What to do in Northlandby Noted
Heading to see the Lions play in Whangarei? Here's how to make the most of your trip to Northland.
Gateway to the beautiful Northland region, and New Zealand’s most northerly city, sub-tropical Whangarei revels in its laid-back vibe. It’s the country town that grew up and now features a number of suburbs spread throughout rolling hills, with the central city focused around the bustling Town Basin precinct.
Toll Stadium, 51 Okara Drive, Whangarei
Toll Stadium was redeveloped in 2010 and now also features conference, concert, festival and exhibition facilities as part of the one complex. It’s as likely to host a concert by legendary Kiwi singer-songwriter Dave Dobbyn, as it is a major sporting event... like the one you’re here for.
The easiest way to get to the stadium is by walking.
If you’re staying in central Whangarei, the stadium is an easy 15-minute walk away and, crucially, remains close to all the bars and restaurants located in the central city.
A LOCAL ‘MUST-DO’
Build in some time to drive out to the Whangarei Heads; a jagged peninsular that stretches out into the Pacific Ocean east of the city. There you’ll find beautiful secluded bays and beaches by the dozen. Or head to the stunning Tutukaka coastline for some fantastic snorkling and scuba diving at the Poor Knights Islands. The Tutukaka Marina is ‘oh so pretty’ and there’s plenty of great food and refreshment choices.
BEST PHOTO OP
Make sure you get a shot of the view from Mount Parihaka, a former pa (fortified settlement) of great importance to Northland Maori and which is now a 143.5ha bush reserve featuring walking tracks and mountain bike paths aplenty. Like most things in Whangarei, it’s near the centre of town, so clear that party head from the night before with a brisk stroll (it’ll only take about 30 minutes to the top) up to one of the best vantage points in the city.
Spot the international award-winning bascule bridge (it rolls open daily at about midday) in the shape of a fish hook, from the viewing platform at the summit.
For Middle Eastern and Mediterranean fare, try the Fat Camel on Quality Street.
For gastro-pub goodness – with a great waterside view – try The Quay Restaurant, 31 Quayside in the Town Basin Precinct.
Split Bar and Restaurant on Rathbone Street right in the heart of town is well regarded for great top and a great atmos.
If you’re heading to Whangarei by road from Auckland, you need – NEED! – to stop off in the small town of Warkworth at 8 Wired Brewing. This craft microbrewery enterprise has some of the best brews around; try their Semi-Conductor Session IPA and Hopwired New Zealand IPA. Or, closer to the city, you’ll also find McLeods Brewery in Waipu; a place born out of the unique mix of surf and Scottish culture at this point along the coast.
WHERE ELSE CAN WE GO?
If you have some time to spare, then head north my friends. Northland is an incredible part of the country famous for its white sand beaches, lush native forests (home to giant kauri trees), and fishing, boating and surfing opportunities around every second corner.
Waitangi in the beautiful Bay of Islands is also where New Zealand as a modern nation began – it’s home to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds – so if you’re after some traditional Maori culture, head here to see Te Kangahu Museum of Waitangi, the Treaty House, the carved Meeting House and the world’s largest ceremonial war canoe.
In fact, might we suggest you get to Northland early and explore? There is so much to see at the top of the country, you’ll be in danger of getting thoroughly distracted and missing the rest of the tour otherwise.
DID YOU KNOW?
FAMOUS SON: Ian Jones ‘The Kamo Kid’, All Black 1990-1999
FAMOUS FOOD: The humble sweet potato (or kumara as it’s known in New Zealand) is grown almost exclusively in the Northland region.
Like it says on the tin, Port Whangarei is a working facility and home to a number of marine operations. If for some reason you’ve decided to sail into the city to watch the rugby (you bloody tycoon, you), then you’ll find all the er… ship-maintenance-y goodness you need here. Whangarei was even briefly the epicentre of New Zealand’s superyacht construction industry.
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