Whangarei is a beautiful city in the northern part of New Zealand’s North Island. Known for its stunning natural beauty with many parks, beaches and waterfalls located in and around the city, Whangarei is a great place to explore for a few days. From hiking the coastal trails to relaxing along the beaches, cooling off at some of the waterfalls or wandering through the city gardens, Whangarei offers a wide variety of things to do. From awesome day trips to short visits in and around Whangarei city center. And the best thing is that after all these activities you can chill out the one of the many cafes or restaurants along the harbour. Find in our complete guide the 15 best things to do in Whangarei. 


Refresh at the Whangarei Falls 

Exploring the Whangarei Falls is one of the easiest and free things to do in Whangarei. The 26-meter-high waterfall in Whangarei plunges down over basalt cliffs into a natural pool. You can visit the Whangarei Falls via an easy 1-kilometer return loop track which brings you along several viewing points. At the bottom of the waterfall is a large area where you can find a picnic bench and some other spots to relax. 


There is also the possibility to extend the track via the Hawea river to AH Reed Memorial Park where you can see big Kauri trees along the canopy walk. There is also another waterfall in the park called ‘Paranui Falls’ which you can see from a lookout point. Other than that the stunning lush forest is worth a visit. If you’re short in time you can park at the entrance of the AH Reed Memorial Park so you can only walk the shorter loop of the canopy track. 


Do the canopy walk at AH Reed Memorial Park

If you’re not in for the 1,5 hour return walk from the Whangarei Falls to AH Reed Kauri Park you can also easily park your car at the car park of the park and do the short canopy loop walk. 

Along this trail, you can see the impressive tall 500 years old Kauri trees. The raised canopy walkway through the forest gives you a close-up look on the trees and gives the experience of walking in between the tree tops. You will also see another waterfall called the Paranui Falls Lookout. Worth it to walk up the stairs!

Visiting the AH Reed Kauri Forest is a great thing to do in Whangarei and a very family-friendly activity in nature. 


Explore the Waipu cave

Visiting the limestone Waipu Caves is one of the best things to do near Whangarei. It’s a 40-minute drive (32 kilometers) from Whangarei and can be perfectly combined when making your way south to Auckland in one day. The great thing about the Waipu Caves is that you can explore them freely by yourself. There is no entry fee or a guide involved so this gives a lot of freedom to go at your own pace. 


The Waipu Caves are famous for its impressive glowworm displays and beautiful stalactites and stalagmites. A 2-km walk leads you through a picturesque karst limestone landscape until you get to the entrance of the caves. Make sure to put this fun and family-friendly activity on your itinerary! 


Walk the Smugglers Bay loop track 

The Smugglers Bay loop track is a scenic walking trail located in the Whangarei Heads area. The trail is approximately 3.5 km (2.2 miles) long and takes you through beautiful coastal scenery, including stunning ocean views and rugged cliffs.

The trail begins at the Urquharts Bay car park and follows the coastline, passing several beautiful beaches and lookout points along the way. The first section of the trail is a bit steep, but the views are well worth the effort.

After a short climb, the trail levels out and continues through native bush and grassy fields. Along the way, you can spot a variety of native birds, including tui, fantails, and wood pigeons.

The trail then descends to Smugglers Bay, a secluded and picturesque beach that can only be reached on foot. Here you can take a break to swim or relax on the sandy beach before continuing on the loop.

The second half of the loop takes you back to the Urquharts Bay car park, passing through more beautiful coastal scenery and offering stunning views of the surrounding area.


Visit the waterfalls in KeriKeri

On an hour drive from Whangarei is KeriKeri located, a small town famous for its cultural attractions and natural beauty. If you’re really into chasing waterfalls like us, then going on a day trip to KeriKeri is highly recommended! 

There are some stunning waterfalls in Keri Keri to visit, from which the Rainbow Falls and Te Wairere Falls are the most beautiful ones. 


There is also a stunning river walk to do called the KeriKeri river track, which connects the Rainbow Falls to the Fairy Pools and Wharepoke Falls. It’s a fun activity to do either with sunshine or on a moody day. The forest offers protection from either the harsh sunshine or drizzle. 


Climb Mount Manaia 

Hiking up Mount Manaia is one of the best and most adventurous things to do in Whangarei. The stunning mountain has some jagged peaks which you can admire from up close when making your way up to the summit. 


The well-maintained track zig-zags up the mountainside while you’re walking through the forest where you can even spot some mature kauri trees. At the summit you’ll have stunning views to Bream Head (Te Whara) and the Marotere islands.

The 2.2km one-way track can be completed in 45 minutes to the summit and is a stunning lush hike. Highly recommended to do this short but very sweet hike in Whangarei! You can watch a stunning sunset from the summit on a clear day, so make sure to plan your trip to the trailhead accordingly.


Explore the Abbey Caves 

The Abbey Caves are three interconnected limestone caves located on a 5-minute drive from the city center of Whangarei. The caves are situated on private land but are open to the public. But keep in mind during the short walk that links the caves to stay on the track. The 1.3km loop is mainly through farmland and is easy to follow. 

