OPONONI VILLAGE – 1-Min Away
A 1-2 min drive west (less than a mile) is the cute town of Opononi:
· i-SITE VISITOR INFO CENTRE is open daily 8.30am-5pm (same driveway as the Four Square superette).
· OPONONI TAVERN: An absolute ‘must’ to enjoy a cold beer on their deck in summer (and if you don’t like straight beer, ask for a lager Shandy and enjoy that hot sun). They serve a wide Bar Menu of simple pub food including Breakfasts (until 4pm), plus coffees, snacks, burgers, pizzas and larger meals including ribs and a stone-grill selection. The pub also features pool tables, TAB betting, big-screen TV for sports events, Eft-pos cash machine, a mini-Casino pokies room, and a load of guest Bands over peak summer holiday nights.
· THE LANDING CAFÉ: Next door to the i-Site Visitor Info Centre and near the 4-Square Superette, this Café is open daily 8.30am-2.30pm serving coffees, all-day breakfasts and lunches, with beautiful deck views of the Hokianga.
· SAND-BOARDING THE SAND-DUNES: Suitable for all ages, this is an iconically cool and inexpensive must-do activity in the South Hokianga. During high-tide you can even slide down the 300metre sand-dunes and straight into the clean, clear waters of the Hokianga. Who needs roller-coasters when you can do that?! Simply take a water-taxi with Hokianga Express Charters (departs from Opononi wharf opposite the pub from 10am daily until everyone is back in Opononi). $27/adult, $15/child, including free boogie-boards. Lie on the sand sunbathing, or meander along the coast, or wander among the dunes, or stride out for a longer walk up to the sandstone formations. Pack a picnic lunch and spend the stay there all day if you wish, enjoying the magnificent views.
· AWESOME ADVENTURES HOKIANGA: This operator has a bunch of different guided safaris on jet-skis (1-3½ hours) with a local Māori guide – sit on the sand dunes riveted, enjoying the tales of ancestral explorer Kupe paddling his large waka through the harbor entrance in 925AD. (Use your own jet-ski or you can share a jet-ski at no extra cost.). Plus you can hire their jet-skis, paddle-boards, and single/double kayaks … such a great time.
· HOKIANGA BONE-CARVING STUDIO: Artisan master-carver Jim Taranaki gives lessons, starting from just $50 and 2-3 hours, to make your own special memento piece – or stay all day including lunch listening to Maori myths and legends, and create your perfect memento of jewellery.
· FISHING, FISHING & MORE FISHING! Whether surfcasting off the beach, or dropping a line down from the wharf, or hopping on a tinny (aluminum dinghy), locals and visitors alike luv fishing the Hokianga. [Boat ramps are at both Opononi and Omapere.] Pete and the team at Hokianga Express do crayfishing and line-fishing charters over the sand-bars out to the Tasman Sea (especially popular Jan-Apr) … within just 15 minutes of the jetty you can catch huge striped marlin, yellowfin tuna, kingfish, snapper and giant bass, and more.
· DIVING: You can charter a boat from many local operators to go scuba or free-diving. In season, you can harvest many varieties of shellfish including mussels, scallops, paua (abalone) and kina (sea urchin), or simply snorkel straight off the beach and collect mussels off the rocks.
· SURFING: Two great surfing spots – one off the North Head sand dunes, and the other at Waimamaku.
· BUSH HIKES: Loads and loads of various challenges, including the short kauri & waterfall walk at Waitemarama Falls track, about 12-15mins west (4km along the Waitemarama Gorge Rd); and the wild west coast beach of Waimamaku about 15-20mins so south.
· TWO FREE MUST-DO’s: From the end of the Opononi Wharf pier, if you’ve got an awesome zoom lens, take a photo of this house so you can show your friends where you stayed. And take a selfie standing by the ‘Opo the Dolphin’ statue in front of the Pub.
· SATURDAY MARKETS: On the last Saturday of each month (or on holiday weekends) from 8am-2pm at the local community RSA Hall (driving from here it’s the first building of significance as you come into Opononi village). Having a bit of cash with you is helpful as no stall-holders have Eftpos.
· HIDDEN VALLEY HORSE TREKS: Situated west of Opononi are these 1hr to 5-hr horse-treks of Hidden Valley, and/or the Coast, and/or the Waima Ranges.
OMAPERE & SOUTHWARDS
Then less than a five minute drive further on from Opononi, is the next bay. of the town of Omapere (pronounced Or-MAR-pi-reh), and also the location of the best local beach.
· HOKIANGA HISTORICAL SOCIETY’S MUSEUM & ARCHIVES CENTRE: This cute local museum at 14 Waianga Place, is full of historical information about the local area general and maritime history, along with genealogy, geology, geography, archaeology, missions, churches & schools. Open Mon-Wed & Fri-Sat 10am-2pm. Admission: Koha (donation) $2 a person or $5 a family. Do ask to watch the narrated short video about Opo the Dolphin – an icon of Opononi.
