When three friends booked a girls' trip away at a Far North beach they didn't suspect a whale rescue would be part of the programme.

Ruth Lawton, of Paihia, was on a three-day holiday with Jane Sanderson, also from Paihia, and a friend from the UK at a beachfront resort in Taipa when a passer-by told them a "dolphin" was stranded on the beach nearby around 7.30am yesterday.

When the trio went to investigate, however, they found a whale measuring about 4m long.

Two other women staying at the resort were already trying to coax it back out to sea but waves kept pushing it back in. Based on its colour and size Ms Lawton believed it was a Bryde's whale.

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All five women got into the water and managed to keep the whale upright and turn it so it was facing out to sea. It took a few more attempts to get it out of the shallows.

"Then a wave came and we gave it a final push, and it was off ... It was an amazing experience."

Both she and Ms Sanderson felt teary afterwards. While pushing the whale off they noticed it had a striking koru-like pattern on its side.

Community ranger Doug Te Wake, of Kaitaia, said Department of Conservation staff arrived by boat, accompanied by Ngati Kahu representatives, around 8am - just in time to wave goodbye to the departing whale.

It was last seen heading around the point towards Aurere.

"They [the five women] did an awesome job," he said.

DoC staff were unable to get close enough to confirm the species.