Each of the three caves within the Abbey Caves system offers a unique experience for visitors. The first cave, called the Organ Cave, is named after the organ-like formations that can be found within. The cave is fairly easy to navigate and features several large chambers filled with stalactites and stalagmites and a ceiling that glitters with glow worms.  

The second cave, called the Middle Cave, is a bit more challenging to navigate and requires visitors to climb over rocks and wade through water in places. The Middle Cave features a stream that runs through it, as well as several small waterfalls. 

The third cave, called the Ivy Cave, is the smallest of the three caves but is also the most stunning. The cave is filled with glowworms, which create a magical and otherworldly atmosphere. 

Overall, the Abbey Caves are one of the best things to do in Whangarei and are a great experience for anyone interested in exploring New Zealand’s underground world.


Walk the Whale Bay Matapouri loop track

Another great coastal walk in Whangarei is the Whale Bay loop track which takes about an hour to complete. You will pass stunning beaches, headlands, and bay views along the way. Especially Matapouri Beach is stunning with a long stretch of white sand. It’s a perfect activity to do on a sunny day, so you can take a dip in the ocean to cool off after hiking.

The 4-kilometre loop track only has 100 meters in elevation gain, so it’s a great family-friendly activity. Make sure to prepare with sunscreen and comfortable shoes. 


Sip a coffee along the Whangarei harbour 

After all the exploration you should also indulge in some of the great restaurants and cafes in Whangarei. To soak in some local vibes I highly recommend drinking a cup of coffee or a glass of wine or beer along the Whangarei harbour. With stunning views of the boats bobbing in the water and daily life passing by, this is the ultimate way to relax after a morning or afternoon of activities in Whangarei. 


Take in the views from Tutukaka Lighthouse 

An easy 2.6km coastal walk takes you along a rocky beach and several coves up to the Tutukaka lighthouse which offers stunning views. The panoramic views of the coastline and ocean provide perfect circumstances for photography on a clear day. 

It’s one of the fun and active things to do in Whangarei that provides stunning views at the end of the walk. Great for a sunrise or sunset view as well!


Visit the Whangarei Native Bird Recovery Centre

A great free activity in Whangarei is visiting the Native Bird Recovery Centre which rehabilitates wild birds that have been injured. The goal is to release them back in nature after they are in good health again. There are a few permanent residents tho who are not able to survive alone in the wild anymore due to their injuries. The most famous one is a Kiwi bird, so if your wish is to see one then definitely go visit the center! Entrance is free but donations are appreciated. Keep in mind that the center is only open from Monday to Friday, so plan your visit accordingly. 

Visit the Whangarei Quarry Gardens

The Quarry Gardens is a beautiful public garden located in Whangarei. The fun fact about this place is that the garden is situated on the site of a former quarry, which was transformed into a lush oasis over several decades. 

The garden features a wide range of plant life, including native New Zealand species as well as plants from around the world. Visitors can explore a variety of themed gardens, including a cactus and succulent garden, a subtropical garden, and a New Zealand native garden. The gardens also feature several walking trails, which take visitors through the various sections of the garden and offer stunning views of the surrounding countryside.

One of the highlights of the Whangarei Quarry Gardens is the Mosaic Pathway, a unique and colorful walkway that winds through the garden. The pathway features intricate mosaics created by local artists, as well as a variety of native plantings and sculptures.

The Whangarei Quarry Gardens also feature several historic buildings, including the old quarry manager’s house, which has been restored and converted into a café and gallery. Here you can enjoy a coffee or meal while taking in the stunning views of the garden.


Explore the Taheke Falls 

The Taheke waterfall is a 45 meter high waterfall that you can visit along a 3 km loop walk that takes you through areas of regenerating Kauri forest. So it’s not only about the waterfall during this walk, but also the stunning forest is a reason to add this hike to your things to do in Whangarei list. Although you can’t get down to the bottom of the falls, it’s a great little adventure and a much quieter waterfall to visit in comparison to the popular Whangarei Falls. 


Visit the National Clock Museum

The National Clock Museum, also known as Claphams Clock Museum, is a fascinating museum located in the city centre of Whangarei. The museum is dedicated to the art and science of timekeeping, with a focus on the history of clocks and watches.

The museum is located in a historic building that was originally built in the early 1900s as a post office. Today, the building is home to a vast collection of clocks, watches, and other timekeeping devices from around the world.

You can explore a variety of exhibits in the National Clock Museum including antique clocks, pocket watches, grandfather clocks, and more. The museum also features interactive exhibits where you can learn more about the mechanics of timekeeping, such as how pendulum clocks work.

One of the highlights of the National Clock Museum is the collection of New Zealand-made clocks and watches. The museum features a variety of timepieces made by local craftsmen, including some that are over 100 years old.

In addition to the exhibits, the National Clock Museum also offers a clock repair and restoration service, as well as a gift shop where you can purchase clocks and other timekeeping devices.

Check out the local art scene in Whangarei 

Whangarei has quite a few interesting art galleries to visit. And a great thing is that they all have free entrance. However, donations are appreciated. At the Hihiaua Cultural Centre you can see some beautiful Maori pieces and at Whangarei art museum you can see their permanent collection as well as temporary exhibitions.

