleod Bay, Whangārei Heads. 09 434 0604, 022 160 8950.
- The Green Bus Stop – 2489 Whangārei Heads Rd, McKenzie Bay. Tent sites with washing facilities and outdoor kitchen. Cabin also, sleeps three, $20pp. 027 600 2276 or 09 434 0544, email@example.com (Confirmed correct Oct 2022)
- Nook Paradise – Parua Bay, considerable distance off trail but pickups available for about $8pp. B&B accommodation in comfortable house with private native bush and beach setting. Reasonable pricing, free wifi, comfortable bed, shower, breakfast option $10 extra. 021 613 569 (Brenda).
50. Whangārei Heads (at Taurikura) to Jagger’s Camp: 6 hrs, 14 km (map 22)
Bream Head (Te Whara) Track: 7 km, 5 hrs (map 22)
Take the right fork when you get to Ocean Beach Rd onto Urquharts Bay Rd and stay on it to the carpark at its end. A track then continues and it divides shortly into one that goes to a gun emplacement and the other, on the left, towards Smugglers Bay. Take the latter then walk up the steep track on steps to continue along the ridge to Mt Lion (Matariki) on Te Whara Track. The rock formations and views all along the ridge are spectacular. You pass a track down to Peach Cove Hut, a DoC hut, but the backcountry pass doesn’t cover it and you need to book in order to get a code for the lock. It is all conservation land along the trail but camping is prohibited. A track also goes off at left to Ocean Beach Rd, but keep straight ahead. After the Bream Head/Te Whara summit the track turns north on the Te Whara Track to Ocean Beach. The detour to the viewing platform at the summit is worth taking. You also pass a WWII naval radar station. At the end of Ocean Beach Rd is a small carpark and supposedly toilets. There is a bylaw prohibiting camping here.
- Peach Cove (DOC) hut – 8 bunks. Pre-bookings are required as this hut is locked. You get a code number for the lock when your booking is confirmed. The official TA notes (2022-23) imply that you can camp here but DoC says no, you can’t. 09 470 3300.
- Bream Head Getaway – 310 Ocean Beach Rd, Whangārei Heads, about 800m south-west of Ocean Beach carpark. Healthy and wholesome food packs for sale as you pass through. 021 550 249 (Melissa), firstname.lastname@example.org
- Te Whara camp – 22 Ranui Rd, off Ocean Beach Rd, close to the the beach at the southern end of Ocean Beach. Camp sites with open sided shelter, table, long drop toilet and hot showers. $15pp, cash only. Hosts Rupert and Wendy Newbold. Please txt 021 121 5362. (Confirmed correct Oct 2022)
Ocean Beach Walk: 9 km, 3 hr (map 22)
Walk north along the beach. The dunes are a wildlife sanctuary, so avoid entering here. No dogs are allowed due to nesting birds. It would be best to walk at low tide so you don’t need to go near the dunes. Check the NIWA tide tables.
- Jaggers camp – Camp for koha/donation. Look out for orange marker on Ocean Beach south of Kauri Mountain. Located about 400m inland at about map grid 6036 N. Please call ahead to book. Water, toilets, showers (cold), camping, caravan, cabin. 09 434 0747 or 021 243 1347. You may need to have cash to pay the small charge. (Confirmed correct Oct 2022)
51. Jagger’s Camp to Ngunguru: 28 km (maps 22, 21)
Near the end of Ocean Beach is a stream/occasional estuary that changes shape a lot – check it before attempting to cross. Sometimes if the tide is high you’re best to wait for it to drop a little. After crossing, find some clay steps up to the gravel Kauri Mountain Rd. Leave the gate at the edge of farmland as you find it. At the top by a carpark turn right onto the Kauri Mountain Track.
Speaking of kauri, this might be a good place to repeat a paragraph from the Auckland pages in case you haven’t read it, as you will be encountering kauri a number of times in this region: Kauri die-back disease has recently been spreading amongst kauri trees in the Auckland and Northland regions. It is a soil-borne fungus that attacks the roots and lower trunk of the trees and eventually kills them. There is no known cure and it is spreading like wildfire, killing an iconic species of native New Zealand tree, possibly sending it to extinction. Many other types of vegetation are dependent on the kauri, so there is a risk that we won’t just lose the trees but whole forests. The disease is mainly being spread by humans. It is crucial that you don’t walk anywhere near the roots of these trees as you are likely to pick up the fungus on your footwear and spread it further. The roots can be very close to the surface and spread a very long way from the tree. So use boardwalks where provided and clean your footwear using wash stations (and don’t forget to wash your poles). Just spraying anti-fungus solution on your shoes isn’t enough. You have to get all the soil off them in the first instance, as that’s where the spores will be. And then you have to be careful you are not just washing the soil to some place where it can infect further trees.
Kauri Mountain Track: 3 km, 1.5 hr (map 22)
From the Kauri Mountain trig descend down the other side to a long driveway that passes private homes. Use the stiles and leave gates open or closed as you find them.
Taiharuru Estuary Route: 7 km, 2 hr (map 22)
The drive exits at a point where Harambee Rd and Te Whara Way meet. Turn left into Harambee, then right into Taiharuru Rd. As you go uphill from the point where it meets the water’s edge a driveway goes off at left. Stick to the route down here.
At the water’s edge, providing the tide is low, you walk out on the estuary to the point at right and then around it. There is a white marker with an orange triangle showing the shallowest point more or less opposite where you begin. Then you walk parallel to the land going north-west, staying well out from the mangroves. The mud can be deep in places. To plan for the tide check the usual NIWA site and cross within 2.5 hrs either side of of low tide. Come ashore at a council reserve where you can see down the river and out to sea. Hop on the road (Pataua South Rd) and head north to cross the footbridge over the next estuary (Pataua River). An alternative to walking the Taiharuru Estuary is to ask to be ferried by the people at Tidesong B&B.
- Tidesong B&B – Beasley Rd, Taiharuru. B&B accommodation (discount to TA walkers), plus camp ground with tent sites, hot shower and a cabin ($15 pp). They also can provide fresh fruit and vegetables, meals and dinghy rides across the estuary, as well as advice and transport. 09 436 1959.
- Treasure Island campground – Mahanga Rd, Pataua South, about 500m east of the trail at Pataua. 09 436 2390. Not usually open in winter months, and the basic supply shop is only open for 6 weeks over the peak summer period.
- Ra Puawai B&B – 27 Mahanga Rd, Pataua South, before you get to Treasure Island campground. A genuine Kiwi 60’s bach on the beach. Large deck for relaxing and taking in the stunning views. Three bedrooms, sleeping 4. Full kitchen including coffee machine, coffee and basic supplies. Wifi, spa, kayaks, paddle boards, and dinghy. On Airbnb and expensive, but a discount can be made to TA walkers who make a phone booking. 021 115 4969, email@example.com (Confirmed correct Oct 2022).
Crossing the Horahora and Ngunguru rivers (map 21)
Walk 13 km along the Pataua North Rd. It is not really an option to walk north on the beach from Pataua because it is private land between the beach and the road. Just before the road meets Horahora River turn right and cross the river up to 2 hours either side of low tide. Note that the Horahora River tide times are 90 mins behind other rivers in the area. So if the low tide time for Ngunguru is 10 am it will be 11:30 at the Horahora River. The water is knee to waist deep at low tide and on a sandy base that is safe to walk on with bare feet. The first 40m is the deepest. Please don’t use any of the dinghys at the side of the river. Find the track that takes you to Ngunguru Ford Rd, turn left into it and then right down to Nikau Bay Camp and Cabins. The route is on Māori land and you are asked to be respectful of the privilege or it could be taken away.