· COPTHORNE HOTEL: This is a local favourite wedding venue. The 100-year-old hotel’s Sands Bar is open for relaxed lunches over summer serving fresh seafood (and diners can enjoy their pool). Plus, year-round their magnificent century-old Bryers Restaurant dining-room serves Breakfast and Dinner featuring elegant indigenous flavours and decadent deserts. Personally. this is a favourite haunt for us to enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail, pinot gris or beer on their deck with friends. Divine!
· SOUTH-HEAD LOOK-OUT: Another minute or so drive beyond the Copthorne Hotel, is the Scenic Lookout at Arai Te Uru Reserve (South Head) on Signal Station Road. Here you can go for a stunning coastal walk with path to the rocks and beach, and witness the turbulent large breakers crashing in from the Tasman Sea ocean meeting the Hokianga waters (an amazing view of this treacherous harbour mouth with its ever-changing sand-bars). Stunning at sunset! You might spot a dolphin or orca whale (seasonally you can also see pods of Orcas from our deck too, as they pig-out on octopuse and stingrays, and carefully navigate the Hokianga’s shallow waters. And at low-tide you can walk to the beach and wade in some awesome tidal pools.
· WAIMAMAKU BEACH: Heading south 10 mins from Omapere, is the little town of Waimamaku, and a further 5mins along the gravel Waimamaku Beach Road takes you to their remote rugged west coast beach – where kids can enjoy exploring the rock pools, especially around low tide (and it’s a good Surfing spot too).
· GIANT KAURI TREES of the WAIPOUA FOREST: Less than half-hour south-west of this holiday home (along the main highway) are two of NZ’s largest mighty Kauri trees, Tane Mahuta (Lord of the Forest) estimated to be 2000 years old, and Te Matua Ngahere (Father of the Forest) estimated to be 2500-3000 years old, plus The Four Sisters kauris. All are within an easy walking distance of the main road. Take your time to enjoy these short bush walks … they are a stunning reminder of the dignified bush that used to cover most of Northland. Alternatively, there are 40-min to 4-hour day-time/night-time forest tours available with local Māori guides from Footprints Waipoua … meeting Tane at twilight is especially magnificent – you might even see or hear a Kiwi bird!
· WAIPOUA VISITOR CENTRE & CAMPGROUNDS at TE ROROA: 15-mins drive further south from the giant kauri trees, this Visitor Centre provides information on Waipoua Forest and the huge variety of walking tracks around Hokianga, ranging from very easy to very hard, including inland bush, to skirting the sea edge.
· KAURI COAST’s BEACH HIGHWAY: Like the Far North’s ‘Ninety-Mile Beach’ the wide & windy west-coast beaches along the Kauri Coast are also a State Highway. Rental cars are not insured, but NZers’ vehicle insurance does cover, although it’s more suited to 4WDs and quad bikes – and it’s a heck of a lot of fun! So on your way south to Auckland you could take the Kai Iwi Lakes turnoff to go to Omamari beach, then drive southwards along the sand to Baylys Beach, then drive into the ‘village’ to enjoy fish’n’chips at Sharkeys with a cold beer. Then from Baylys drive inland to join back up again with the main Highway, on to Dargaville. Or vice-versa driving northwards en route to the Hokianga. It’s a cool detour, but remember to always stick to the hard sand (there’s no village of houses between the two beaches, so it’s hard to get lost).
· KAURI COAST MUSEUM: Two hours’ drive south from here, past Dargaville in Matakohe, is this excellent museum, which is well worth stopping to visit en route from or to Auckland.
JUST UP THE ROAD
· PAKANAE CEMETERY & WHIRIA BEACH: Two mins drive east along the main highway, at the end of Pakanae Cemetery Road, is an isolated beach at the foot of the Whiria pa hill. (Exploring local graveyards and historic small churches everywhere within the Hokianga and general Far North area can reveal fascinating facts about life in the early settlements.)
· KOUTU BOULDERS: A <10-min drive east you can stroll amongst these ‘concretions’ that took millions of years for sediment to cement into these ‘snowballed’ spheres! Best to stroll at low-tide between Koutu and Kauwhare. We recommend driving to the end of Waione Road, and where the road forks go right into Cabbage Tree Bay Road, then drive about 750 metres just past #76, and you’ll find a small carpark on the right. There you’ll find a path (that’s a bit steep, and can be overgrown dependent on the last time the Council mowed it) and once you’re on the beach walk to the right for 30-40 minutes.
· SO MANY LOCAL WALKS! In the house Upstairs lounge bookshelf should be a ‘Walk Hokianga’ folder highlighting more than 30 walks around the Hokianga Harbour and beyond, eg Waiotemarama Falls walk which is a 15-min loop track that’s a nice stroll before or after dinner.
RAWENE, FERRY, KOHUKOHU & HEADING NORTHWARDS
Continuing along the “Twin Coasts Discovery” highway, 20 mins east from here, is the coastal peninsula town of historic Rawene, a cute village and today’s ‘capital’ of the Hokianga. It is NZ’s third oldest European settlement.
