Ngunguru travel guide: Venture off the tourist trail in Northland

Ngunguru is a coastal village located in the Northland region of the North Island. Although only a 2.5-hour drive from the bustling city of Auckland, this area offers quite the relaxing getaway.

Famous for its pristine beaches, variety of watersports, and outstanding beauty, you’ll soon see why a visit to Ngunguru, on the Whangarei coast, could be on the cards.

Whether you’re looking to hire a kayak and explore the coastline or you’d prefer to relax on the beach, this coastal settlement is worth visiting.

Tutukaka is also within walking distance so if you stay here, you’ll have the best of both worlds.

This Ngunguru guide will set you up with everything you need to know for the perfect trip. So, let’s dive right in!

Ngunguru at sunset. Photo: Edouard Poor.

An Overview of Ngunguru

Population~1,280 people
RegionNorthland, North Island
Area 3.57 km2
Elevation4 metres above sea level
Main attractionsTutukaka, watersports, Ngunguru Mangrove Walkway, Ngunguru Sandspit, pottery studios, breathtaking views
Nearby destinationsPoor Knights Islands, Matapouri, Whangārei, Whananaki and Auckland.

The History of Ngunguru

Ngunguru has an extremely interesting history as it’s thought that the waka Tūnui-ā-rangi visited here, on its way to Whangārei. These ocean voyaging canoes were actually used in the migrations that initially settled the country.

By the late 1830s, there was an extensive Māori population in the area. In fact, a battle took place here between two tribes; these being the local Te Waiariki and Waikato iwi.

However, in 1840 European settlers bought 40,000 acres of land here.

On this land, a sawmill was built. This was one of the first in the country.

Unfortunately, the mill failed just four years later but Ngungru continued to export its timber to other places.

Coal was then discovered in the Ngunguru River in 1892, and the area was mined until 1921.

As time went on and the roads here improved in the 1950s, this small village started to develop. An attempt was even made to sell the sandspit decades later in 2005 to build property, but luckily, this resulted in no buyers.

Now, this sleepy little town is home to happy residents and holidaymakers.

Pataua North is a beautiful beach along Ngunguru Bay. Photo: Shellie Evans.

The Geography of Ngunguru

Ngunguru is a coastal settlement so naturally, the area is relatively flat. It’s situated on the New Zealand’s east coast and offers stunning ocean views.

The village’s name is a te reo Māori word that translates to ‘rumbling tides’. There, you’ll find pristine beaches and coastal conditions that make it a perfect spot for watersports.

Not only that, but the Ngunguru River runs between the village and a low sandspit that stretches into Whangaumu Bay. This is a great place to kayak or stand up paddle board.

One of the geographical wonders of this area, the Poor Knights Islands, are located just off the coast. These islands are home to a wealth of marine life and are a popular sport for diving. In fact, this is widely considered the best diving in New Zealand.

Surrounding Ngunguru, you’ll find small rolling hills and lush forests.

While in Ngunguru, we recommend picking up fish and chips and heading down to the beach. Photo: Jason Milich.

Things to Do in Ngunguru

Although Ngunguru is only small, there are still lots of activities to keep you occupied.

Top activities and attractions in the area include…

Ngunguru Old Coach Road Cycle Trail

Popular among walkers and cyclists, the Ngunguru Old Coach Road Cycle Trail is a great addition to this little town.

It is suitable for intermediate fitness and skill levels, covering 15km one way (or 30km if you plan to return on the same track). There, you’ll find a mixture of gravel roads and bush trails, which are well-signposted.

It’s a beautiful spot to explore.

Mountain biking wheel with a red arm and bush behind.

Watersports

Another popular activity in Ngunguru is surfing.

However, you can also hire a kayak to explore the coastline or take advantage of the water ski lane if you have your own boat.

The river is also calm enough to SUP or kayak, so the choice really is yours.

Ngunguru Mangrove Walkway

This walkway takes around 20 minutes for a return journey and is incredibly easy.

It runs between Munroe Places and Kakariki Road and will take you along a boardwalk through a mangrove forest.

Keep a lookout for herons. These beautiful native birds are commonly found in the area.

Ngunguru Sandspit

The Ngunguru Sandspit is a protected reserve that’s home to sand dunes and an estuary.

It’s a pretty unique spot to visit and is managed by an organisation that works to protect the area for future generations.

Pottery Studios

Another great thing to do in Ngunguru is to visit the local pottery studios.

There, you can treat yourself to a souvenir from your trip or simply admire the skills of this craft.

Plus, when you make a purchase, you’ll feel good in the knowledge that your funds are going straight back into the local economy.