An alternative to fording the Horahora River is to follow the old TA route on the Mackerel Forest Track (4 km, 1.5 hrs on the track and a total of 18.5 km diverting around the Horahora River). This is recorded on the official map in purple, and the track between Pataua Rd North and Ngurunguru Ford Rd is on the NZ Topo map as of Oct 2022. For this route continue on inland on the Patua North Rd. Exit at right off the road onto an old logging track through a gate. There is nothing much to mark this turn off. Watch for the road sloping uphill back in the direction you’ve been walking. This appears after a section with a bank on the right side of the road. The track goes up and around a pine-covered hill and then steeply down to follow the Tākehe River, crossing it at a shallower ford between deeper pools to take you onto the true left bank. You then join and cross the Waitangi River at a point where it is usually knee/thigh deep before climbing up on Mackerel Rd (a forest road) through pine forest to join Ngunguru Ford Rd. Turn right onto it. The above section between Pataua North Rd and Ngunguru Ford Rd passes through private forest and may be subject to occasional closures due to forestry operations. Open daylight hours only and no camping or fires.
Then make your way down to Nikau Bay via Ngunguru Ford Rd by going east to where Nikau Bay Camp and Cabins is situated.
Alternatively, if you want to avoid the Ngunguru River crossing as well, you can continue on the purple route of the TA map by turning left after Mackerel Forest and then right to take the road around to Ngunguru settlement, probably adding about 10km to the route down to Nikau Bay. You can potentially cut about 9km walking though by going up Waipoka Rd after you have turned back towards the estuary. My understanding is at the end of this you can cross over to Old Kaiatea Rd and rejoin the trail at the junction of Te Toiroa and Kaiatea roads, thus cutting out Ngunguru entirely.
(‘Ngunguru’ may look unpronounceable at first, but break it into Māori syllables: ngu (rhymes with new, but with the ‘n’ combined with a ‘g’, as in sing), followed by another ngu, then -ru (as in roo): ngu-ngu-ru. You may well hear people say nung-oo-roo, but that is mangling a language.) At Nikau Bay Camp and Cabins you have the option of camping or staying in a cabin. From here you need a boat to get to Ngunguru. Phone or txt James Johnston at the camp 24 hrs prior to your boat ride on 021 0242 1632. James will do his best to take you across at a time that suits. (Note that he closes up between 1 May and 15 Sept.) You will come ashore at Papaka Rd, which goes up to Ngunguru Rd along the front of the settlement. There are a couple of cafés, takeaway shops and a Four Square grocery store on Ngunguru Rd. At the end of town turn left into Waiotoi Rd.
Note: If the sea conditions are good, an alternative is to sea kayak from Ngunguru to Pataua North with Pacific Coast Kayaks. They offer a trip from Ngunguru to Pataua or Taiharuru, with a lunch stop at Goat Island (lunch provided). Pataua has a camping ground but Taiharuru is closer to the start of the track. This is a guided trip as there are a few hazards such as a bar crossing at Pataua. They do not hire kayaks out to solo paddlers. Pacific Coast Kayaks will carry hikers’ packs to the finish point where hikers can resume their journey. As there is additional mileage involved and a driver has to do a pickup, the cost is more than a usual day trip. It is therefore cheaper if you join up with other hikers so that the transport costs can be shared.
If you want to visit Whangārei, its not so far from the end of the Mackerel Forest Track end. Just keep going west on Ngunguru Rd and it is about 16 km to the northern suburb of Tikipunga, with a campground and a Countdown supermarket. You could always take the Coastal Commuter bus one direction or the other perhaps.
- Whangarei Coastal Commuter – Service on request from Whangārei to Tutukaka and Ngunguru, 0800 435 355, 021 901 408 (Confirmed correct Oct 2022)
- Nikau Bay Camp and Cabins – 999 Ngunguru Ford Rd, Ngunguru. James Johnston is your host at this spot on the southern shore of the Ngunguru Estuary. The camp has tent sites, and showers/cooking facilities. 021 0242 1632 (texting preferred), or firstname.lastname@example.org. James can help you get across the estuary if you give him at least a day’s notice.
- The Riverbank Homestay and B&B – 12 Old Mill Lane, off Ngunguru Rd about 1 km west of where you come ashore from the Nikau Bay crossing to Ngunguru at Pataua Rd. The owners Hilton and Melva Ward offer free evening meal to walkers who book the B&B and mention Te Araroa. Best to book ahead to ensure availability. Campsite also available for koha (ignore the ‘no vacancy’ sign if you wish to camp, they say). Their website has a TA page of useful info. 09 946 0074.
- DonnaMarie Austin – Ngunguru. Trail angel offering hot shower, meals, mattress or sofa for a koha. Text 021 142 2385. email@example.com (Confirmed correct Oct 2022)
- Mila’s Backpackers’ Ranch – 48 Kakariki Rd, Ngunguru, about 500m north-east of Pataua Rd, where you come ashore from Nikau Bay, off Ngunguru Rd at left. Campsites $15pp/night. Caravan ($70, sleeps 4). Hot showers, dinghy, horses, kayak available. Mila says to just make yourself at home if she is not there. She may just be out of cellphone range. 09 434 4113 or 021 0857 8821.
- Sam’s Bush Retreat – 109 Waipoka Rd, 1.2 km off Ngunguru Rd. Campsite for a koha. This is handy if you are taking the road route, and is on the route for the shortcut that skips Ngunguru I’ve mentioned in the road route section above, but Sam’s is 8-9 km off-trail otherwise. 021 069 0937, firstname.lastname@example.org (Confirmed correct Oct 2022)
- Holiday Stays – Generic listing site for fairly expensive looking holiday homes and baches. 09 434 4146; 027 482 6408.
52. Ngunguru to Whananaki: 25 km (maps 21, 20)
Ngunguru to Sandy Bay: 16.5 km (map 20)
Walk along Waiotoi Rd for about 2.8 km. This becomes Pukenui Rd at a branch left, then a track called the Old Coach Road that follows a ridge to drop you onto Te Toiroa Rd. After you have headed west on this a bit you turn right into Kaiatea Rd, and then right again into Matapōuri Rd to reach the coast. This now leaves you about 3 km north of Matapōuri. The coastal road to Matapōuri looks shorter, but presumably is busier and less safe for walking.
Whananaki Coastal Track: 7.5 km, 2.5 hrs (map 20)
You could still walk the 3 km east to Matapōuri, a very nice place by various accounts (especially Whale Bay). There is a store and a camping ground here. Otherwise, turn left over a bridge onto McAuslin Rd. Stay on this until a ‘T’ intersection, where the Whananaki Walkway departs past a gate in more or less the direction you have been travelling. There is limited beach access along the McAuslin Rd/Whananaki Walkway (only at Sheltered Bay). You can divert to the Capitaine Bougainville Memorial on the north point of Oruaea Bay. There are great views from here along the coast.
The walkway becomes a well-graded farm track/driveway lined with pōhutukawa trees, going over a stile and behind private baches. You exit past Pitokuhu Point onto Pukekawa Rd back from the next beach. Continue on this to cross the spit to the southern shore of Whananaki Inlet and walk west along the water’s edge to the footbridge and cross over what is claimed to be the longest footbridge in the Southern Hemisphere. If the tide is high on the above-mentioned shore you can detour beforehand by taking the road going west from Whananaki South. If you turn right and go a short way to Whananaki North Rd you will pass public toilets, and off the road going north is the Whananaki Holiday Camp and a store.