How to get around in New Zealand 

To experience New Zealand to the fullest and at your own pace, renting a carcampervan or motorhome is the best way to get around. Which one of these options you choose depends on your preference and budget. If you love camping, being outdoors all day and you don’t mind a smaller living space, then renting a camper van is the way to go. It also gives you the freedom to sleep at some of the most beautiful camping spots. But for some of them, you’ll have to make a reservation and plan your trip accordingly. The same goes for a motorhome which is bigger than a campervan and fits about 4-6 people. Here’s what you need to know about renting a car, camper van or motorhome in New Zealand. 

Car rental in New Zealand

Renting a car in New Zealand is the easiest and cheapest rental vehicle available. It will get you to all the best destinations with ease and gives you the freedom to stop for a break wherever you want. However, you should keep in mind that some roads in New Zealand are still gravel or that you have to cross shallow rivers to some destinations in National Parks. Therefore we recommend a mini SUV or SUV model to have enough clearance for this kind of road. We rented for 6 weeks a Mitsubishi ASX model and were super happy with this car! 

The best place to book your rental car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare different car models, prices, companies, and terms and conditions. Make sure to secure the booking of your rental car as soon as possible to have the lowest price possible. Prices go up the closer you get to the pickup date.


Campervan rental in New Zealand

Traveling around in a campervan is one of the most popular ways for a road trip in New Zealand. With a bed, small kitchen, and seating area you will have all the (basic) needs on four wheels. Make sure to check if your campervan has a shower because this might influence where you want to camp. A campervan allows you to camp at plenty of beautiful places, sometimes for free, sometimes for a fee. It will give you a true feeling of freedom and connect you with nature.

We recommend booking your campervan with Travellers Autobarn as they have a wide range of Station wagons, 2-berth campervans & 3-5 berth campervans to hire for all budgets. All Travellers Autobarn campervan hires in New Zealand come with free unlimited kilometers, 10% discount to premium campgrounds, 24/7 roadside assistance & long-term rental discounts. Check the availability and prices today to secure your campervan for a New Zealand dream road trip!

Be insured during your travels!

A slip can happen during hiking before you realize it, and the consequences can be bigger than you want to think of.

We are very happy with SafetyWing and highly recommend getting insurance with them!

Where to stay in Whangarei 

Whangarei is the northernmost city of New Zealand and serves as the commercial hub of Northland. Known for its stunning natural beauty with many parks, gardens, and beaches located in and around the city, you can easily enjoy the natural attractions of Whangarei for a few days. It is also a popular destination for foodies with many excellent restaurants, cafes, and bars located throughout the city. Find here some of the best places to stay in Whangarei.

Harbour View

Just a bit outside of the city centre of Whangarei is Harbour View located with stunning sea views. The fully equipped 2 bedroom apartment has everything you need for a great getaway in Whangarei. You can prepare your own meals, sit outside on the patio with stunning views or inside the cosy living room, BBQ and even have your own washing machine. Continental breakfast is available for guests as well.

→ Check here prices and availability for Harbour View Whangarei


NZ Country Home

Always wanted to stay in a stunning NZ country home? This is your chance! The stunning property has several different rooms either with a private or shared bathroom. Some units feature a seating area and or a balcony with an outdoor dining area. For those times when you’d rather not dine out, you can choose to cook on the barbecue or in the shared kitchen.

→ Check here the prices and availability for NZ Country Home Whangarei

NZ country home
NZ Country Home bedroom

Quest Whangarei

The self-contained apartments with a kitchen or kitchenette at Quest Whangarei are conveniently located in the centre of Whangarei. All apartments with private bathrooms offer city views and feature a dining area, a desk and a flat-screen TV. There are king studio’s, one bedroom and two bedroom apartments available.

→ Check here the prices and availability for Quest Whangarei

Quest Whangarei

More New Zealand travel guides

I hope you enjoyed this complete guide about the 15 best things to in Whangarei on the North Island of New Zealand. Make sure to put this destination on your New Zealand North Island itinerary!

There are many amazing other things to do and places to visit on the North Island of New Zealand. So if you’re looking for more inspiration and travel tips, then head over to our other New Zealand travel guides!

North Island 

25 best things to do in Rotorua – The Complete Guide

20 best photo Spots North Island New Zealand

Best things to do in Coromandel – The Complete Guide

15 best things to do in Taupo – The Ultimate Guide

Best things to do in Whangarei – The Ultimate Guide

12 best things to do in Hawkes Bay – The Ultimate Guide

Best things to do in New Plymouth Taranaki – The Ultimate Guide

7 best KeriKeri waterfalls – The Complete Guide

South Island

30 best things to do in Queenstown – The Ultimate Guide

16 best hikes in Queenstown – The Ultimate Guide

20 best things to do in Lake Tekapo – The Ultimate Guide

20 best things to do in Milford Sound – The Complete Guide

Milford Sound Cruise – The Complete Guide

20 best things to do in Glenorchy – The Ultimate Guide

15 best walks in Franz Josef – The Complete Guide

Kaikoura whale watching – Everything you need to know

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