We recommend checking out Ngunguru Pottery and Glenbervie Pottery (which is actually closer to Kamo, as you head into Ngunguru from Auckland).

Photo: Ngunguru Pottery.

Golf

Keen golfers will be pleased to know that Ngunguru has a golf course that is open to the public.

This 9-hole course is set up with different tees and red flags, allowing guests to play two different rounds on the same course.

Green fees are incredibly affordable and paid in cash at the honesty box.

33b Kopipi Crescent, Ngunguru 0173

A golf club about to hit a golf ball on the grass.

Breathtaking views

Last but certainly not least, Ngunguru and its surrounding area are known for their breathtaking views. This is especially the case if you’re walking from the village to Tutukaka.

Visit Tutukaka

Tutukaka is just a 5-minute drive from Ngunguru or a 40-minute walk.

There you can relax on world-famous beaches, go diving, or head out on an ocean cruise to the Poor Knights.

Visit Pataua North on Ngunguru Bay

Though Ngunguru Bay is a 45-minute drive from Ngunguru township, we thought it worth mentioning – after all, it is linked to Ngunguru by name.

This beautiful golden-sand beach is the stuff of Kiwi beach holidays.

The area is perfect for swimming, relaxing and walking, and the estuary provides a still spot to kayak and paddleboard.

Pataua North, Ngunguru Bay. Photo: Shellie Evans.

Sandy Bay Horse Treks

Though you’ll find Sandy Bay Horse Treks a fair way to the north of Ngunguru, we thought it worth mentioning.

Known for beautiful coastal trails and an option to swim your horse, these treks are a great way to enjoy the outdoors while bonding with your horse.

Places to Eat in Ngunguru

Considering Ngunguru is such a small place, you’ve got a relatively good variety of food options here. Just to note, many of them are takeaways.

These are some of the best places to get some kai in Ngunguru…

Coastal Kitchen NZ

Coastal Kitchen NZ is a food truck serving some of the best food in the area.

It boasts an extensive menu that includes burritos, curries, bao buns, tacos, and desserts, bringing a flavourful flair to this coastal town.

This is one of our top picks for sure!

1892 Ngunguru Road, Ngunguru 0173

Salt Air Cafe

Although Salt Air Cafe is only a small place, it’s a great spot for coffee, lunch, and even a takeaway.

This is one of the best places in the village to grab fish and chips, but they also have tasty pies too.

1983 Ngunguru Road, Ngunguru 0173

Takeaways at Ngunguru

Takeaways at Ngunguru is another great option if you’re looking for a quick meal.

They have a variety of options, but burgers tend to be the most popular.

During your time in Ngunguru, you can grab something to eat here and then head to the beach to enjoy the sunset.

1977 Ngunguru Rd, Ngunguru 0173

The Estuary Restaurant

If you’d prefer somewhere where you can dine inside, then this is your place!

The staff at The Estuary Restaurant are known to be friendly and helpful, and the food is absolutely delicious.

Plus, as it’s located on the golf course, it’s a great place to unwind.

33b Kopipi Crescent, Ngunguru 0173

Hot Chilli Eatery

Another takeaway option in Ngunguru, this eatery is known for its tasty pizzas.

During your trip, why not grab one and head down to the beach to watch the sunset?

1977 Ngunguru Road, Ngunguru 0173

Pro tip: Hot Chilli Eatery is right beside Takeaways at Ngunguru, so you can see what tickles your fancy when you arrive.

Dining options in nearby Tutakaka

The nearby town of Tutukaka is just a 5-minute drive away and has lots of awesome dining options too.

These include:

  • Schnappa Rock Restaurant & Bar
  • Mara Restaurant Tutukaka
  • Marina Woodfired Dining
  • Gamefishing Club.

Pro tip: While in Tutakaka why not visit Steve Moase’s Tutukaka Gallery to browse some beautiful local art?

The Best Places to Stay in Ngunguru

Ngunguru is a great spot if you’re looking for a relaxing getaway.

There isn’t too much to do here compared to some of the country’s other destinations, but there are lots of day trip opportunities – plus, it’s perfectly set up for doing absolutely nothing.

For the best experience, we’d recommend staying a night or two at the very least (though many choose to pass through without spending a night).

The key thing to note about Ngunguru is that there are very limited accommodation options available on booking sites. Because of this, you’ll want to book way in advance if you can.

However, Airbnb does have some fantastic options so that’s what we’ll prioritise for this guide.

Here are our top picks for staying in Ngunguru…

Mid-range holiday home: Kakariki by the sea

This two-bedroom house sleeps up to 6 people.

Boasting beautiful decor, plenty of space, and BBQ facilities, it’s a great place for a family getaway.