- Tui Cabin – 2km up Clements Rd, Matapōuri Bay (just past #152). On AirBnB. Two double bedrooms, gas cooker, fireplace, showers. 5km or so off-trail now that Clements Rd is not on the trail. ‘More like a tramping hut than anything… Primarily catering for Te Araroa hikers.’ 09 434 4977; 027 3783046; email@example.com
- Whananaki Holiday Park – Whananaki North Rd, Whananaki. Has cabins, tourist flats, tent sites and the Naki’d Inn hut specially for TA walkers (that’s ‘knackered inn’, if you didn’t get it.). There is a store at the campground. 09 433 8896.
- Motutara Farm – This is basic campground with cold water showers and pit toilets about 2 km off-trail from Whananaki Holiday Park further round the coast. 42 Rockell Rd, 09 433 8252. And further again is the DoC Otamure Bay campsite, where it looks like you might be able to join up to the Onekainga–Morepork Track, or even just keep going around the coast to join up with the trail at Helena Bay, depending whether some of the roads are private or not.
53. Whananaki to Helena Bay: 8 hrs?, 23 km(maps 20, 19)
Onekainga – Morepork Track: 13 km, 4-5 hrs (maps 20, 19)
Note that this (from km 319 to 307) is closed due to kauri mitigation work as at Oct 2022. You have to road walk on the Whananaki North Rd and the Kaiikanui Rds – the purple route on the map. Watch for the turn-off at hard right of Pigs Head Rd from Whananaki Rd that joins onto Kaiikanui Rd. See Alerts and Trail Status on the official site under Onekainga Track Bypass. The bypass will add 6km to your walk. So ignore the next three paragraphs, which I am setting in grey for the time being in the expectation that the Onekainga-Morepork Track becomes open again at some point.
[Walk around the edge of Whananaki Inlet left of the bridge. From a stopbank the track goes inland around the edge of a paddock to join Whananaki North Rd. 800m or so north-west along the road there is a stile that takes you onto farmland along a small creek. If there are bulls grazing walk slowly and quietly. You follow a fence line, then cross pasture with a lone tree to another fence line. Then there is a footwear cleaning station just as you enter bush on the Harman farm. Make sure to use it. Go up the ridge line in native bush for 1.5 km through the privately owned Waetford block (no camping, fires, dogs, etc, and daylight access only), then along a fence line past pine trees. You come to a boundary fence just west of Onekainga trig (227m) and then 200m through a small pine plantation with no markers and onto a farm track for 500m. Cross some stiles and descend steeply to some pretty little streams then up ridgelines on the other side.
[At a cleared and grassy high point the DoC Kaiikanui Forest is on your left. The track mostly follows the fence line at the edge of the forest before turning south-west into the forest for Hansens Hill and turning sharply again there into the previous north-west direction. After about 4 km you reach Kaiikanui Rd (with a footwear washing station beforehand for you to use).
[Parts of the track north of Onekainga trig are well used for DoC predator control and there are numerous coloured markers for bait stations and traps. Stick to the orange markers. The track on the first km north of the trig is also less clear and gets worked over by wild pigs, so pay attention and use GPS guidance on whatever mapping you are using.]
Helena Ridge Track: 9 km, 4 hrs (map 19)
Walk 1 km west from the end of the Morepork–Onekainga Track on Kaiikanui Rd to the start of the Helena Ridge Track. There is a footwear cleaning station a short way in. The track begins over a stile on the right as an easy gravel farm track and alternates between pasture, farm track and native bush. Along the track you may encounter some gates with electrified wires. Use the insulated grips to open and close the gates.
You pass through here with agreement from a number of landowners so please respect this and do not camp anywhere on this track. Well, except at a spot about 1.7 km in from Kaiikanui Rd, where there is apparently a free camping site provided by the landowner with a water tank (which may be empty in dry conditions). No toilet though.
In an open area the track turns from westerly to north along a ridgeline through regenerating bush. The track ends at a cleaning station and stile beneath a ‘High Chapparal’ sign on Webb Rd at Ngawai Bay.
There is an alternative to the Helena Ridge Track that takes you to the Waikahoa Bay DoC camp site in the Mimiwhangata Coastal Park (map grid 1727.5 E, 6077 N). From the exit of the Morepork-Onekainga Track turn right on to Kaiikanui Rd, then right into Mimiwhangata Rd for 4.5 km and then a further 1 km over the hill to the campground. To rejoin the trail, retrace your steps to the road intersection and turn right into Webb Rd and stay on it to Ngawai Bay (a smaller bay within Helena Bay). The DoC Back Country Hut pass does not apply at the campground and bookings are essential in peak season.
- Hopewell B&B – 1349 Russell Rd, Helena Bay Hill, near the junction with Hay Rd, down from the Helena Ridge track (approx map grid ref 1720.5 E, 6075.3 N). 4.5 km off trail but pick up and drop offs available. 09 433 9608.
- LXM Artist Studio – Helena Bay (approx map grid ref 1722.5 E, 6077.5 N). Has a caravan that sleeps three and space for about 10 tents. Pay by koha. Phone ahead 022 045 4391 (Alex) or 0274 339 016 (Dave) after 3pm to be picked up. firstname.lastname@example.org. (Confirmed correct Oct 2022).
54. Helena Bay to ‘The Farm’: 17.6 km (map 18)
As of 2020/21, the Russell Forest track has become off-limits entirely. You now need to road walk towards Russell, and either go all the way or take one of two other options before you get there, detailed below. It is 44.3 km from Helena Bay to Russell but you can stop at The Farm, 17.6 km from Helena Bay. It is 26.7 km from The Farm to Russell and from there you can take a ferry to Paihia.
Stay on Webb Rd heading north into Te Mimiha Bay and turn right into Russell Rd.
- Whangaruru Beachfront Camp – Ohawini Rd, Oakura Nth, between Ohawini Bay and Oakura Bay, about 3 km off trail (approx map grid 1721.7 E, 6084.2 N) and 9.5 km north of Helena Bay. TA walkers discount of winter rates for summer, e.g. campsite $17 pp, cabins $60 to $75. 09 433 6806. There is a takeaway store in Oakura Bay, 11am – 6.45pm, closed Tues and Wed.
- Oakura Bay Dive, Cruise – 207 Oakura Beach Rd, Oakura Bay, about 2 km off trail at approx grid 6083.5N. Scroll down their website to find their accommodation section: caravans from $50 and tent sites from $15. Potential for drop off next morning. Ngawai and Justin, 09 433 6877, 0800 625 872, 0274 625 872.
- Tammy – 2999 Russell Rd, about 11 km north of Helena Bay. Tent sites ($15), ablution block with hot showers. No cooking facilities. 027 240 4121. (Confirmed correct Nov 2022)
- The Farm – 3632 Russell Rd, 09 433 6894 (map grid ref approx 6089 N). Cabins, dorms, tents, campsites. 17.5 km north of Helena Bay.
55. ‘The Farm’ to Paihia via Okiato & Opua 32 km, Russell, 27 km; or Waikare, 20 km (maps 17, 16)
You can either go to Russell and take the ferry over to Paihia; walk to Okaito and take the more frequent ferry to Ōpua and then walk the 1.5 hrs to Paihia; or turn off onto Waikare Rd to take the kayaking option to Ōpua or Paihia.
1. Via the Waikare canoe trip
Take a left turn at Waikare Rd on the way to Russell on the Russell–Whakapapa Rd and walk 5.7 km to Waikare Inlet and the Waikare Landing. You will need to have organised with Bay Beach Hire, phone 09 402 6078 or 021 402 798 to have a kayak delivered. It’s better to travel in a group or two or three as this will reduce costs. The paddle from Waikare to Paihia takes 3-4hr depending on weather conditions, tide and fitness levels, and should only be done by persons with some experience and navigation ability. Going with an outgoing tide is presumably best. I understand that there isn’t enough water in the inlet to paddle when it is low tide, so an hour or two after high tide might be best. Minimum is two people at $100pp, three $90pp, etc to $70/pp for six. Includes kayak hire, pack transport, kayak pickup, dry bags, maps, full safety equipment. There is another kayak hire place in Paihia that may be worth checking out: Coastal Kayakers. The TA map show the kayak trip ending in Ōpua but you may as well keep going to Paihia.
