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12 amazing things to do in Mangawhai

If you’re planning to visit Mangawhai, then you might be wondering how you can plan your perfect itinerary. Join us as we round up the best things to do in Mangawhai. We’ll help you suss out an unforgettable trip!

Ah, Mangawhai.

This gorgeous town is a popular getaway for Auckland residents.

Why, you ask?

Well, it’s home to balmy beaches, delicious food, and some of the best short walking trails in the country.

But there’s much more to this charming area than first meets the eye.

Whether you’re on the hunt for hidden gems that locals love or popular attractions, we’ve got you covered.

We’ve picked out our favourite things to do in Mangawhai, helping ensure your next getaway is one to remember.

Now let’s get to it!

Did you know? Mangawhai was incorrectly known as Mangawai for a long time. Though it was officially changed from ‘Mangawai’ to ‘Mangawhai’ in 1951, it was known by the old (incorrect) name until well into the early 2000s.

People walking on a beach with sandy shores and scattered rocks of varying sizes while the waters crash through them.
Mangawhai Heads Beach, looking out towards the cliff walk. Photo: Krystle Thomas, NZTT member.

The best things to do in Mangawhai

1. Take in natural beauty on the Mangawhai Cliffs Walk

At the top of our list of things to do in Mangawhai, we have the iconic Mangawhai Cliffs Walk!

It stretches for 4.5 km along the coast (9 km return) and takes most people between 2 and 3 hours to complete.

As it’s well-marked and offers beautiful views of the rugged coastline, it’s enjoyed by practically all travellers.

If the weather is clear, you may even be able to see out toward Great Barrier Island from the lookout point.

Although it has a steep start that requires you to dig deep for around 20 minutes, it should still be suitable for most abilities and it only changes elevation by 115 m. Just take things slow and don’t be afraid to stop along the way.

Trust us, the panoramas, beautiful greenery, and the air in your lungs are worth holding out for! It’s also only a 4-minute drive from our recommended accommodation, the Mangawhai Heads Holiday Park.

147 Wintle Street, Mangawhai Heads, Mangawhai 0505 (leave from Mangawhai Heads Surf Beach).

A beautiful beach expansing along the coast with turquoise waters crashing through the sands as seen from the Mangawhai Cliffs Walk.
You’ll find stunning views on the Mangawhai Cliffs Walk. Photo: Angela Bishop, NZTT member.

2. Enjoy Mangawhai Heads Surf Beach

If you’re heading to Mangawhai, don’t leave without enjoying an afternoon at Mangawhai Heads Surf Beach.

The waters here are crystal-clear, and you’re bound to appreciate the balmy sands and cliffsides that are seriously picture-perfect.

As you get decent waves here, it’s also a prime spot for surfing!

If you’re a beginner, just try and visit when surf club lessons are taking place and there are clear flags in the water to keep you safe.

And if you’re not a surfer, feel free to try some bodysurfing or boogie boarding instead. It’s also a really popular place to swim – always between the flags, with lifeguards watching, though.

Otherwise, you’ll be content just soaking up some rays.

It’s simple, but visiting this glorious beach is certainly one of the best things to do in Mangawhai!

147 Wintle Street, Mangawhai Heads, Mangawhai 0505

Mangawhai Beach with the sun rising over the headlands rock.
Mangawhai Heads at sunrise. Photo: Chris Gin.

3. Grab fresh produce at the Mangawhai Tavern Market

If you want to do as the locals do, why not head down to the Mangawhai Tavern Market on Saturday?

It’s always bursting with fresh produce and locally sourced goodies, making it a fabulous spot to pick up a few souvenirs. We think the artisan cheeses and olive oils are must-buy treats too.

Whether you have an hour or just a few minutes to spare, it’s worth stopping by this market.

Every Saturday, 8.30 am – 1 pm at 2 Moir Street, Mangawhai 0505

An outdoor market with fresh produce, colourful umbrellas, souvenirs, and people enjoying the vibe.
Photo: Mangawhai Tavern Market.

