Discover the best things to do in Whangārei and plan your Northland itinerary.
Whangārei is the regional capital of Northland and the most northern city in New Zealand. It’s a vibrant spot, full of culture, art and of course, plenty of things to do.
Whether you’re looking for a relaxing break, or to jam-pack your itinerary, Whangārei is for you!
With endless cafes, restaurants, museums, art galleries and outdoor activities, you will not run out of things to do here.
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The Best Things to Do in Whangārei
To help you make the most out of your stay in Whangārei, we’ve found the absolute best things to do in this fabulous town!
Whether you prefer natural wonders like waterfalls, a good hike or a fun activity like ‘in the dark mini golf’, Whangārei has so much to offer.
Without further ado, let’s go through the top things to do in Whangārei!
1. Visit Kiwi North
Kiwi North is home to Whangārei Museum, a Heritage Park and our personal favourite – the Kiwi House.
It’s the only kiwi house in Northland. It is a nocturnal enclosure that replicates the kiwi’s natural environment, making this the perfect opportunity to see our treasured bird.
Kiwi’s are pretty hard to see in the wild but here you can spot them foraging for food and have the chance to observe them at length . If you want to learn even more about these endemic flightless birds, there are also keeper talks and feedings that are held a few times a day.
You can also see the tuatara (New Zealand’s living dinosaur) and indigenous gecko here too.
Afterwards, you can head to the museum, explore the heritage site and perhaps buy something at the gift shop.
It is without a doubt one of the best things to do in Whangārei!
2. Visit Whangārei Falls
If you’re a fan of nature, then visiting Whangārei Falls is for you.
This beautiful waterfall is the most visited natural feature in Whangārei and it isn’t hard to see why!
The falls are an impressive 26m (85ft) high, and there are two viewpoints for you to choose from.
You can hike to the top viewpoint that overlooks the falls, or head to its base for the full WOW factor. We recommend you take in both viewpoints for the full experience!
If you’re heading there on a warm day be sure to pack your togs (swimsuit) as there is a beautiful swimming hole located at the bottom of the falls. This is the perfect place to take a dip and cool down during New Zealand’s summer heat.
3. Hike up Mt. Mania
If you’re looking for the best views of Whangārei, then you need to hike up Mt. Mania.
Mt. Mania’s summit is 420m above sea level, and the walk to the top takes about 2 hours.
On the way up you will walk through kauri forest, and come across several outcrops that offer stunning views of Bream Head and the Hen and Chicken Islands.
Although the hike can be pretty steep in places, the views from the top are worth it! From the summit, you will get panoramic views of Whangārei and the harbour that will leave you speechless.
The trailhead for Mt. Mania can be found at Manaia Club’s lower car park – a 30-minute drive outside the city.
4. Wander around Whangārei Quarry Gardens
The Whangārei Quarry Gardens are the perfect place for an afternoon stroll, or to take a picnic.
Although incredibly beautiful, the story behind these gardens is the most special part about this place.
Originally the quarry was disused and became a bit of a dumping ground before the community rallied together and made a change.
Now, for over 25 years, the local people have planted and cared for this area, and it has paid off. Today, the area is covered in lush greenery and attracts birdlife, butterflies and lizards.
There is also a visitor centre and cafe located on-site too – check them out if you want to learn more about this monumental feat or want a bite to eat.
5. Head down into Abbey Caves
If you’re looking for an adventure, then walking through Abbey Caves is one of the top things to do in Whangārei.
The loop trail takes you through three caves; Organ Cave, Middle Cave and Ivy Cave. The walk itself isn’t strenuous but expect to do a bit of scrambling to enter each cave as there are no designated paths.
As you head into the dark, you will get to see unique geological formations, stalactites and even glow worms!
Make sure you wear clothes you don’t mind getting wet and good footwear, plus you’ll want to bring a torch or headlight.
There are no lights within the caves, so don’t enter unless you have your own.
6. Catch a boat to Poor Knights Islands
The Poor Knights Islands are one of the top diving locations in the world.
If you’re skilled when it comes to snorkelling or diving, you don’t want to miss out on this place. However, many of the tours cater for other activities such as kayaking if you don’t fancy heading underneath the waves.
There are plenty of tour operators that offer this experience, and many of the boats leave from Whangārei Harbour – how convenient.
These islands are also home to Rikoriko Cave – one of the largest sea caves on earth. This is the perfect spot for a kayak or stand up paddle board.
Book: Poor Knights diving.
Related: The best diving in New Zealand.
Pro Tip: Keep your eyes peeled as you may well spot marine mammals from the boat including whales, dolphins and orcas.
7. Head out on a kayaking tour
Kayaking is one of the best ways to explore the many bays around Whangārei.
There are plenty of companies that offer kayaking tours in the area, and if you’re lucky you might even get to spot some wildlife.
