Whangārei Heads

Summer in NZ results in a nationwide shutdown. Ali and I had 3 weeks off over Christmas/New Years and as we can’t travel overseas, it was a perfect time to explore more of our own backyard. After a few nights camping in the Far North on our way back to Auckland we decided to spend a few days at Whangārei Heads. Whangārei Heads is 2hr 40min north of Auckland and has some excellent day hiking and beautiful beaches. We hike the Bream Heads track which was steep but spectacular and swam at the amazing Ocean Beach with its crystal clear waters and epic waves.

What to do

Bream Heads Scenic Reserve

Bream Heads Scenic Reserve has a number of walks, the more famous one is the Te Whara Track which spans from Ocean Beach to Urquharts Bay and is part of the Te Araroa Trail. The Te Whara Track is a 5-6hr one way track, however, you can make a loop track by starting from Ocean Beach and heading up to the Te Whara Track Scenic Lookout and then exiting the walk via the Peach Cove track. This loop will give you a great experience with beautiful views.

Track map

I am not going to lie, the walk was pretty tough, from Ocean Beach to the Summit the track was very steep and as it was a hot day we were sweaty messes by the time we got to the lookout. Over all the whole loop took about 2hrs, so take plenty of water and a snack for along the way. Once you are in the bush the track terrain is more challenging with lots of roots and stairs so good fitness is recommended.

The views from the first half of the track were excellent, if not a little nerve racking at the top. The main lookout point is slightly off track and does take you to a cliff edge. There is a warning sign not to get too close to the edge as you can see in the picture below it is a steep drop off.

View from the edge at the Scenic Lookout
View on the way to the top

Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach is one of the best beaches we have visited in New Zealand (and we have been to a lot). It had amazing big waves, the water was crystal clear and warm. There is also a surf life saving team based there which makes it a safe beach to visit.

Pack a picnic and a beach tent and you can easily spend the day at this beach, you won’t be disappointed.

Ocean Beach

Where to stay

As we were on a camping trip we were lucky enough to secure a last minute spot at Treasure Island Campground, it is very popular with families over the Christmas break with some people staying for up to a month. The campground is in Pataua South and is location right on a quiet estuary as well as a beautiful surf beach. We found the camp to be friendly and pretty well run. The campground has hot showers for $0.50c per 3 minutes, kitchen and bathroom facilities. There is also a big playground for children.

Treasure Island is a little on the pricy side compared to a DOC campground at $27 per person per night for a non-powered site but the facilities and the location made up for it. They have like to have quiet time from 10pm which lets you listen to the sound of the waves, Ruru’s and crickets.

We find the Rankers app also very useful when finding a camping spot. There are also lots of freedom camping spots in this area if you are in a self-contained campervan.

Our camp set up
Pataua South (Frogtown) beach right by the campground

Where to eat

We got most of our groceries in Whangārei where there are lots of supermarkets. It is a bit far to drive from the campground to go out for dinner so cooking ourselves made more sense. Treasure Island Campground does have a takeout canteen/fish and chip shop which is open at lunch time as well as the evenings until 8pm. The food wasn’t that great and was pretty greasy but is was fine for 1 night. We did however, enjoy the campgrounds little shop as they had coffee and freshly baked croissants to purchase in the mornings and ice creams for the hot summer days.

On the way to Ocean Beach there are also 2 other food places McLeod Bay Fish and Chips which had nice hot chips as well as The Deck Cafe where we picked up an ice cream on our way back to the campground.

The Pataua Estuary in front of Treasure Island Campground

Summary

We really enjoyed our time in Whangārei Heads and we will be back one day soon for sure. The beaches in this part of New Zealand are excellent so we would highly recommend a visit as part of your Kiwi Summer adventure.

Check out more of our posts on New Zealand

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