It’s also nicely decorated for a relaxed but cosy beach vacation.

Holiday home: Peacock Lodge

With three bedrooms, Peacock Lodge sleeps up to six people.

It also comes with a private pool and spacious garden, making it perfect if you’re travelling with a group or your family.

Luxe holiday home: Clearview – Ngunguru Holiday Home

This two-bedroom holiday home is spacious and open, and you’ll benefit from an outdoor deck. From here, you’ll be treated to panoramic ocean views. Seriously, they’re hard to beat!

There’s also a garden area where you can relax – if you can pull yourself away from the deck.

Check rates & Availability: Clearview – Ngunguru Holiday Home 🛌

Nearby Towns and Attractions

Ngunguru is a popular spot for relaxing but, as we mentioned, is still home to a number of things to keep you busy.

However, if you’re looking to head out on a day trip then you’ve some great options nearby.

To get to Ngunguru in the first place you’ll need your own car. This is also how you’ll get around the local area (as public transport is non-existent here).

Whether you explore these locations as a day trip from your Ngunguru base, or you treat them as the next stop on your journey, we recommend paying them a visit.

Poor Knights Islands

Poor Knights Islands are known to be one of the best diving spots in the world (and unsurprisingly, in New Zealand).

Not only can you explore Rikoriko Cave, one of the world’s largest sea caves, but you’ll also get to admire the area’s impressive marine life.

To reach these islands you can take a boat from nearby Tutukaka; just a 5-minute drive away from town.

One of the most popular day tours to the Poor Knights is the Perfect Day trip.

Or, if you’d like to spend more time on the water, why not book an overnight diving adventure?

Tutukaka is a 5-minute drive from Ngunguru.

Fish, corals, and sea creatures underwater.
The Poor Knights Islands are known for their beautiful marine life.

Matapouri

Matapouri is another coastal settlement that’s located north of Ngunguru.

There, you’ll find Matapouri Bay which is home to one of the most beautiful beaches in New Zealand.

There’s also an impressive walkway that runs to Whale Bay from here. Trust us, you don’t want to miss out on this walk as the views are jaw-dropping!

Matapouri is a 15-minute drive from Ngunguru.

Two couples walking on a wooden platform while taking a view of a wide beach behind them.
Exploring Matapouri. Photo: Alistair Guthrie.

Whangārei

Whangārei is the most northern city in New Zealand and it’s the regional capital of Northland. Full of awesome foodie spots, cultural attractions, and outdoor activities, this city has so much to offer.

Some of the best things to do in Whangārei include visiting Kiwi North, admiring the stunning Whangārei Falls, and hiking up Mt. Mania (or Mt. Parihaka as an alternative).

We also love the Hundertwasser Art Centre for a dose of culture and the AH Reed Memorial Park for fresh air and stunning nature.

Whangārei is a 25-minute drive from Ngunguru.

A couple leaning on the balustrades of a wooden bridge, happily observing the trees surrounding them.
AH Reed Memorial Park in Whangārei.

Whananaki

Whananaki is a remote coastal village that will offer you a very authentic experience. This charming (but sleepy) place is the perfect spot to visit if you’re looking to just relax and admire the area’s beautiful scenery.

In Whananaki, you’ll find a 395m (1,296ft) footbridge that crosses the estuary. In fact, it’s the longest footbridge in the Southern Hemisphere which is rather impressive!

During your time here, don’t forget to walk the Whananaki Coastal Walkway.

Whananaki is a 55-minute drive from Ngunguru.

The Whananaki Footbridge at low tide. Photo: Shellie Evans.

Auckland

Last but certainly not least, we’ve got the bustling city of Auckland. By far the largest city in New Zealand, you’ll likely start your New Zealand adventure here.

Auckland is known as the ‘City of Sails’ due to the number of yachts that can be found in this area. It’s also surrounded by 48 volcanoes so as you can imagine the views here are incredible.

Boasting a fantastic foodie scene, great nightlife, a stunning seafront location, and endless attractions – you won’t run out of things to do here!

Auckland is a 2.5-hour drive from Ngunguru.

Sunset in the marina of Auckland.
Photo: Julie Poulson Scheidler, NZTT member.

Whether you’re looking to hit the waves, eat some delicious fish and chips, or hire a car to explore the nearby area, there are tons of reasons to visit this Ngunguru.

This coastal town and its surroundings are undeniably beautiful, making it the perfect option for a relaxed getaway or family trip!

Hopefully, this Ngunguru guide has given you an idea of what this coastal town has to offer, as well as where you should stay.

Happy travels throughout Northland.

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