- Sheryl Wikaire – Has information on Waikare amenities as well as tent sites (koha/donation) available for walkers at 228D Waikare Valley Rd, at about gridline 6087N, about 1.8 km south of the landing (not as shown on Google maps). Sheryl’s place is ‘off grid’: composting toilet available on request and kauri die-back cleaning facilities for your use. 027 309 3476; email@example.com.
- Bernard – Forest cabin and space for tents on Waikare Valley Rd, about 2.3 km south of Waikare Inlet kayak landing, near exit of former TA route on Russell Forest track. $18pp. Pickups available from Russell waterfront Four Square or Waikare Inlet, $10 one way for groups or individuals. Booking a day or more in advance required. 027 226 1344 (Bernard), 021 0243 4349 (Aroha); firstname.lastname@example.org (Confirmed correct Nov 2022)
2. Via Opua
Continue for 10 km after the Waikare Rd turn-off, and go left into Aucks Rd for 4.5 km to reach Okiato (total 21.5 km). A more relaxing route for part of this road walk is to take the Okiato to Russell Walkway that goes around cliffs and through wetland and bush from Aucks Rd, just after its junction with the Russell–Whakapara Rd, and finishes at Pipiroa Rd near the ferry. It is longer than walking Aucks Rd, but more enjoyable. Only the last stage (‘Stage One’) of this is shown on the NZ Topo map, a short section off Aucks Rd as you near Okiato. Stage two and three are on the north-west side of Aucks Rd. Take the vehicle ferry over the Veronica Channel to Ōpua. Ferries go every 10 minutes from 6 am to 9.50 pm, and only cost $1 for foot passengers, so have some cash ready.
- Ferry Landing Homestay – Okiato, just a $1 short ferry hop over from Opua. Bookable on Airbnb. I’ve stayed here and can recommend it. 027 733 3272, email@example.com. On Facebook.
- Opua Seaview Motel – 24 Franklin St. Prices are regular motel level but 10% discount for TA walkers. 09 402 7632, 0800 666 835, 021 164 6834.
Ōpua to Paihia: 6km, 1.5 hrs (map 16)
Walk along the signed track from Ōpua north to Haumai Bay. Then, after you cross the estuary on the roadway, you can follow the coast to Paihia Beach if the tide is low. Walking around the beaches and rocks is possible until about 2 to 3 hrs before high tide. Otherwise, continue on SH11 as it changes from Paihia Rd to Seaview Rd. There are toilets at the southern end of Paihia Beach.
3. Via Russell
The walkway mentioned above continues as stage 4 from the intersection of Aucks Rd and Russell–Whakapara Rd into Russell itself. There is plenty of history at Russell, once known as Kororāreka and as the ‘hell-hole of the Pacific’ for its drunken sailors and vice in the early 1800s. It couldn’t be more genteel today. The Bay of Islands Ferry goes about every 15 minutes over to Paihia, from 7 am to 10 pm, $14 return (the website doesn’t give the one-way fare, but you can pay by EFTPOS or credit card).
- Russell–Orongo Bay Holiday Park – Wairoro Park, 5960 Russell-Whakapara Rd, 4km before Russell (map grid 6095 N), 09 403 7704.
- Pukeko Cottage – 14 Brind Rd, Russell. Slightly closer to Russell than Orongo Bay Holiday Park. Rooms, beds ($30 in shared room) and caravan. 09 403 8498.
- Wainui Lodge – 92D Te Wahapu Rd, Russell. Again, before Russell, but on other side of Orongo Bay from the holiday park, about 600m off the Russell-Whakapara Rd, so better suited if you are heading to Okiato and Opua. Seems to have two lodges ($120 for cheapest) and a hostel, but it is a bit unclear on the website. 09 403 8278, 021 0887 1130.
- Russell Top 10 Holiday Park – 1 James St, Russell, centrally located. 0800 148 671, 09 403 7826, 9am to 5pm.
The Russell, Paihia and Waitangi area is super touristed and there are many accommodation options available, including a number of backpacker hostels. Paihia is a bit like a very small version of Queenstown or Wanaka and consists mainly of places to stay and eat, but despite all the accommodations it can get booked right out in summer. Once there were a dozen or so hostels here, but following Covid there are only about four, so this will make cheap accommodation especially tight. There is a smallish Countdown and a Four Square supermarket at Paihia and 2 Four Squares in Russell. Larger supermarkets are in your next stop, Kerikeri.
- i-SITE Visitor Information Centres – The Wharf, Marsden Rd, Paihia, 09 402 7345. For further information on Paihia and Russell go to www.paihianz.co.nz and http://www.russellnz.co.nz
- Paihia Top Ten Holiday Park – 1290 SH 11, Paihia, 09 402 7678. You reach this before Haumai Bay and Paihia when coming from Ōpua. (Beachside Holiday Park is marked on the TA map nearby, but this is actually the same place – perhaps the old name?) Note that the online prices for small tent sites on the website are for two people. The price for a one-person tent is not listed but is considerably less. The same applies at the camp in Kerikeri.
- YHA Bay of Islands – Corner of Kings & MacMurray Rds, Paihia, 09 402 7487.
- The Pickled Parrot – Greys Lane, Paihia. Backpackers with $15pp camping (TA walkers only), 10% discount on dorm/private rooms when you are a Te Araroa walker. Claims to have a non-party atmosphere. 09 402 6222. May not be going now. Website is down Oct 2022, though phone rings (with no answer).
- Centabay Lodge – 27 Selwyn Rd, Paihia. Discounts to seniors with Super Gold card! Like Haka Lodge, close to shops at centre of Paihia. 09 402 7466; 0800 402 746.
- Haka Lodge – 76 Marsden Rd, Paihia. 09 402 5637.
- Peppertree Lodge – 15 Kings Rd, about 400m south of shops. 09 402 6122, 0800 473 7737.
- Bay of Islands Lodge – 11 MacMurry Rd, Paihia. Near Peppertree Lodge. Cheap double rooms from $99 and 4-bunk rooms from $109 for the room. 021 560 306.
- Waitangi Holiday Park & Mayfair Lodge backpackers – 1 Tahuna Rd, Waitangi, 0800 55 6660 or 09 402 786, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Salt Air – 0800 472 582 or 09 402 8338, email@example.com Scenic and charter flights from Paihia or Kerikeri.
- Buslink – Service to Kerikeri Tues, Thurs at 11am (same bus departs 10.50 from Ōpua), (Oct 2022).
- InterCity – Bus services to Kerikeri daily 11:41am, 5:20pm, and the 11:41 on to Kaitaia Mon, Wed, Sun. And south to Auckland via Whangarei daily 7:45am, 1:35pm, plus a 10:55 service on Sun and Fri.
56. Paihia to Kerikeri: 25 km, 6 hrs (maps 15, 14)
From Paihia follow Marsden Rd north to Waitangi Bridge. From the bridge continue on the road past the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. The grounds are open daily from 9am to 6pm in January and February, and to 5pm for the rest of the year. Daily guided tours, hangi and Māori cultural performances are available. Surprisingly, for an estate that was gifted to the nation, the entire grounds are fenced off and you can only enter through the visitor centre for $50 or about half that price if you are a NZ resident. You could perhaps hop over the fence in a secluded spot if you just want to visit the grounds and skip the buildings. Note, though, that a little further up the road is a monument that claims to be sited approximately where the treaty was signed (not actually in the Treaty Grounds!)
