This weekend James and I decided to get out of the city for the day on Saturday. We took the Manabus up to Whangarei, a couple of hours north of Auckland.
We arrived in Whangarei at 10:30am and grabbed a couple of maps from the Hub Information Centre. We wanted to do the Hatea Riverwalk which leads to Whangarei waterfalls, but, after reading online that it takes 3 hours to walk up to the falls and another 3 hours to walk back down to the Town Basin, we were worried we wouldn’t have enough time to see the town. We caught the Citylink bus (the 7a) from the bus terminal on Rose Street (5 mins walk from the Hub), and got off at the falls (the bus driver stopped at the entrance especially for us!)
We entered the reserve at the top of the falls, and peered over the edge of the lookout to see the water cascading from where we stood. A five minute walk takes you down to the foot of the 26m high waterfall, where you can get so close to the water that you can feel the spray on your face (and see it on your camera lens!)
The Hatea Riverwalk
This beautiful walk winds through thick, green bush along the Hatea river. There are various other detours along the route, to the Canopy Walk on the Elizabeth Track and the lookout near Mair Park. The entire walk is well sign-posted with bright orange arrows, so it’s pretty difficult to get lost, but do bear in mind that the route continues along the main road for around 10-15 minutes where you’ll need to cross over to continue on into the bush.
We saw ducks, birds, cows, horses… Considering that we had been worried about having enough time to do the walk, from the falls to the Town Basin, it took us 1 hour 45 minutes, though it was slightly downhill most of the way. We stopped along the track to eat our sandwiches that we had brought with us.
It’s a pretty easy walk, we would advise to allow for 2 hours each way at the very least. Sensible footwear is advisable. You can find more info here.
The New Zealand Fudge Farm Factory and Café
The weather had turned miserable just as we walked by this quaint little sweet shop so we had to take a look. As well as fudge in lots of flavours, the New Zealand Fudge Farm makes chocolates in a range of shapes and sizes, and stocks retro sweets that we hadn’t seen since our childhoods, such as Trolli gummy sweets and candy necklaces. We got a hot chocolate and a coffee, with two homemade fudge cakes for just a dollar each extra!
Clapham’s Clock Museum
Since the rain had stubbornly decided it wasn’t stopping (typically of New Zealand, the weather did the opposite to what was forecast), we sheltered in the warmth of the world-famous Clapham’s Clock Museum. Initially, James was not best pleased at this proposition, but, after being persuaded by the Lonely Planet’s recommendation and a two-for-one offer with our Town Basin café receipt, we went inside. And actually, we really enjoyed learning about the different mechanisms used to measure the time – so much more clever than our modern battery-powered models!
There are over 1000 weird and wonderful clocks on display, 400 of which are from Archibald Clapham’s original collection, and many which are hundreds of years old, from various countries worldwide – perfect for history geeks like me. The only thing that was slightly disappointing was that there isn’t much of a story as to where or how Archie ended up with these clocks in his possession: the museum staff explained that he wasn’t one for recording such details.
When we left the museum the weather still hadn’t improved, but we still had an hour until our bus left, so we walked along the river to see the famous Waka and Wave sculpture. It was nice to look at and symbolises New Zealanders somehow; I did read the sign but it was raining pretty heavily by this point so I wasn’t in the best of moods. We walked back up along the river and the coach was waiting for us, so we hopped on and were thankful to escape the elements.
How to get to Whangarei:
By car – probably the best option so you have freedom to explore the nearby beaches and other sights.
We booked our journey with Manabus, departing from Auckland at 8am ($11 each) and leaving Whangarei at 4.15pm ($9 each). We were pleasantly pleased with our experience – our journey there was on a comfortable double-decker Manabus coach with an on-board toilet and free wifi! [N.B. Finding somewhere with free wifi is an absolute novelty in New Zealand – it seems wifi is still a novelty here and is always either limited or expensive!] The journey back was on a single-decker Naked Bus coach (which is in fact run by the Manabus company), and was similarly comfortable, though it didn’t have wifi. Both coaches were there early, left on time, and arrived at our destination sooner than estimated. Also the website is pretty easy to use. We would recommend.
Overall we had a fantastic day out and the journey was worth it to see a new town. The waterfalls alone were worth the journey! I hope we’ll go back to this area when we have a car, so we can explore a bit more!
Have you been to Whangarei? What did you think to the waterfalls? Where can you recommend as a day-trip from Auckland?
Thanks for reading,
Note: all information is true and correct regarding our visit to Whangarei on Saturday 22nd August 2015. I strongly recommend checking the tourism websites (links above) before you visit – and of course, be prepared for all weather!
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