Where the city meets the sea, that’s where you’ll find Whangarei, Maori translation for “Bountiful Land”.

A two hour drive north of Auckland, is this medium-sized, laid back city at the top of the North Island.

Central City

In the heart of the town you will find quaint gift shops and boutiques that offer merchandise slightly different to what you’ll find in the bigger cities. Cameron Street Mall is the main shopping area, but if you want unique – head down to the Town Basin. Pottery, artwork, and screen-printed fabrics abound among these shops. Relax over brunch at the charming cafe and sit outdoors watching the activities around the boats moored nearby.

If you’ve got the time, or you’re looking for it, check out “Clapham Clocks Museum”. Open 7 days from 9a.m.- 5 p.m. it displays a vast array of clocks from all over the world.

Just five minutes away along Hatea Drive, which has many fine motels, is Mair Park. Surrounded by bush, it is a great place for a picnic. If you’re feeling more energetic, go for a bush walk up the Parahaki Track there. This is fairly steep but well worth the effort. Once you reach the top you have a wonderful view of the whole of Whangarei and the harbour. Alternatively, you can drive to the top by road.

Nightlife is pretty relaxed in Whangarei but there are plenty of restaurants and bars to chose from.

Beaches and Fishing

Fishing and boating are part of the Northland lifestyle. Take a half hour drive through Ngunguru to Tutukaka and you’ll be fascinated by the luxurious boats anchored there. This is a fisherman’s paradise. Here is the chance for you and your mates to go Big Game Fishing. Booking is essential for these day long boating trips and can be quite expensive, but let’s face it – it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. Imagine the thrill if you finally landed the “big one”. Marlins are often caught on these outings and weight records broken at Tutukaka.

There are many great beaches and bays around Whangarei. Pataua, Oakura, Matapouri and Whananaki to name just a few. Pataua has great flounder fishing, and try digging for a few shellfish at these beaches when the tide is out. If you go to the Whangarei Information Centre and get a local map these destinations are easily signposted. Don’t be surprised if you hit a metal road though, after all you’re in the heart of Northland.

Surrounding Districts

If you’re looking for your Scottish heritage take a trip 30 kms south of Whangarei to the township of Waipu. Even if you can’t trace your heritage back to the Nova Scotian settlers, you will find it fascinating to visit the “House of Memories” museum. Open daily from 9.30 am – 4.00 pm, they can also give you information about driving around the newly developed Heritage Trail. Along the road take a look at the Waipu Tile Co. The great artwork on these tiles have seen them selling well nationwide.

The Caledonian Society hold their popular Highland Games here annually on New Years Day. A great chance to check out Highland dancing, the bagpipes, or traditional events such as ‘tossing the caber’.

If you want to catch the surf, grab your board and head five minutes out of town to Waipu Cove. A well known beach great for surfing, swimming, or just checking out the talent. It offers a large camping ground, cabins and motel for accommodation.

A further ten minutes around the corner is picturesque Lang Cove. With beautiful Pohutukawa trees, rolling surf and hills it is safe for family swimming, and you may even spy some dolphins.

Ten minutes north of here through Ruakaka is the often talked about Marsden Pt Oil Refinery. Take a stroll along the wharf and spy the massive red and white chimneys or take a fishing rod and the kids will love throwing a line over the side. If you’re lucky the Northland Racing Club could be holding a meeting at the Ruakaka racetrack. A great afternoon for horse lovers and punters alike.

If you head to the West Coast for about an hour from Whangarei, you’ll come to the town of Dargaville. Set on the Wairoa River you can head north from here and visit the famous Waipoua Forest. Here you’ll find extensive bush walks and rediscover the world’s largest kauri tree named, Tane Mahuta. A picture here is essential as it’s a magnificent piece of nature.

Another picturesque spot in this area further south is Kai Iwi Lakes. Against a backdrop of native bush, you can camp here where there is beautiful white sand, clear blue waters and the offer of great swimming, water skiing and canoeing for families.

Overall, you’ll enjoy the leisurely pace of life in Whangarei, which really is the gateway to fun in the sun.