On 6 February 1840, New Zealand’s founding document was signed at Waitangi between Lieutenant-Governor Hobson, representing of the British Crown and Māori chiefs. The manicured lawns and the solemn kaitiakitanga that surround the place indicate the importance now placed on the treaty. The Treaty Grounds (including the colonial Treaty House) and 1000 acres of land were gifted to the nation in 1932 by the former Governor General, Lord Charles Bledisloe. As a British aristocrat, he perhaps saw more clearly than Pākehā New Zealanders then did of what the Treaty of Waitangi meant to Māori, and the nation. Te Whare Runanga (the carved meeting house) was opened on 6 February 1940, one hundred years after the signing. It stands facing the Treaty House, the two buildings together symbolising the partnership agreed between Māori and the British Crown, on which today’s Aotearoa New Zealand is founded. Whare Waka Café is located within the Treaty Grounds.
From the Treaty Grounds proceed on Tau Henare Drive past the golf course. The drive becomes the gravelled Haruru Falls Rd. Go west along this and turn right into Te Puke Rd. There is a track off here soon after the junction to the top of Mt Bledisloe (105m), which gives a good view of the area.
At the junction with Skyline Rd up Te Puke Rd a few metres is an inconspicuous marker of where the idea of the Te Araroa Trail first took off. There is a small plaque on a circle of boulders and a cairn now becoming enveloped by bushes made from local volcanic rock by Kerikeri sculptor Chris Booth. They mark the 7 February 1995 opening by the then prime minister Jim Bolger of the Kerikeri–Waitangi route, the very first Te Araroa track! There was a brochure produced for the track, which included a sketch of the proposed route for the whole North Island (and which has pretty much been realised as envisaged, except for a bit that detoured to the Waitakere Ranges near Auckland).
Waitangi Forest Track: 14.5 km, 3 hrs
Te Puke Rd becomes Te Wairoa Rd. It joins the Skyline Rd (turn right) and then forks left a bit further on to the left (with Bedford to the right). Just go all the way on Te Wairoa down to Kerikeri Inlet Rd. The route from Haruru Falls Rd to Kerikeri Inlet Rd is all forestry road, and offers both shade and shelter from wind.
The Waitangi Forest is a commercial forest, and forestry operations, including logging and log truck transport, are present in the forest most months of the year. It is important to stick to the route to avoid entering active logging work. Heed all the signs and do not enter into areas that are marked as closed. If you encounter a road closed sign or banner across the road, it means you have left the designated walkway and are on the wrong route.
Cross the bridge over the Okura River (or tidal inlet really) and stay on Kerikeri Inlet Rd through the outskirts of Kerikeri. Turn right into Pā Rd. Near the end, just before Pagoda Lodge is a narrow track off at left. The TA app in 2019 was misleading here and took you to the end of Pā Rd and into the mud, so ignore it if is still doing so. The track takes you down into a gully and over a bridge and onto the historic reserve that includes the site of Kororipo Pā. This pā served as a coastal village, a trading post and a fortified base for war parties. You then want to be on the Kororipo Pā Track (marked with TA signs), which takes you to Kerikeri Rd and at its end the historic Stone Store at the water’s edge. You will probably want to continue down Kerikeri Rd to the centre of Kerikeri (with a large New World supermarket at 99 Kerikeri Rd as you enter town and Countdown at 1 Fairway Drive at the other end), but the route for the next section is across the large foot bridge near Kemp House and the Stone Store over the Kerikeri River to the reserve on the other side and the Kerikeri Walkway.
The Kerikeri Basin is where Māori welcomed missionaries in 1819 to establish a Church Mission Settlement. This established the framework for New Zealand’s bi-cultural society. Kerikeri is both a beautiful place in the Bay of Islands, and one of New Zealand’s most historic sites. Kemp House was built in 1821-22 and is the oldest European building in NZ. There is a café inside.
Accommodation in Kerikeri can be tight. There are three backpackers and one campground, but seasonal workers can be in the hostel beds, so sort out your Kerikeri accommodation well ahead.
- Pagoda Lodge & Camping Ground – 81 Pā Rd, Kerikeri. Various glamping options including a bus, vintage caravan, boat house and tents. Not terribly cheap but more romantic than a motel and in a lovely spot. You can pitch your own tent for $40 though. 09 407 8617; 021 071 8688.
- Kerikeri Holiday Park and Motels – 23 Aranga Rd, Kerikeri, at the far (western) end of town. Cabins and tent sites. Cheapest cabins $65 in summer season for 2 people (Oct 2022). 09 407 9326; 0800 272 642.
- Hone Heke Lodge – (aka Kerikeri Flashpackers), 65 Hone Heke Rd, Kerikeri. The place seems to have won a swag of awards – see their website. 09 407 8170; 0800 407 817 freephone.
- KeriCentral Hostel – 25 Cobham Rd. 09 407 3542, 027 800 8067.
- Relax-a-Lodge BBH – 1574 Springfield Rd, Kerikeri. This is somewhat out of town on SH10 (cnr with Blue Gum Lane) at south-west and doesn’t have shared rooms. Cheapest rooms are $63 for a single and $81 double (Nov 2022). Maybe they can pick you up? 09 407 6989.
- Department of Conservation (DoC) – Bay of Islands area office, 34 Landing Rd, Kerikeri, across the reserve where the Kerikeri Walkway starts, 09 407 0300, firstname.lastname@example.org
- InterCity – Buses depart several times a day for Auckland and once a day for Kaitaia. 09 583 5780.
- Buslink – Services to Paihia, Tues, Thurs, 2pm (Oct 2022).
- Kerikeri Taxi Shuttles and Tours – 021 225 5120.
- Air New Zealand flies from Kerikeri to Auckland, 4 to 5 flights a day.
57. Kerikeri to Puketī Hut: 28 km, 7 hrs (maps 14, 13)
Kerikeri River Track: 7 km, 2 hrs
Follow the path inland along the northern bank of the Kerikeri River on the Kerikeri Walkway. You will pass the remains of a powerhouse built as part of a hydro-electric scheme that operated from 1930 to 1967, and past the 27m high Rainbow Falls that tumble over basalt lava fields which flowed into the river valley during long past volcanic eruptions. Continue following the orange markers through pleasant tōtara groves for 3 km to SH10 where there is a picnic area and stile. There can be single-wire electric fences along this stretch. These are generally easy to get across or under, but take care to avoid getting a shock. There’s an electrified gate which is easy to go through by using the plastic insulated handle. Leave the gate open or closed as you find it.
SH10 to Puketī Hut: 21 km, 5 hrs.
The next bit seems to be subject to regular changes over the years so can be a bit variable. The standard route when you get to SH10 is to cross over and follow the Kerikeri River at first but shortly turn left along the Maungaparerua Stream where it joins the river and then the Waimokaikai Stream over farmland to sidle around Mt Maungaparerua with its wide view across the Bay of Islands and go through pine forest to join the northmost end of Mangakaretu Rd. There are electric fences along the route: use the plastic handles to open electrified gates and replace them as they were. Move gently but steadily around cattle to avoid spooking them. Follow this road south-west (more or less) about 5 km until a track over farm land goes off at right. When this gets to Wairere Rd after about 3 km, turn right and head north on the road for 2 km, then turn left and walk about 1 km to Puketī Hut and campsite.
If the track from Mangakaretu to Wairere Rd is closed due to farm operations, keep going in a southerly direction on Mangakaretu Rd to Puketōtara Rd. Turn right into this, then right again into Wairare Rd.