· CLENDON HOUSE: When you drive to the end of the peninsula into the heart of Rawene Village, take the right-hand hairpin u-turn along Clendon Esplanade, then shortly on your right are the steps up to historic Clendon House. Listening to the curator explain the history of this significant home is fascinating!
· MANGROVE WALK: A little further along Clendon Esplanade, is this boardwalk atop the mangroves which makes a great stroll – a sweet place to spend an hour or two reading a book.
· BOATSHED Licensed CAFÉ: This crafts and art gallery café is situated over the water on Clendon Esplanade. Great food and excellent coffee.
· OTHER RAWENE SIGHTS: Simply Fun puzzles, Passion8 crafts/ collectibles, No.1 Parnell fine-art and coffee, and the old Courthouse.
· VEHICLE FERRY FROM RAWENE to NORTH HOKIANGA: As part of the Twin Coast Discovery Highway cross the scenic graceful Hokianga estuary on this 15-min vehicle ferry ride, departing from the peninsula tip in the heart of Rawene village, across to Narrows ferry landing.
· THE NORTH BANK: Upon driving off the ferry at Narrows landing, you can turn left onto West Coast Rd and drive for 1¼ hours to Mitimiti – a place where the beach, the Tasman sea, and space, all join together (good surfboarding location). Twenty mins en route you could divert down Motuti Rd to visit the quaint St Mary’s Church at Motuti Marae, which houses under its altar the remains of NZ’s first Roman Catholic missionary Bishop Pompallier.
· KOHUKOHU, NORTH HOKIANGA: Upon disembarking the ferry, continue driving straight ahead and a few minutes later you will arrive in the little village of Kohukohu, which was once a major timber-milling town. Wander around this small sleepy town making sure to visit the Village Arts and Art of This World galleries.
· CONTINUING ON THE ‘TWIN COASTS DISCOVERY HIGHWAY’: Drive 1¼ hours from Kohukohu to Kaitaia, via Herekino and Ahipara. Also, just over a half-hour after Kohukohu, you could perhaps turn left past Broadwood and take a 30-min diversion drive to Pawarenga on the Whangape Harbour … a place steeped in Māori history, which feels like time has almost completely forgotten it.
Less than an hour away
· WAIRERE BOULDERS: 45mins north-west from here is a close encounter with the gigantic and world-unique natural geological phenomenon of basalt boulders at Wairere nature park (a private farm). The walk options range from 45-mins to 3-hours, and all start at their Info Shed (which provides the tramp option info details). An amazing hike worth allocating four hours to.
· Another few minutes along the gravel main road after the Wairere Boulders turn-off, and you’ll come to a T-intersection where you can turn right to the historic boat-building town of Horeke, and maybe enjoy a drink at NZ’s oldest surviving Pub in this tiny sleepy isolated village, while overlooking the picturesque head of the Hokianga.
· And turning left at the T-intersection takes you to the nearby Mangungu Mission House, where on 12th Feb 1840, more than 60 chiefs signed the Treaty after it was signed at Waitangi in the Bay of Islands. Stand on the commanding verandah and imagine the 2000 people attending that day, and the hundreds of waka canoes on the estuary beach. It must have been an incredible sight.
KAIKOHE & NEAREST SUPERMARKETS
En route to the Bay of Islands, 40 mins away (50km drive), is the town of Kaikohe, where our nearest two large Supermarkets are.
Other sites of potential interest in Kaikohe include: Hone Heke Memorial (fab views), the Northland Firehouse Museum, and Pioneer Village. Also, on your way to Paihia/Kerikeri, we suggest stopping at NZ’s second oldest building Te Waimate Mission house. (There are also several supermarkets in the Bay of Islands 1+ hour away on the east coast.)
BAY OF ISLANDS AT YOUR DOORSTEP
Just over an hour’s drive from this chilled-out laid-back west-coast location, is the busier tourist mecca of the east-coast Bay of Islands (Kerikeri, Paihia & ferry access to Russel) with access to all the fabulous Bay of Islands sightseeing including the stately Waitangi Treaty Grounds near Paihia (allow a few hours to enjoy taking it all in); and the many day Cruise trips options of the Bay of Islands; or the full-day coach tour to Cape Reinga at the top of NZ including the bus driving along ‘Ninety Mile Beach’.
A lovely simple day from here, is driving to central Paihia, parking in the pay-&-display behind the small Countdown superette at 6 Williams Road, then hop on the short ferry ride to Russell, to relish a seafood chowder and glass of Sav on the deck at the Duke of Marlborough Hotel, before enjoying a relaxed wander around the picturesque historic buildings and shops of Russell, the first European settlement in NZ. (During the daytime ferries depart about every 20 mins.)
What People Say
“I love this place. Perfect in every way.” -Ally Brown
“AMAZING!!! Totally love the views and the vibe.” -Tania Norrish
“Love the views & decor. Watching the moon rise was amazing. A very special piece of paradise!” -Warwick & Petra Hewitt