Head north and discover delightful day walks, writes Petrina Darrah
At first glance, Northland might not seem like a hiking hotspot.
The region doesn't have vast tracts of wilderness. There are no major mountain ranges or pointy volcanic peaks. Northland can't lay claim to any Great Walks.
Don't let that put you off, though.
What Northland does have is subtropical forests and coastal cliffs, wide-open beaches and few crowds. The deep cultural history of New Zealand's northernmost region, combined with epic coastal scenery, make it a delightful - and sometimes surprising - walking destination.
Here are five lesser-known day walks that will allow you to explore Northland's scenic wonders on foot.
1. Duke's Nose (Kaiaraara Rocks) Track, Whangaroa Harbour
Climbing Duke's Nose will give you close to a bird's-eye view of Whangaroa Harbour, a peaceful inlet on the east coast of Northland, north of Kerikeri.
To reach the viewpoint, start walking on the Wairakau Stream Track. This trail passes through regenerating forest to reach Lane Cove Hut, which sits hidden among mangroves right on the edge of the water.
Behind the hut is the track up to Duke's Nose. The final section is less of a walk and more of a rock climb. The path gives way to sheer boulder faces with metal grab rails running down them for support. It's a scramble to reach the top and not ideal for anyone suffering from vertigo, but once you haul yourself on to the top of the mighty rock, you'll be so blown away by the view you'll forget all about your tired limbs.
From the plateau, you'll have an unobstructed view of turquoise waters and rocky outcrops that are more reminiscent of Southeast Asia than Northland.
The walk takes about four hours return, depending on how long you spend at the top of the rocks.
2. Waimamaku Coastal Track, Hokianga
The Waimamaku Coastal Track covers a rugged stretch of coast from the Hokianga Harbour down to the Waimamaku River, following a historic route travellers used to take before roads were built inland.
Starting from the Arai Te Uru Recreation Reserve near Ōmāpere, the track climbs up and down high bluffs, dipping in and out of beaches and trailing around cliff tops. The views of this remote corner of Northland are extraordinary.
As a 10km, one-way trek, you will either need to turn around midway or arrange to be picked up at the other end.
3. Trounson Kauri Park, Kauri Coast
Most people visiting the Kauri Coast make a beeline for Tāne Mahuta. This titan of a tree is a must-see in Northland, but the walk to get there is a mere 10 minutes. If you're craving a little more adventure, head to Trounson Kauri Park.
The loop path in this off-the-beaten-track reserve leads you through a spectacular stand of ancient kauri. Walking among the giant trunks might be as close as you can get to picturing what Northland's kauri forests were like, before logging nearly eradicated these incredible trees.
This easy walk takes around 40 minutes and is perfect for younger or older family members. Try the walk at night for the chance to spot kiwi in the wild.
4. Te Whara Track, Whangārei
Te Whara is one of the more challenging walks near Whangārei. At seven hours, it is a full day hike featuring steep climbs. The payoff is some of the best views and coastal forest in Northland.
The track runs one way from Ocean Beach to Urquharts Bay, so you'll need to leave a car at the Urquharts Bay car park before you start the walk.
You'll start climbing almost immediately and, after ascending through pine forest, open grassland and finally lush native bush, you'll reach the rocky pinnacle of the Bream Head Summit.
This 360-degree viewpoint is one of the highest points along the coast of Northland; on a clear day, you can see as far north as Cape Brett, and as far south as Tāwharanui.
From here you'll continue walking along the knife-edge of the ridge, with sweeping views both left and right, before descending steep stairs at the other end of the track.
5. Urupukapuka Island Walk, Bay of Islands
The largest island in the Bay of Islands, Urupukapuka makes for a great day outing, easily accessed by Explore ferry from either Russell or Paihia.
The Urupukapuka Island Walk offers stunning views of the Bay. The trail traces the outer edge of the island, passing across cliff tops and skirting quiet bays. Walking the full island circuit takes around five hours.
See if you can spot some of the archaeological sites along the way; there are remains of at least eight pā on the island.
This is also a great place for bird spotting. A pest-free reserve, Urupukapuka is home to North Island robins, saddlebacks and whitehead, as well as brown teal and dotterels.
If one day on the island isn't enough, pitch a tent at one of the three DoC campsites on the island.
For more information on walking in Northland, go to doc.govt.nz