- DoC campsite and Puketī Hut – The 18 bunk hut has electricity, gas and cold showers. You have to book it in advance to get a combination code for the door lock. Book on 09 407-0300 or online $18. Online is preferable as there is a $10 surcharge for booking by phone, at a DoC centre, or by email. A back country hut pass can’t be used in the summer season. The campsite costs $8 by using an honesty box says the DoC website, but it also says you have to book in advance and the same surcharge applies if a DoC staff member has to do it for you! Remember to bring the right change if you plan to use the honesty box.
The Northland Forests: 98 km, 4-5 days (maps 13, 12, 11, 10, 9)
Omahuta-Puketī Forest Track: 30 km, 2 days (maps 13, 12, 11)
Omahuta-Puketī Forest Track is a challenging, wet route using river canyons that are subject to flash floods. You need good equipment and navigation skills. Only go in dry weather. Note that there are some beehives en route, and poison and trapping for possums, rats and mustelids occurs within this forest. Goat control operations using contract hunters also takes place.
For forest hygiene and visitor safety reasons it is requested that camping in Puketī and Omahuta Forests is restricted to the sites recommended by DoC – those being Blackbridge Rd, Apple Dam and Puketī Forest HQ (eastern edge of Puketī Forest). These sites have been identified for camping as they are away from kauri, therefore reducing the risk of spreading kauri die-back disease, and will be poison exclusion zones for possum control operations. Plan using only these two sites.
58. Puketī Hut to Apple Dam campsite: 25 km (maps 13, 12, 11)
Take the 4WD road Pukatea Ridge Track, aka Pirau Ridge Road, from the Puketī Forest Hut for 9 km. Watch out for vehicles and mountain bikers. Keep left when it then joins the Walnut Track, and 300m further on stay right when the Takapau Track meets it. You are now on the Pukatea Ridge. After 3 km this descends steeply to the Waipapa River. The track along the river is rough and very slippery after rain, but well marked, and you could instead wade along the river between shoals, but parts are deep. A short, muddy descent then takes you down to cross the river at the junction with the Lower Waipapa River Track. On the other side you walk up the Mangapukahukahu Stream, but don’t cross over exactly where this stream and the Waipapa River meet. Go downstream a little where it is much shallower. The crossing point is marked. A track leads up on the other side.
The route up the Mangapukahukahu Stream is through a gorge and is subject to flash floods after heavy rain. DO NOT attempt this route in heavy rain. Then a rough track through trees and pampas grass leads off at left and uphill, passing two old forestry skid sites. It becomes a 4WD track down the other side to the start of Blackbridge Rd (a 4WD road). A new campsite has been built at the start of Blackbridge Rd, around grid ref 6159.5E, 6100.6N, with a shelter and a water tank. Hikers say that it is a better place to stay than Apple Dam, where the water and toilet have been described as dodgy. Wherever you stay, it may be worth topping up for water as it can be scarce over the next section.
Blackbridge Rd joins Kauri Pā Rd (keep left at the junction). To detour to the Apple Dam campsite 1 km from the junction take the next left, down Kauri Sanctuary Rd for 500 m. A grassy 4WD track runs downhill on the left to a small and shady campsite with water tank/stream/dam and a long-drop toilet (up the road from the campsite). The kauri sanctuary is further down the road. To avoid the spread of kauri die-back please do not camp around kauri.
Wet weather by-pass option 1: Starting from Puketī Forest Hut area, head south on Waiare Rd, then turn right into Puketī Rd for 9 km. It joins SH1 at Waihou Valley. Stay on SH1 going west and north-west for 22 km. When you get to the Omahuta Rd turn-off at right you can just keep going on SH1 north to Mangamuka, as the standard trail route comes down Omahuta Rd onto this section of SH1.
Wet weather by-pass option 2 (31 km Puketi Hut to Apple Dam): This is marked purple on the TA map and the TA Trail app, but not covered in the official SoBo notes, while option 1 above IS described, but not marked on the map!: Continue up Waiare Rd from the Puketī Forest Hut area. Go left on Pupuke Mangapa Rd. This goes a long way west. When it branches, take the left one. This crosses the Mangapa River after about 1.5 km and becomes Jacksons Rd. Take the next left, Kauri Pā Rd. After Blackbridge Rd joins it you pass the Apple Dam area and it becomes Kauri Sanctuary Rd. If you don’t want to camp at Apple Dam and just get out of the forest you can skip turning into Kauri Pā Rd and stay on Jacksons until it becomes Omahuta Rd. Apple Dam does not appear to be an especially wonderful place to camp, but you could always divert south-east on Blackbridge Rd about 3 km to the new campsite on Blackbridge Rd.
59. Apple Dam to Makene Road campsite: 5 hrs, 17 km, (map, 11, 10)
The route through to Takahue is closed as of Sept 2022, with an unknown re-opening date. See the TA site for updates. I will outline the diversion route a bit further below. But first, here is the standard route:
To continue, keep on Kauri Sanctuary Rd headed west then north-west, past occasional beehives tucked into the forest (just button up your clothes and walk gently past) and an airstrip on your right. At a junction the road becomes Omahuta Forest Rd where you turn right. 700m further on is Omahuta. It is 31 km in total to here from Puketī Hut.
Walk 5km south-west down Omahuta Rd to the junction with SH1. Turn right and pass over Mangamuka Bridge before Mangamuka settlement (where there is a dairy with takeaways: see below). Apparently there are public toilets but they don’t have water for washing your hands. Your best bet for water may be the cemetery. Turn left at Makene Rd, 12km from Omahuta.
- Mangamuka Bridge Dairy – SH 1 Mangamuka Bridge, takeaways available. Mon–Fri 7am–5pm. 09 401 9184. Map grid approx 1649.5 E, 6100.7 N.
- Mākene Rd – at start of Raetea Forest, camping spot with toilet, river, picnic table. There is a stream but whether it is safe to drink is another matter. Stay by donation. A caravan can be booked: email@example.com. (Confirmed correct Nov 2022)
60. Mākene Road campsite to Mangamuka Gorge Walkway campsite via Raetea Forest Track: 9 hrs, 18 km, (maps 10, 9)
From about here to the other side of the Raetea Forest there is little reliable water, so top up if you haven’t already. The track leaves the road about 1.5 km up the road to the right, up a driveway and through the yard of a house. Dogs will bark but won’t hurt you. The owners are used to walkers passing through and a greeting and/or thank you will go down well. To steer away from the dogs, pass to the left of the house through a gate, leaving the gate as you found it.
The track goes up a ridge to the peak of Umaumakaroro (447m), then goes more or less west, first to Kumetewhiwhia (638m) and then to Raetea (744m). These are some of the highest peaks in Northland, so expect cloud and rain. There is a small area of ground at Raetea Peak where some people camp. Keep going straight when a track branches off at left after Umaumakaroro and take the left fork about 1.3 km after Kumetewhiwhia. And about 1.7 km after Raetea take the left branch in the track along the Mangamuka Gorge Walkway. After an un-named 580m peak the track descends steeply to a saddle, where a track branches off at left. Ignore this branch and keep descending through farmland for 2 km to the old Takahue Saddle Rd (just a track now). This takes you down to a junction with Warner Rd and leads you along the Takahue Saddle Rd, which follows the Takahue River and leads you to the tiny settlement of Takahue.
- Mangamuka Gorge Walkway campsite there is a marked spot about 1.5 km before you get to Warner Rd with water, toilets and a container for donations (approx 1634.0 E 6102.9 N). Note, there is NO CAMPING allowed at Warner Rd by the river.
