Amazing white sandy beaches, stunning ocean views, native bush, waterfalls, walkways, limestone formations and rolling countryside – all in a 2 hour trip round trip from Lupton Lodge (Glenbervie, Whangarei). If you are short on time this loop takes around 2 hours to self-drive but works best as a fantastic day trip (or several day trips!) when you explore the beaches and enjoy some of the activities along the way.
Note: this self-drive tour of the Tutukaka Coast can be travelled in either direction.
Tutukaka Coast Loop (rejoins SH1 at Hikurangi)
Lupton Lodge to Ngunguru (10 minutes drive)
Head east from Lupton Lodge towards the coast following the historic dry-stone walls that line each side of the road. After winding through the countryside you reach the tidal Ngunguru river. There is a picnic spot at Scows Landing or you can also launch a kayak to explore the river and estuary. Native bush and mangroves surround you as you come closer to the coast. Stop in at Raku Pottery on your left before you reach Ngunguru village. Ngunguru has a cafe, fish & chips takeaway shop, dairy, beauty salon and 9 hole golf course. Stroll along the waterfront with an ice cream or walk around the coast to Whangaumu Bay (Wellingtons Bay) when the tide is low. A 20 minute walkway through the mangrove trees starts at the small library near the start of the village. The best beach in Ngnnguru is past the school at he end of the village. Park opposite the school and walk across the shallow part of the estuary to the low dunes for a white sandy beach.
Ngunguru to Tutukaka Marina (5 minutes drive)
Following the coast northwards the road winds up a hill and inland. Towards the top of the hill on the right is an observation area where you can look out on the Poor Knights Islands across the sea. Continuing on down the hill take a detour along Tutukaka Block road which leads along a peninsula with several lovely inner-harbour bays and great views. Kowharewa Bay is great for a dip if you don’t like waves. The final bay at the end of the road is Whangaumu Bay (also know as Wellington’s Bay), which is a lovely long sandy beach with a small island at one end. There are several great picnic spots and lots of places to swim. When you back track from Whangaumu Bay to the main road turn right and you will find the Tutukaka Marina at the bottom of the hill. There are several places to eat, a gallery, surf shop and petrol station/dairy at Tutukaka Marina. Schnappa Rock is in iconic favourite with it’s thatch roof and Pacific decor. Further along the marina the Deep Sea Angling Club has a huge deck overlooking the marina where you can get a drink or a bit to eat. The final building in the marina houses Marina Pizzeria, with a covered seating over the water or a deck with tables at the side. During the daytime they also offer coffee and a yummy selection of cakes. Another point of interest is Tutukaka Surf Experience, where you can hire a surf board or book in for lessons. Wander among the boats, watch people fishing off the wharf, have a swim at the beach at the end of the marina or just sit back with a coffee or a glass of wine and enjoy the ambience.
We also highly recommend the diving or snorkeling/sightseeing boat trips to the Poor Knights Islands which depart from the Tutukaka Marina daily.
Tutukaka Marina to Matapouri & Whale Bay (10 minutes drive)
Driving North from Tutukaka, head up hill towards Matapouri Bay. Tawapou sub-tropical plant nursery is worth a stop along the way if you are interested in New Zealand fauna or a drink in their garden over summer. Matapouri is the first bay you reach. You can swim in the estuary or take one of the roads on the right to get to parking by the main beach. Matapouri Bay is great for strolling on the white sand or having a dip.
If you have an hour or more to spare walk over the coastal walkway to Whale Bay. At the Northern end of the beach follow the pathway that leads through some grass and between trees with silver possum protectors on them. The track then goes up a steep flight of stairs and through bush and farmland until a fork where you can either head down to Whale Bay or finish the loop back to Matapouri Bay.
Alternatively jump back in the car and drive to the Whale Bay carpark (top of the hill on the right) from where you can follow the track down the hill. This track takes about 10-15 minutes to walk each way and is well worth the trip. Whale Bay is a stunning tree lined bay with clear blue water and no road access. It’s great for picnics, swimming or just having a look.
Whale Bay to Hikurangi (30 minutes drive)
Further on from Whale Bay is Woolleys Bay and then Sandy Bay (surf beach). Both these beaches offer white sand and are great for swimming. After Sandy Bay the road then winds inland towards Hikurangi where you join up with SH1. Waro Limestone Reserve is at the junction of SH1 and has a large lake, picnic areas and an attractive walkway that takes you through the natural limestone formations.
Hikurangi to Lupton Lodge (25 minutes drive)
Turn left onto SH1 and head back towards Whangarei. At the first set of traffic lights (Puna Rere Drive) turn left and continue for about 2km until you see a metal sign for the Whangarei Falls on your right. You can either view the spectacular falls from above, walk to the bottom for a better view or spend an hour doing the round-trip bush walk to the AH Reed Kauri Walk. On your way back to Lupton Lodge along Ngunguru Road stop in at Huanui Orchards for some fresh produce and Glenbervie Pottery for stunning local artwork and crockery.