The body of a dead man clutching a lifejacket washed ashore early this morning.

A member of the public saw a lifejacket in the water near Tamaterau on the Whangarei Harbour.

"He went to hook up the lifejacket and found the man holding on to it," Northland Police said in a statement.

Police have identified the man - described as a Maori male in his late 50s to early 60s - after his car and boat trailer were located near the corner of Waikaraka Beach Road and Whangarei Heads Road.

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Police are now searching for the man's missing boat.

The man was wearing a black cardigan with a large button on the front, three t-shirts and a pair of grey shorts. Police said one of the t-shirts had the writing: "I was nowhere near when it happened, but I was close enough."

The lifejacket was a red FD brand.

Police were searching nearby boat ramps to see where the man may have been and were also visiting Tamaterau residents to see if anyone knew the man.

Police said anyone who knew the man should call Whangarei Police on 09 430 4500.