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Cheap Car Hire Whangarei Airport
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A rental car gives you the freedom and flexibility to make the most of your time exploring Whangarei and surrounding areas. Here are a few of the many attractions around Whangarei you might like to consider checking out. The letters on the map match those on the tabs below, where you'll find information about each attraction. For more ideas, check out the Whangarei Tourism website.
Poor Knights Islands
The township of Tutukaka lies beside a shining harbour. It is best known for being the gateway to the Poor Knights Islands. The town’s marina is the place to launch trips out to the world famous marine reserve - charter boats for diving expeditions depart regularly from here, while yachts and launches are also regular fixtures.
What makes the Poor Knights so special? The water is mild and warm, and clear, meaning great visibility underwater. The marine environment and the wildlife in it, being separated from the mainland and having evolved over a long period, are quite unique.
For nearly 1 km around the islands - which are millions of years old - the Poor Knights marine reserve extends beneath the surface. The ancient and rocky volcanic walls, caves, tunnels, and arches are teeming with underwater life; a myriad rare and endangered creatures can be found here. Well over 100 species of fish live around the Poor Knights and they are friendly and inquisitive, coming up close to and interacting with people while diving, snorkelling or swimming. You’ll also be awed by the sheer diversity and vibrant colours of the corals, kelp, sponges and anemones. The world’s biggest sea cave and insect are both found here. Little wonder that this protected area is in line for World Heritage status.
Even the above water portion of your trip is bound to be an adventure. The Tutukaka coast is located in the migratory path for lots of different species. On these legs of the trip (half an hour each way) you may well see bottlenose or common dolphins; even orca, pilot or minke whales off the coast. Meanwhile, hawks soar overhead, and the sound of kingfishers, bellbirds and parrots provide a natural background track.
When driving to Tutukaka in your rental car, allow 30 minutes to reach your destination from Whangarei.
When in Whangarei, don’t miss the town’s namesake waterfall! The Whangarei Falls are approximately a 10 minute drive north in your rental car from the city centre. It’s an outstanding swimming spot and makes for some impressive photographs as a keepsake.
Whangarei Falls is part of the Whangarei scenic reserve and the Katea River - a picturesque, sheer curtain of water that plunges for 26 metres over cliffs of basalt. This area was traditionally popular with local for Maori as a prime eeling spot. The sound of warblers and wood pigeons add an extra dimension to your walk through the native bush, ferns and trees (including regal manuka, totara and nikau). There are three viewing platforms around the falls - the two platforms above the waterfall have an incredible bird’s eye outlook over the water and the forest below.
Take the loop walkway around the falls in order to get a look from every possible angle - this crosses the river via a metal bridge, and descends to the base of the falls by a flight of steps. Here you’ll come across a picnic table and more of a viewing area. It then crosses the river again then winds up the hill back to the car park, where further picnicking areas can be found. This track can be completed in about half an hour.
If you’ve got a couple of hours to spare, there’s the Sands Road Loop, which also starts from the car park. After crossing the river, this track heads towards the the A H Reed Memorial Kauri Park, then eventually onto the Hatea River Walkway and back to Whangarei Falls.
From Whangarei Falls you can also embark on longer walks to Mt Parihaka (2 hours, return) or the Town Basin (4 hours, return).
The ancient volcanic cone of Mt Parihaka - less than 10 minutes from Whangarei in your rental car - is unmistakable. Towering at 241 metres, it’s visible from many spots in the city - the outline of the World War II memorial obelisk sitting at its peak glowing red at night.
Parihaka is also notable for being the site of a former pa (Maori village) - it would have been home to a few thousand people and today you can see the remnants of their homes, terraces, storage pits and defensive fortresses along the ridge line.
There are three walking tracks that lead up the slopes to the summit of Mt Parihaka, named after early European settlers, as well as a network of mountain biking trails. The walking tracks weave through the native bush that covers the mountain, and they are well maintained generally and easy to follow.
If starting from the carpark on Mair St, the Dobbie and Drummond tracks can be reached from the Hatea Walkway there. (Bring some bread to feed the ducks at the Hatea River!) The Dobbie Track, also known as the Hokianga Track, includes a walk through a bushy valley and a grove of enormous kauri. The Drummond Track passes a memorial plaque to Norman Drummond, who once donated 24 acres of bush to the community.
Then there’s the Ross Track, which departs from the end of Dundas St. It follows a stream up the hill, passing the entry to a little gold mine, and a detour to an old pa site that saw a bloody battle in the 1700s.
From the top of Mt Parihaka you will enjoy panoramic views over the terrain below. You can make your way down along the same route, or tackle an alternative path for something different.
Rising 403 metres above the entrance of Whangarei Harbour, Mt Manaia is part of a cluster of basalt peaks. It has a distinctive and imposing silhouette and provides some of the best views over the entire district. Located out at the Whangarei Heads, it is roughly a 30 minute drive from the town centre in your rental car.
According to Maori legend, the main rock formations around Manaia represent five people: the chief Manaia, his two children, the chief Hautatu and his wife. Manaia had captured Hautatu’s wife, and the group were all struck by lightning and turned to stone as they ran in mid pursuit.
The beauty of the coastal forest here is second to none. You can expect to see a variety of ferns, flowers, and trees around Mt Manaia, including impressive totara and kauri. The Whangarei Heads are also teeming with wildlife and birdsong: the environment is conducive for kiwi, skinks, wood pigeons, geckos, kakariki and bellbirds.
Before ascending to the jagged rocky peaks of Mt Manaia you’ll need to embark on a challenging climb, which takes around an hour to the summit. The track is in good condition and there are some steps to make negotiating the incline easier. There are several good lookout points along the way, such as the Bluff Lookout.
Once at the top there are 360 degree views in every direction - the vistas include Bream Bay to the south, Whangarei Harbour to the west and the Northland coast to the north. You can even see to the Marsden Point oil refinery, and the Hen and Chicken Islands. Along with Mt Manaia, these islands are the remains of a massive volcanic eruptions from some 20 million years ago.
As visitor attractions go, Kiwi North seemingly has it all. And its handy location just 10 minutes from the centre of Whangarei makes it an easy trip in your rental car.
There’s Kiwi House, where you can see this unique nocturnal bird forage for food in its natural environment. You’ll learn about efforts to conserve this national icon
There are also other native wildlife here, like the tuatara (the last remaining relative of the dinosaur) and gecko (see if you can spot them in their enclosures - they are well disguised and easily blend in with their leafy surroundings).
Then there’s the top notch Whangarei Museum, where Maori treasures sit alongside artifacts from early European settlers. The permanent exhibitions are worth exploring and special collections are curated each year. The museum can trace its origins to the late 1800s.
And all this is part of a wider, 25 hectare heritage park spanning bush, forest and farmland. Historic buildings on this site include the 1886 Clarke homestead - now a museum in its own right - a school house, the first women’s jail, and a tiny chapel made from a sole kauri log that’s thought to be the smallest church in New Zealand.
Throughout the park are industrial machinery and an old but working railway. A number of local clubs and societies are based here and offer lots to see on their open days.
For starters, the Northland astronomical society and its planetarium are found here and holds regular public viewing nights. For another, there is the Northland vintage car club, the vintage farm machinery club (tractors and bulldozers galore) model railway club and model engineering club. There is also a fascinating medical museum and bird recovery centre.
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