4. Check out the Estuary

New Zealand is known for its fascinating animals and plant life. So, it’s no surprise that the Mangawhai Estuary has made it onto this list.

You might spot the adorable (and endangered) New Zealand dotterels flitting around here, along with karoro (southern black-backed gull), poaka (pied stilt), and tōrea (oystercatchers).

As some of these birds are tricky to spot, it’s worth bringing a pair of binoculars along for the ride.

This is also a great place to swim – particularly if you have a young family. The sand dunes on the other side of the estuary ensure the waters are sheltered and calm.

Just remember to be respectful of the wildlife, tread lightly (in case there are any eggs lying around), and leave no trace of your visit.

A little NZ dotterel on wet sand. It has brown wings and golden and white feathers.
Spot the endangered NZ dotterel at the Mangawhai Estuary. Photo: JJ Harrison.

5. Play a round of golf

Sometimes, you just want to relax and unwind with a round of golf.

And the Mangawhai Golf Club is a great choice for all ability levels.

It’s an 18-hole championship course that lets locals and visitors rent clubs, carts and anything you could need to play a round. So you can arrive and be on the green in minutes.

Plus, the lounge bar, clubhouse, and onsite shop also make it worth the trip.

It’s consistently placed in New Zealand’s Top 20 courses by NZPGA Pros thanks to its full facilities, stunning setting, and playable fairways.

Green fees start at $45 which isn’t half bad either.

221 Molesworth Drive, 219 Molesworth Drive, Mangawhai Heads, Mangawhai 0505

Looking for a premium golf experience? Te Arai Links is home to two very fancy golf courses. They cap membership at 250 people though and don’t let non-members play, so chances of having a round of golf there are next to none.

A golf ball resting on a tee with a golf club positioned closed to it, and the player ready to strike.

These discounts are for NZTT readers and members. Please ensure you are in our free Facebook group. Or if you’re not on Facebook, be ready to explain that you read NZTT online. By booking through us, you will enjoy a discount while supporting us – thank you!

6. Explore the Tanekaha Walking Tracks

The Tanekaha Walking Tracks are not quite as well-known as the cliff walk, but this collection of forest tracks that work their way out from Mangawhai Heads are just beautiful.

Not only will you come across waterfalls along the way, but the walk through the lush greenery will perk anyone up.

Depending on how much energy you have, you can try out the 2-hour or 1-hour tracks.

Both options start from the Tanekaha Forest Car Park and then connect up with other trails, so it’s a good idea to assess how you’re feeling before heading out.

Check out the Langsview Track, Tanekaha Puriri Track, or the Tanekaha Botanical Track.

The hikes are moderately challenging but as long as you’re wearing decent hiking shoes and take your time along the trail, most people can handle it!

302B King Road, Mangawhai 0573

7. Step back in time at the Mangawhai Museum

If you’re looking for family-friendly things to do in Mangawhai, check out the Mangawhai Museum.

As you pass through the museum, you’ll come across video and photo displays that tell you all about Mangawhai through the years. This includes the Māori Wars and World War II.

It also explores Mangawhai’s unique history as a harbour town.

Being a new museum, the exhibitions are modern and high-quality, but because the ticket prices are super affordable, it’s also a great choice if you’re travelling on a budget.

It’s open daily between 10 am and 4 pm – so, plan your trip accordingly.

Molesworth Drive, Mangawhai Heads, Mangawhai 0505

A kid wearing green T-shirt looking at a miniature boat model in a glass enclosure inside the Mangawhai Museum.
The museum is informative and affordable, making it a must-visit in town. Photo: Mangawhai Museum.

8. Chow down on Bennetts Chocolate

No list of the best things to do in Mangawhai would be complete without mentioning Bennetts Chocolate!

This is one of the most popular local businesses in the area as it just sells the best chocolate around.

It’s been a staple in Mangawhai since 1998, selling handcrafted choccies made with sustainable cocoa.

The chocolate is so good, that their sesame caramel-filled truffles were even named the 2018 winner of New Zealand’s Best Artisan Chocolate Award!