- Takahue Marae (Old School Grounds) – NW corner of Takahue crossroads. Tenting, toilets and water are available, $10 koha appreciated. There is a labelled box for this in (or on?) one of the utility sheds. Ph Karen Murray 021 0754 246 if any questions. (Confirmed correct Nov 2022)
- Tramp Inn – 1479 Diggers Valley Rd. This private hut is about where a track to an airstrip is marked on the Topo map near the start of the Herekino Forest Track (west of Raetea Forest). It is a 7 km detour off the current trail. However, you can avoid retracing those 7 km by taking the Waiotehue Rd west of Takahue and then using the track marked on the NZ Topo/TA map to get to Diggers Valley Rd. Then you can go out to meet up with the Takahue Road again. I’d guess the loop is about 12 km in total, as against 4.5 km if you stick to the trail from Takahue to the point where DV Rd joins it. Pay $10 in an honesty box. 14 bunks and tent sites. 09 408 8851, firstname.lastname@example.org (Alan and Hayley Tubbs). (Confirmed correct Nov 2022)
- Peter Griffiths of Takahue (on the west side of Raetea Forest) – Can provide a drop-off and pick up service for a small fee and has some backpacker accommodation available. Contact him in advance on 09 408 3685. (Confirmed correct, Nov 2022)
2022 diversion: Mangamuka Bridge to Mangamuka Gorge Walkway campsite c. 30 km
DoC report that there are numerous fallen trees and two major slips on the Raetea Forest track from from Warner Rd to Makene Rd and have temporarily closed it. The road route via the Mangamuka Gorge is also closed. Check the TA website under Trail Updates for the current situation.
To take the diversion, follow the first paragraph of day #59 Apple Dam to Makene Rd campsite above. Then walk 5km south-west down Omahuta Rd to the junction with SH1. Turn north to go over Mangamuka Bridge and then turn left into Mangamuka Rd to walk 20 km to Broadwood. This is a narrow and winding sealed road with limited road shoulder. Traffic is light but includes large logging trucks, so you could consider hitch hiking.
You can also camp in Mangamuka Bridge settlement at the turn-off into Mangamuka Rd. This is a temporary campsite for the duration of the diversion. The site is behind the old hotel, now called Tautoko FM Radio, on the corner, where there is a patch of grass and a water tank. But ask at the dairy further north first (open 7am to 5pm weekdays). There are longdrop toilets just past the dairy.
When you get to the settlement of Broadwood locals here have also offered two temporary campsites for TA walkers. One is on the right after Takahue Saddle Rd and after a house and a small bridge, and is by toilets. A general store is further up on the left. The other one is much more secluded and is accessed at left, again after Takahue Saddle Rd and just before the small bridge. Two white posts mark the turn-off from the road, down along the stream and past a green shed to a spot with toilets and a water tap (drawing from the stream). Ask at the store if the toilets are locked.
The trail is now up Takahue Saddle Rd and then along a track that joins up with usual TA trail at the Mangamuka Gorge Walkway. Turn left here and head towards Warner Rd. There is a campsite about 1.5 km further on.
61. Mangamuka Gorge Walkway campsite to Kaitaia (21 km) and Ahipara Holiday Park (another 14 km) (maps 8, 7)
Some years back the trail went through the Herekino Forest to Ahipara, but this is closed due to kauri die-back disease. So the alternative is continue on the Takahue Saddle Rd to Takahue and walk north on Takahue Rd. Just before the 4th bridge turn left into Ruaroa Rd and when you get to SH1 hitch or arrange a lift the 6 km to Kaitaia (the road is dangerous for walking). This is useful for resupplying anyway, as you wouldn’t have passed through Kaitaia if you had been walking through the Herekino Forest. From Kaitaia it is 14 km road walking or hitch hiking to Ahipara or you can take a limited service bus (see below).
Kaitaia has two supermarkets: Pak’nSave at 111 North St and a Four Square at 65 Commerce St. There is also a bulk-bin Your Shelf store at 244, and a Healthy Wholefoods at 216 Commerce St. Slightly north of Pak’nSave is Mitre Ten hardware, a Hunting & Fishing store and The Warehouse. A DoC office is at 25 Matthews Ave (though I’m not sure it is a public office) and the i-Site is in the Te Ahu Centre on the corner of Matthews Ave and South Rd at the south end of town. At the latter you can fill in a TA intentions book, for your safety on the 90 Mile Beach, as well as find about transport to Cape Reinga if you haven’t already got that sorted. There are computers, cafés and a library in the centre. There isn’t much to Ahipara: only the very small superette for resupply, and a takeaway store nearby.
- Beachcomber Lodge & Backpacker – 235 Commerce St, Kaitaia, has private rooms, dorms, a kitchen and luggage storage. Check in at the Wayfarer Motel next door. 09 408 1275.
- Ahipara Holiday Park – 168 Takahe St, Ahipara, 09 409 4864.
- YHA Ahipara – This is associated with the holiday park, so same address and phone number.
- Endless Summer Lodge – BBH hostel, 245 Foreshore Rd, Ahipara, about 1.5 km south of the superette, 09 409 4181.
- Ahipara Bay Motel – 22 Reef View Rd, Ahipara (about 1 km south of the superette), 09 409 4888; 0800 906 453.
- Ahipara Superette – 4 Takahe St, Ahipara, open 7:30 am to 6:30 pm daily, includes post office open 9am to 5pm Mon to Friday and Sat morning, 09 409 4828.
- Bus Link – A bus goes between Kaitaia and Ahipara around 5pm weekdays, and on Wednesdays in the mornings and at around 1pm.
- Intercity – Buses depart 10.10am from Kaitaia to Auckland, via Whangarei, on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays only. And from Paihia every day, with two services daily and three on Friday and Sunday.
Ahipara to Cape Reinga: 100.5 km, 4 days (maps 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1)
The following plan from Ahipara to Cape Reinga is suggested on the official TA site (here reversed of course). But you could consider flip-flopping the last section of your walk and start at Cape Reinga. Then don’t have to arrange a time to be picked up at the cape and work around the tides to get to there by this time. On the other hand, some providers may be able to take you direct to Kerikeri or Paihia from the cape, which then gives you more options for buses south.
Day 1 – Ahipara to Hukatere Lodge/Utea Park (31 km) or just to Waipapakauri Holiday Park (14 km) and make a fifth day of it by walking the 17 km to Hukatere the next day.
Day 2 – Hukatere Lodge/Utea Park to Maunganui Bluff campsite (30 km)
Day 3 – Maunganui Bluff campsite to Twilight Beach campsite (28km)
Day 4 – Twilight Beach campsite to Cape Reinga (12km)
It is preferable to avoid high tide as the water can come all the way up to the dunes in parts and make for either wet feet or a need to walk in soft sand or the hilly dunes. Check the NIWA site for tides. You should take plenty of water, as there are few sources, and the beach is of course very exposed, so suncream and a hat and/or scarf are essential. You are requested not to camp in the Aupōuri Forest of pines that runs alongside Ninety Mile Beach.
You should know that there may be packs of feral dogs along the route and they can be dangerous. A man was mauled to death by dogs in Northland in August 2022, but the exact circumstances are not clear. Precautions are to avoid walking alone and at twilight or at night. The general principle if faced by threatening dogs is not to provoke them: don’t shout, scream, wave your arms around, or run. Either stand still, or move away quietly without turning your back on them. And don’t make eye contact. See more at the bottom of my Weather and Hazards page on dealing with aggressive dogs.
62. Ahipara to Hukatere Lodge/Utea Park: 31 km (maps 7, 6, 5)
From the campground go down Kaka St to the boat ramp and head off north along Ninety Mile Beach / Te Oneroa-a-Tohe (which is actually only 55 miles, or 88 km, long). You pass Waipapakauri (14 km), where there is the Ngapae Holiday Park, before getting to Hukatere (31 km from Ahipara), which also has a camping ground and lodge.
