The eastern coastline north of the Harbour Bridge is Auckland’s maritime playground. Explore the sheltered inlets of the Mahurangi and Whangateau harbours from places like Stillwater, Waiwera, Leigh, Snell’s Beach or Scott’s Landing. From Sandspit, you can catch a ferry to stay in Kawau Island. While you’re there, visit Auckland’s first Governor George Grey’s residence, Mansion House.
Whangaparaoa Peninsula offers grand ocean views and sheltered beaches. Arkles Bay and Stanmore Bay both have safe swimming and comfortable baches - all great places to take the family. At the tip you will find Gulf Harbour marina and golf course and Shakespear Regional Park. Catch the ferry from Gulf Harbour marina to Tiritiri-Matangi Island. It’s an open sanctuary and scientific reserve managed by DOC which is home to the tuatara and many rare native birds.
The Mahurangi area (from Whangaparaoa to Puhoi) was inhabited by Te Kawerau people, who had migrated north from Kawhia in the 1600s. It was a much sought after area, being an abundant source of seafood and seasonal crops. It was invaded by Hauraki tribes in the 18th century, raided by Nga Puhi in the 1820s and then, in 1840, sold to the Crown. Today, Aucklanders head this way for the thermal pools and hydroslides at Waiwera. Just over the hill is lovely Wenderholm. Robert Graham built a simple homestead here in 1857, which has been extended and renovated over the years, and is now known as “Couldrey House”; visitors are welcome to explore the house and gardens, from 1-4pm Saturdays and Sundays. In 1973, the Couldrey family sold Wenderholm to the Auckland Regional Council and it become Auckland’s first Regional Park - the perfect place for a seaside picnic.
These days, the motorway skips Orewa, and the most popular holiday spot in the Rodney District is now Omaha Beach. This sandy peninsula provides white sand ocean beach to rival Coromandel, along with a sheltered harbour for fishing and recreation. Here the “baches” are more opulent holiday homes, similar to those seen in Pauanui.
The gentle slopes and volcanic soil from Warkworth to Kumeu provide ideal conditions for growing fruit, vegetables and producing wonderful wine. Just inland, along the Puhoi River is the historic river settlement of Puhoi, first settled by Bohemians (early immigrants from former Czechoslovakia). The river is a popular kayaking route, and further along the Puhoi Valley you will find a quaint historic museum, the Puhoi Pub, a cafe serving Devonshire teas, and further along the valley the Puhoi Cheese Factory (with cheese tasting and cafe) and Lothlorien Wines, a producer of feijoa wine.
Head further north to the pretty villages of Warkworth and Matakana. Warkworth was founded in 1853 and lies on the Mahurangi River. The Kowhai Festival is a community event held every spring. Matakana is a popular place to visit, for its farmers’ market, the excellent local wineries, and lovely surrounding beaches. Read our Guide to Matakana.
On public holidays and at peak hour the traffic can get very heavy on the main route north on State Highway 1. It’s often a good idea to take the scenic route on SH16 via Helensville and Wellsford. The vast and ever-changing views overlooking Kaipara Harbour from the top of the hills are worth the trip alone. The tranquility of the harbour, the hot pools and water slides at Parakai are a good reason to stay longer.
Drive out west through Kumeu and stop in at some of the many great vineyards and restaurants offering local produce. Then head out to the wild surf beach, sand dunes and nikau groves of Muriwai Beach. When you’ve had enough of the views and visiting the gannet colony, there are plenty of activities on hand: hiking, surf-casting, horse-riding, golf or mountain-biking at nearby Woodhill Forest.
Where to stay
What to do
• visit one of the magnificent regional parks for beach walks, mountain-biking, snorkeling, swimming or family picnics.
• visit Wenderholm and then take on the waterslides at Waiwera Thermal Park (or Parakai Springs near Helensville)
• head to the Gulf Harbour marina on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula
• take a day trip to Tiritiri-Matangi Island bird and wildlife sanctuary
• enjoy some live music around Matakana, at Leigh Sawmill, Matakana Country Park or Ascension Wine Estate.
• go wine and food tasting in Kumeu, Matakana or Puhoi
• head to Muriwai Beach for surf, sand dunes, the gannet colony, surf-casting, golf, mountain-biking at Woodhill Forest
• explore the southern reaches of the Kaipara Harbour by kayak or take the family to the Kaipara Coast sculpture gardens
Our guides for the Auckland region:
- regionalparks.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz - Regional Parks in Auckland
- www.eventfinder.co.nz - Find an event near you
- www.historiccouldreyhouse.co.nz - Couldrey House and Gardens in Wenderholm Regional Park.
- www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz - History of Wenderholm
- www.parakaisprings.co.nz - Parakai Springs
- www.waiwera.co.nz - Waiwera Thermal Park
- www.gulf-harbour.co.nz - Gulf Harbour and Golf Course
- www.doc.govt.nz - visit Tiritiri Matangi Island
- www.puhoinz.com - what to do in Puhoi
- www.matakanawine.com - Matakana wineries
- www.kumeuwinecountry.co.nz - Kumeu wineries and other attractions
- www.bikeparks.co.nz - Woodhill Mountain Bike Park
- www.mataia.co.nz - What to do in Kaipara
- www.kaiparacoast.co.nz - Kaipara Coast Sculpture Gardens