If the chocolate itself wasn’t enough to draw you in, they also run chocolate workshops for children that take them behind the scenes. They also have an on-site cafe and sell locally hand-harvested sea salt.

52 Moir Street, Mangawhai 0505

Did you know? If you love these chocolates, they’ll even courier them to you once you’re home.

A delicious rounded chocolates inside a wooden tray made by Bennetts Chocolate.
Pick from a delicious selection of handmade chocolates. Photo: Bennetts of Mangawhai.

9. Roll down sand dunes

If you’re keen to embrace your inner child, we’ve got you covered.

Head to the sand dunes at Mangawhai Surf Beach for the ultimate downhill adventure.

Not only can you slide, run, or roll down to your heart’s content, but you can even sandboard down them if you’re brave!

Once you’re all rolled out, why not have a picnic among the beautiful shaded trees as you look over the waterfront?

It’s simple, cheap, and lets you take in the area’s natural beauty.

Just don’t forget to slop a bunch of sunscreen on before heading down, as the rays can be brutal.

147 Wintle Street, Mangawhai Heads, Mangawhai 0505

Did you know? There are even bigger sand dunes opposite the estuary. Rent a kayak or SUP over, but be very careful as some areas are off-limits to protect endangered bird nesting sites.

10. Visit the Mangawhai Activity Zone

The Mangawhai Activity Zone (known as MAZ to locals) is another of our top picks in town.

It’s packed with exciting activities for tiny tykes right through to teenagers, including a children’s playground, a skate park, trails, and a flying fox.

If you’re looking for more, there’s also a pump track and picnic facilities that are bound to go down well with the whānau.

When the family needs a break, just stop by the MAZ Café for refreshments and a bite to eat.

That’s right, you don’t even need to leave the park to refuel.

191 Molesworth Drive, Mangawhai Heads, Mangawhai 0505

Pro tip: If you’re visiting at the right time, you might be lucky enough to catch the Christmas Parade, Carols on the Park, or the famous Bowl Jam. Check online for upcoming events.

Bird's eye view of Mangawhai Activity Zone's pump track as part of its recreational facility.
The MAZ pump track is a great way for kids to blow off steam. Photo: Mangawhai Activity Zone.

11. Go kayaking

To finish off our list of amazing things to do in Mangawhai, we recommend heading out on a kayak.

It’s a simple activity that suits travellers of most ages, and the views you get around here are just breathtaking.

We suggest visiting the Mangawhai Estuary as the waters are calm and perfect for beginners – you can pop all the way over to the sand dunes if you like too (just remember to avoid nesting sites).

If you need to hire any gear, just head to the nearby Aotearoa Surf School or Mangawhai Surf School – they can hook you up with everything you need for the day, including soft roof racks, wetsuits, surfboards, and paddleboards.

They’re open between 9 am and 5 pm every day, so make sure you’re in and out to avoid getting a fine for not returning your gear.

Gear hire: 11 Te Arai Point Road, Te Arai 0975

12. Grab lunch or dinner at Gringas

Started by two Kiwi girls in a food truck, Gringas is a surprising find in Mangawhai!

They now have a colourful restaurant that serves delicious (and generous) burritos, tacos, quesadillas and more.

Everything is cooked to order and served with love. We also recommend you have yours served with a delicious cocktail too!

Hands down the best food, service and atmosphere in Mangawhai.

hannahdP6481TG, trip Advisor reviewer

Shop 15 & 16/7 Wood Street, Mangawhai Heads, Mangawhai 0505

A delicious beef barbacoa tacos and a frozen watermelon margarita served in Gringas restaurant.
Beef barbacoa tacos and a frozen watermelon margarita. Photo: Gringas.

We hope that you’ve found a bunch of exciting things to do in Mangawhai on our list!

If you’ve ever been to this gorgeous part of New Zealand, what did you get up to? We’d love to hear about your trip in the comments below.

Cover picture: Shellie Evans.

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