Whangarei activities, attractions and adventures
We're going to let you in on some of Northland's best-kept secrets, like a tree adventure park deep in the Glenbervie Forest, a glass-blowing studio on the waterfront and perfect body-surfing waves in Waipu. They're all part of a holiday in Whangarei, a city that's relaxing and laidback, but also totally together.
Kids' activities and family attractions
When you're looking for fun that embraces all ages and most levels of daring, head for the Glenbervie Adventure Forest experience. It includes tree-climbing circuits, zip lines and canopy walkways suitable for almost anyone. And if there's someone in your group who's not up to the challenge, they can have just as much fun watching and taking pictures.
A more gentle type of adventure can be found at Kiwi North, a kiwi sanctuary that lets you watch New Zealand's national symbol foraging for food in the dark. Once your eyes have adapted to the nocturnal habitat, it's easy to see these unique birds on the hunt for dinner. Their nostrils are at the end of their beak - a characteristic only found in kiwis.
Whangarei also has an award-winning aquatic centre that has all the bells and whistles. There's a 25-metre pool for exercise, a hydrotherapy pool for relaxation, a water playground for littlies and a couple of hydroslides for thrills.
If you're looking for an intrepid expedition for older kids who have far too much energy, head for the Mt Manaia track near Whangarei Heads. The mountain itself is a massive point of interest (like something from a fantasy movie) and the hike up is truly awesome.
Restaurants and galleries
For delicious meals at any time of the day, Whangarei's CBD should be your first port of call. There's a concentration of ethnic and modern NZ restaurants right in the middle of town, as well as several more at the Town Basin. In terms of fast food, the city has all the usual suspects - plus some cool local offerings like Tiki Roast in Tikipunga and Stumpy's fish and chips on Riverside Drive.
Fine dining can also be found in this cheerful subtropical city. For a fancy night out, book a table at TopSail at the Onerahi Yacht Club - the food is every bit as wonderful as the harbour view. Another restaurant known for creative cuisine is The Quay at the Town Basin.
The basin is also where you'll find one of Whangarei's unique art attractions, Grinter Glass. You can watch master glass blower Keith Grinter at work, playing with molten glass of every colour, then buy an artwork in the gallery - some of them are surprisingly inexpensive.
Another artistic enclave is the Quarry Arts Centre, an arts collaborative where you can meet artists, buy hand-crafted art works, and enjoy coffee and cake at the café. This centre is on the site of an old quarry, so it's really interesting to see how the space has evolved to suit its new use.
While Whangarei is very much a harbour and river city, there are superb surfing, body-boarding and swimming beaches within easy reach. Ocean Beach near Whangarei Heads is about 40 minutes from the Town Basin, and north from there you'll find Pataua, Woolleys Bay and Sandy Bay. All the surf beaches near Whangarei have reliable beach breaks that are compatible with every form of wave enjoyment.
To the south of Whangarei there's a magnificent procession of white-sand surf beaches, beginning with Marsden Point and Ruakaka. Waipu is next in line, with a great beach break and an excellent seaside café. Then you'll come to Langs Beach and Mangawhai Heads, which has a famous right-hander at Sentinel Rock. Surf schools come and go, but you'll usually find a learn-to-surf opportunity at Waipu or Mangahwai.