Northland is renowned for the untamed nature and beautiful scenery that it offers its visitors. You don’t have to go far from the main centres to find walks and hikes that showcase the diverse landscape that make up the top of New Zealand’s North Island.

Below are my favourite 10 walks and hikes to do in Northland, some of them are flat and short and suitable for families, while others require a bit more fitness and skill and passion for hiking.

1: Mount Manaia

Distance: 8km Return
Time: 3 Hours

The Mount Manaia Track is a summit hike, climbing to the top of Mount Manaia, which overlooks the Whangarei Harbour.

The walk starts from a designated car park near the end of Whangarei Heads Road in Whangarei Heads. The track leads you through native bush as the incline takes you up to the Mt Manaia summit at 420 metres above sea level, the view getting increasingly spectacular as you climb.

The track steepens as it climbs, until the final ascent up the steps to the rocky lookout. There are no barriers around the lookout so be careful if taking pictures on the edge, especially on windy days. The lookout offers sweeping views over the Harbour, port and on a clear day, out further to the surrounding areas.

Be careful when heading back down the track, as it can be slippery at times, especially after it has been raining.

2: Peninsula Loop Walk – Mimiwhangata Peninsula

Distance: 4.5km Loop
Time: 2 Hours

The Peninsula Loop Walk around the Mimiwhangata Peninsula offers a little bit of everything, keeping the whole family entertained on the gentle walk around the park.

To get to Mimiwhangata Coastal Park, turn onto Webb Road from Russell Road, after a while turn left onto Mimiwhangata Road and the park is at the end of this road.

The track starts from the carpark and sidles around the peninsula, offering a little bit of everything that the park has to offer. Wander past duck ponds, along the beach and up and over hills.

After finishing, continue your journey on one of the other beautiful walks in the coastal park, enjoy a pleasant swim in the bay or grab a picnic table for lunch.

3: Cape Brett

Distance: 16.5km One Way
Time: 8 hours

For those wanting a more serious overnight hike, then Cape Brett isn’t only one of the most beautiful in Northland, it’s one of the most beautiful in the whole of New Zealand. Cape Brett is an overnight hike, offering spectacular coastal views, mature native forest and summit views.

The track starts from the roadside along Rawhiti Road, opposite Hauai Bay. You should see a track leading up a long flight of stairs.

The first half of the track climbs and declines along the ridgeline, with breaks in the trees giving spectacular views over the coastline. There is a small hut past the halfway point that is the perfect spot for lunch and a rest.

From here, the track gets steeper. You’ll soon reach a side track leading down to Deep Water Cove, which is a nice place for a quick swim before the final few hours to the hut.

From this turnoff, the track becomes more difficult, it climbs and declines steadily, coming out of the canopy of the native forest. You’ll walk along cliff faces with steep drop-offs to the ocean below, before coming to the lighthouse. From here, it is a gradual descent down to Cape Brett Hut.

Although a tough 8 hours, the views are breath-taking and the sunsets and sunrises are well worth getting your camera out for. If you don’t feel like hiking all the way back, you can catch a water taxi from Deep Water Cove back to Paihia.

4: Smugglers Bay

Distance: 3km Return
Time: 1 Hour, 30 Mins

The Smugglers Bay Loop Track takes you past a gun emplacement, coastlines and the beach before a short walk back over the farmland.

The track starts at the Urquharts Bay Carpark at the end of Urguhart Bay Road in Whangarei Heads and starts off through gentle farmland around the coast to the WWII gun emplacement at the entrance to the Whangarei Harbour.

From here the track continues through bush and around the coast to the turnoff to the one-way track to Busby Head, which is well worth the extra 10 minutes. 

Once back on the main track, continue around until reaching the beautiful Smugglers Cove. Stop here for lunch and a quick swim before heading back over the hill to the carpark.

5: AH Reed Memorial Park

Distance: Various

Time: Various

If you’re looking for a gentle wander through some ancient kauris, some over 500 years old, then the AH Reed Memorial Kauri Park is the place for you.