Some of the most popular launch spots near Whangārei Harbour include the Town Basin, Onerahi, Waikaraka, McLeod Bay, and Urquharts Bay.
Some companies simply charge for kayak hire and a drop-off charge, and then you are free to explore on your own. These self-guided kayak tours are great as they allow you a lot of freedom to explore.
However, if you’re not a confident kayaker it might be best to head out on a tour with a professional instead.
8. Explore A.H. Reed Memorial Kauri Park
If you’re looking for a nature escape, then heading to A.H. Reed Memorial Kauri Park is a must.
The park is a remnant of the beautiful kauri trees that used to cover large areas across Northland. Incredibly, here you can still walk underneath the kauri trees, and some are 500 years old.
Whilst you’re there, make sure to walk the canopy walkway to get a birds-eye view of the trees below. Trust us you won’t regret it!
The Paranui Falls (which are also known as the Pukenui Falls) are also found within the park – they are a must-visit.
Pro Tip: You can tie your visit to this location in with your trip to Whangārei Falls as the Hatea River Walkway runs between them both.
9. Try glow-in-the-dark mini golf
Now, this is definitely one of the wackiest things to do in Whangārei.
Extreme Mini Golf is an 18 hole glow in the dark mini-golf course and it’s great fun for the whole family.
There are 6 awesome themed areas including Monster Industrial, Croods Cave, a circus area, and an alien space area.
With so many quirky sections everyone is bound to be entertained.
10. Visit Claphams National Clock Museum
Visiting the Claphams National Clock Museum is one of the more unique things to do in Whangārei.
This museum is famous across the world and is home to one of the largest and most historically significant collections of timepieces in the southern hemisphere.
In fact, there are over 2,000 clocks at the Claphams National Clock Museum!
The collection was started in the early 1900s by Archibald Clapham, and has a variety of unique clocks that you’ll struggle to find anywhere else in the world!
At the museum you will learn so many interesting facts about clocks and time including why they tick, why there are 24 hours in a day, and why clocks go clockwise.
We recommend a stop at this unique museum for old and young.
11. Splash around at Whangārei Aquatic Centre
A visit to the Whangārei Aquatic Centre is just the ticket on a rainy day as it has something for everyone (and you needn’t worry about staying dry).
Whether you want to head for a swim to keep fit, have fun with the kids or take an indulgent soak, you will find what you’re looking for at this wonderful complex.
There are seven pools in the Whangārei Aquatic Centre, including a competition pool, spa pool, hydrotherapy pool and wave pool.
There are also pool fitness classes available if you fancy something different.
12. Hike up Mt. Parihaka
Hiking up Mt. Parihaka is a must whilst visiting Whangārei.
It’s a 240m high ancient volcano that offers incredible views of the city and harbour.
You’ll find three different walking trails up Mt. Parihaka from Whangārei, plus mountain biking trails on the east side.
However, if you don’t fancy hiking or mountain biking, you can simply drive to the top.
This ancient volcano is a very important place to local Māori, as it used to be an old pā site that was home to around 2,000 people in pre-colonial times.
If you time your trip to Mt. Parihaka well, you will be able to witness one of the area’s beautiful sunsets.
13. Soak Up the Sights at the Whangārei Art Museum
Conveniently located in town, the Whangārei Art Museum displays local, national and international works within a range of impressive exhibitions.
This public art gallery is home to a permanent collection of art that includes both contemporary and heritage works.
They also host a range of touring and internally curated collections, making this little art gallery a fabulous stop on any Whangārei itinerary.
As a bonus, entry is free too.
14. Check Out Whangārei Heads
Whangārei Heads is an easy drive out of Whangārei and thanks to its incredible beauty, it’s well worth the visit.
With beautiful beaches and views we recommend taking your time and including a stop for fish and chips (and perhaps an ice cream for afternoon tea).
Whilst in the area, we recommend climbing Bream Head. This area is known for its rich archaeological landscape as a result of more than 500 years of Māori occupation.
With relaxed, seaside vibes, this whole peninsula is worth exploring.
15. Hundertwasser Art Centre
It’s quite possible we’ve saved the best for last here!
Recently opened, the Hundertwasser Art Centre allows guests to step into a word of fantasy and make-believe.
Experience art and nature in perfect harmony in a unique architectural project dedicated to artist, visionary and ecological activist, Friedensreich Hundertwasser.The Hundertwasser Art Centre
Believing in the values of uniqueness, romanticism, individuality and creativity (especially creativity in harmony with nature), this incredible building has to be seen to be believed.
During your visit, keep your eyes peeled for the forested roof and spontaneous vegetation!
As you can see, there are so many incredible things to do in Whangārei.
With awesome hikes, plenty of activities and the chance to see the native kiwi – what more could you ask for?
Have you been to Whangārei before?
If you have, we’d love to hear about your favourite experiences in the comments below!