- Ngapae Holiday Park – 6 Matai St, (off West Coast Rd), inland from the boat ramp and entry/exit to the beach, Waipapakauri. 09 406 7298, email@example.com.
- Hukatere Lodge & Hukatere Camping Ground – 809 Hukatere Rd, Houhora, 09 409 8705 or 021 884 145. Located right by Ninety Mile Beach. Has lodge, backpacker accommodation and camping sites, with communal kitchen, hot showers, flush toilets.
63. Hukatere Lodge to Maunganui Bluff campsite: 30 km (maps 5, 4, 3)
Opposite Wakatehaua Island (61 km from Ahipara) is the Maunganui Bluff campsite.
- Maunganui Bluff campground – This is a private camp operated by a local Trust. They are supportive of Te Araroa and happy for walkers to stay, but be sure to pay a $10/night fee (carry some cash) into the honesty box or this privilege will be at risk. Note that due to money being stolen from the box a caretaker may come to collect money, but beware of imposters. It is safer to pay into the Maunganui Bluff Trustee bank account 11-5027-0005402-11. Take care using the water and check all taps are off, as water gets very low in summer. At the stream on the right of the campground (when looking inland from the beach), there is a bathtub for water resupply. Probably this should be treated before drinking. Be sure to camp on the grassed area of the campsite (which has little shelter) and not in the pine forest. Wild horses roam the site sometimes apparently. The camp is accessible by road, so you may find the more intrepid motorised traveler staying here.
64. Maunganui Bluff campsite to Twilight Beach campsite: 28 km (maps 3, 2, 1)
For the next leg take enough water to go all the way to Cape Reinga, as the tank at Twilight Beach can run out in very dry weather. At about 20 km north of Maunganui Bluff you cross Te Paki Stream (aka Kauaeparaoa Stream). Te Paki Stream mouth is a popular vehicle entrance/exit to the beach so be prepared for cars and tourist buses around here and further south, as people like to drive on the beach. (From the stream mouth it is 1 hour upstream to the road, should you wish to exit the beach here). Te Paki is well known as a sandboarding location as the sand dunes are very high here. You climb up a dune and slide down on a board, sheet of cardboard, or whatever, as though you are on snow. Boogie boards are hired out at the carpark for $15. Note that there are reports of people targeting cars in the carpark for break-ins, so think about where you can stow your gear safely if you are going to do this. Maybe the board hire truck can hold your pack for you.
Continue along the beach to climb up some steps and over a boardwalk to Tiriparepa / Scott Point. After you have passed the high point and turned south-west briefly the track branches. Make sure you change direction to take the main 4WD north-west track. Just above Paengarehia / Twilight beach on the other side is Twilight Camp, a small campsite with water, toilet and a shelter. Wait a moment when you turn the water tap on as it may just take a while to flow. Please camp within the grassed area ONLY, not in the pine trees. Also, store your food carefully here overnight as the campsite is notorious for possum raids.
65. Twilight beach to Cape Reinga: 12 km (map 1!)
After you have traversed Twilight Beach you climb a little to walk along cliff tops of flax and mānuka scrublands. Keep left when the track branches above Pitokuku Point. The track branches again after about 2.5 km, with a track west to Cape Maria van Diemen. (Who was Maria van Diemen? She was the wife of the patron of Abel Tasman, the first European to visit New Zealand, and the cape is one of the only two place names Tasman imparted that has survived.) You could detour here, or go right over Hērangi Hill acrosspeach coloured dunes and past unusual dune grasses to Te Werahi Beach Track. At the end of Te Werahi Beach you scramble over rocks and up the hill to Cape Reinga / Te Rerenga Wairua. It is preferable to travel along here at lowish tide to make the rock scrambling and stream crossing easier and safer. When the track branches the left track takes you to the lighthouse (where you can see the tidal turbulence as the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean meet), the right branch to the top of the hill and the road end car park, YOUR FINAL DESTINATION !
The cape has special significance in Māori in mythology, for it is believed that the spirits of the dead travel to Cape Reinga / Te Rerenga Wairua on their journey to the afterlife. They leap off the headland to climb the roots of the 800-year-old pōhutukawa tree and descend to the underworld where they return to their traditional homeland of Hawaiki, via Te Ara Wairua, the ‘Spirits’ pathway’.
Now that you are here I may as well break the news to you that Cape Reinga is actually 3 km short of the northernmost point in New Zealand. That honour goes to the Hikura / de Surville Cliffs, about 30 km to the east. But the cliffs are not so easy to get to. Also, you need to know that there are no amenities at the cape, just a car park and toilets. So you will need to plan your exit. The nearest main town is Kaitaia, 100 km to the south. With 120,000 or more visitors a year to the cape you should be able to catch a lift south. Or arrange something with a transport provider (see below). Or if you want to stay in the area you can walk the Te Paki Coastal Track (5km) followed by 9km along a ridge to another campsite (Pandora Camp) in Pandora / Whangākea Bay. It is then a short walk to Piwhane / Spirits Bay and at the far end of this is the Kapowairua campsite (9km from Pandora Camp). Check out the DoC site for more details. You can also stay at Waitaki Landing, about 20 km south of Cape Reinga, but check out visitor feedback on Google or Tripadvisor first.
There is no public transport to or from Cape Reinga, however the operators list below can assist. More information at the Kaitaia i-site also. You can readily hitch-hike south but watch you possessions. Some hikers have reported ‘drive-offs’ – people driving away with your gear in the car! Make sure you are in the car any time the driver is at the wheel and your possessions are also in the vehicle; not just when you first get in but also at petrol or toilet stops. Having two of you makes this easier to achieve.
- Harrisons Cape Runner – Departs 9am daily in summer from Kaitaia. $85 (at Nov 2022). 09 408 1033; 0800 227 373 freephone.
- Sand Safaris – Similar to above. Departs 8:45 am daily in summer from Kaitaia and 8:30 from Ahipara, returning to Kaitaia 4pm, Ahipara 4:30. $90 per adult from Kaitaia (at Nov 2022). 09 408 1778, 0800 869 090.
- Real Far North Tours (Johanna Maaka) – Kaitaia to Cape Reinga, can include a shopping stop and/or guided tour on way to Cape Reinga. Minimum of three people, $100pp. 020 4152 8785, firstname.lastname@example.org. (Confirmed correct Nov 2022)
- Utea Park Pauly D – For transport needs north of Kaitaia. Vehicle storage available. Local knowledge offered. 021 804 002, Uteapark@gmail.com
- Tuatua Rentals – 250 Ahipara Rd, Ahipara. According to the TA guide they offers transfers from Paihia and Kerikeri (both $75) or Kaitaia ($50) and to ‘enquire about transfers to/from other parts of the Northland trail’. But the website is all about hiring quad bikes for an hour or two from Ahipara, though TA shuttles are listed as a service.
- Tuatahi Airport Shuttle – Shuttle between Kaitaia and Kerikeri airport. Alex Nankivell, 021 0875 3196.
- Peter Ellicott – from Northland Taxis offers a pick up from Mangonui (on the east coast of the North Island, across from Kaitaia) and drop off at Cape Reinga for $100pp, with minimum charge of $200. Text 021 070 5783.
- Bellbird Adventure Tours – Auckland to Cape Reinga shuttle: $600 for 1 person, $300pp for two, $250pp for three (maximum). Contact: Maree Thomas email@example.com or 022 029 8540.
- Salt Air – Based in Paihia. Charter flights to Cape Reinga. They do land there, so you could seriously splash out and travel back to Paihia in style. 09 402 8338.
Always check the Trail Status pages of the official Te Araroa website for recent changes or alerts on the trail.
Updated 6 November 2022
Header photo: Ngunguru, 2010 (cropped) by Phillip Capper, Wellington, NZ, Wikimedia