There are multiple carparks and walks through the AH Reed Memorial Kauri Park. Two carparks are on Whareora Road, and the other on Clapham Road. There is a flat 15 minute walk over the stream and through the tree canopy, starting from the middle carpark. This walk is suitable for wheelchairs, little children and the less able.

There is also a longer 30 minute loop, taking in more scenery, or a 60 minute loop which starts and ends at the carpark on Clapham Road and takes you past the 23 metre high Paranui Falls.

Hike 6: Waitangi to Haruru Falls

Distance: 6km One Way
Time: 2 Hours

The Waitangi to Haruru Falls track is a gentle track along the edge of the Waitangi River to one of the regions most beautiful waterfalls; Haruru Falls.

Starting across the road from the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, this walk starts off around the Waitangi Golf Course before heading into the native bush. Enjoy the scenery of the boardwalk through the mangrove forest as the track skirts along the Waitangi River to Haruru Falls.

Haruru means ‘roar’ or ‘rumble’ in Maori, and standing on the edge of its rocks, it is easy to see why. Even in summer, the waterfall cascades over the edge, stretching across from bank to bank, and after a bit of rain, the waterfall is deafening.

Watch as kayakers kayak up to the bottom of the waterfall or wave to the holiday makers at the holiday park on the edge of the river.

Because the road from here back through to Waitangi doesn’t have a footpath, it is best to return the way you came or to arrange transport from the Haruru Falls Carpark.

7: Tutukaka Head Track

Distance: 4km Return
Time: 1 hour

The Tutukaka Headland Track takes you across to the lighthouse on Kukutauwhao Island, which only becomes an island at high tide.

The track starts from a carpark at the end of a private landowners lane signposted off Matapouri Road and starts off across grassy land through patches of Pohutukawa trees before reaching a number of stairs leading down onto the beach. The beach is accessible at all tides, however, access to Kukutauwhao is only at low tide.

Follow the signs to the track leading up Kukutauwhao Island. Head through the native bush before emerging by the lighthouse with panoramic views out to Cape Brett, Bream Head and the Poor Knights Islands. On the way back take the time to rest on one of the many seats and enjoy the view.

8: Matai Bay Headland

Distance: 7km Return
Time: 3 hours

The Matai Bay Headland Track is a slightly difficult but beautiful hike out to the headland overlooking Matai Bay.

This track starts from the Matai Bay Campsite at the end of Matai Bay Road in the Karikari peninsula. Follow the fence line past the beach and through farmland and native bush to the headland where you’ll have beautiful views over Matai Bay and the ocean.

Return the way you came and enjoy a refreshing swim in the clear waters of Matai Bay.

9: Whale Bay

Distance: 1km Return
Time: 30 Minutes

The Whale Bay Walkway is a short walk down to Whale Bay, one of the most beautiful and secluded beaches in Northland.

From the Whale Bay carpark on Matapouri Road, follow the gravel path down through the native bush to the steep steps leading down to Whale Bay. Breaks in the trees on the way provide lookouts out to the coast.

Hike 10: Whangarei Basin Loop (Hatea Loop)

Distance: 4.2km Loop
Time: 1 Hour

The Hatea Loop is a loop track around the Whangarei Basin, showcasing the best of Whangarei’s culture, history and scenery.

The Hatea Loop can be done clockwise or anticlockwise and accessed from many different points as it loops around the Hatea River, the most common starting place is the Whangarei Basin, near the Canopy Bridge.

Enjoy strolling along the water’s edge and marvelling at the many different sculptures lining the path, like the famous Waka and Wave, a stone sculpture of a waka breaking through a wave, that marks the entrance to the Whangarei Basin.

Heritage Panels line the path, with interesting history on area, such as how Whangarei got its name and the tribes of Whangarei.

The 4.2km loop is fully accessible with lots of seating scattered along the path. Top the day off with a coffee or ice cream from one of the shops in the town basin.