Thursday, September 2, 2010

EXPLORE THE TUTUKAKA COAST: Walks, Locations, Wildlife-on DVD

Now you are on the Tutukaka Paradise Coast, a smorgasbord of
amazing adventures awaits you.  This itinerary could be pursued with lots of rewarding walking or, for the less mobile, a series of car accessible picnic stops.  The route outlined here could be approached in any sequence but for map purposes follows a trail from north to south.  A drive along the rollicking curves of the Kaiatea Rd with some pleasant music soon brings you to Sandy Bay, top surfing beach.  Cross a small bridge to McCauslin Rd, and wind up to a spur graced by a striking seashell spiral house where Daisy Bay invites you to explore its solitudes and enjoy splendid Poor Knights Island views-or take a serious four hour stroll up to Whananaki on the well marked D.O.C. Walkway via the secluded and lovely Calm Bay and the Bougainville Monument.

Don’t forget Woolley’s Bay as you cruise this headland coast southwards.  From its carpark you stroll along the dunes to a snug western corner: a well concealed lagoon and a rock citadel where seagulls nest in spring.  Or walk the other way at low tide, crossing tiny Staffa Bay to rock hop under the shag colonies.

On to one of the pearls of this coast: Whale Bay Reserve, where a well maintained network of tracks offer a chocolate box set of choices: unforgettable Whale Bay with pohutukawa boughs over the sand for seating: a west facing beach so striking at dusk.  Or, for the more adventurous, cross over the ridge to east-facing Cabbage Tree Bay: rock pools, caves, a Maori pa: and a profoundly spiritual ambience.  You can even follow the cliff edge track over to the north end of Matapouri Bay.  Or drive there.

Now at Matapouri: another set of delightful choices: follow the curving sea brink round to a low saddle through to Pebbly Beach and let its semi-precious stones warm your body after a swim; or carry on around Matapouri Beach to Marsden Cove where a track leads to a tunnel which rebirths you in a rocky cove with an island and leads out to the deep Mermaid Pool on the ocean headland.  As you leave Matapouri dont overlook the crystal clear estuary: at high tide an upstream snorkel from the bridge provides an experience like a coral reef excursion: very clear water and fishes swimming through mangrove tree branches. 

As you head south towards Tutukaka a road marked “Private” leads out to a public reserve with another rich medley of beaches: from the Lighthouse Reserve car park a good track leads out to the Lighthouse a superb jaunt with well made steps in steep places and, at the summit: panoramic views of the entire headland coast that induce ecstasy on a fine day.  On its north side this track offers a side path down to a very secluded beach: Rocky Bay or, south of the carpark: a tunnel track through bush down to Beck’s Bay where kauri trees stand on the cliffs and native copper butterflies flit.

Tutukaka Harbour itself offers a series of pleasantly sheltered little
beaches: a handy one at the end of the marina; then along the south side of the harbour: Church Bay with its grand old pohutukawa; Kowharewa Bay, with good car side picnic facilities; and Pacific Bay: pleasant for snorkeling; sunny at day’s end.  At night, a funky scuba dive.  Kayak hire offers you the entire harbour including Phillip Island out in the middle, with its tiny beach.  It is an old volcano plug named after the first man to map this coast.

The route leads out to Dolphin Road: a quick hike up steps to the summit Wellington’s Reserve trig station with incredible panoramic views of ocean and coastline; or down the “Beach Access” right-of-way to Dolphin Bay Beach, best at low tide when a rich array of deep tide pools can be explored.  Snorkeling here is at its finest. 

The road continues out to Whangaumu Beach [=Wellington’s Bay] with pleasant access parks at each end.  This beach is ideal when winds blow from the norwest.  At low tide you can skirt the coast to the east through an adventurous series of rocky coves backed by bush-clad cliffs.

At the west end the Ngunguru Walking Track, passable at low tide, skirts an enchanted coast to Te Maika Rd, Ngunguru through a series of intimate coves and rocky citadels.  Near the start, up on a ridge, is a seat to relax on and contemplate the view of Ngunguru Bay and the river bar.

But let us back-track: descending into the bay, on the left is a handsome sign: Tutukaka Estates that leads up to a carpark whence you have public access through the iron security gate to a mind-blowing summit picnic spot: and nearby a loop track down through spectacular wind–compressed bush.  Out in Ngunguru Bay diveboats are moored above the wreck of the frigate Waikato.  From this summit at sunset the views across Pimanu, the Ngunguru Sandspit and up the Ngunguru estuary through the twilight are a technicolour movie.

Back on the main road down into Ngunguru: a quiet moment on the walking bridge across Mill Creek Reserve in a mangrove glade where herons stalk.  At dusk, low tide, the Ngunguru estuary wading birds are easily approached as they probe and spear: oystercatchers, stilts and herons. 

By the library the easily overlooked Ngunguru Estuary Walkway skirts mangroves and a cavalcade of mighty pohutukawas to a lawn where monarch butterflies hatch and dry their wings on the grass, pukekos graze  by a raupo swamp and perching lilies bloom up in the tree branches.

Just across the road from Ngunguru Hall, Snells Point Reserve provides a wilderness experience right on the doorstep: a special place to visit at dawn or dusk, when the river bend is all yours.

Down Papaka Rd, by the former motor camp, is another sunset viewing spot, before you cruise back to your Toots coast accomodation and its canopy of brilliant stars.  Or, on a low tide day, from here you can walk the firm sand estuary shore up to the Old Cemetery at Cape Horn and explore its tumbled graveyard.  Local guides will show you the way to our own giant kauri tree, Tane Moana, 11.40 m. in circumference;  or to the bizarre and tasty Soda Spring; or several rich and complex native forest reserves.

Toots coast addicts can return and explore adjacent delights: cruise the historic Ngunguru River with Captain Percy or explore Tahere Falls Reserve [20 minutes away]: a river canyon of vertical forest; explore Abbey Caves, its limestone sculptures and glow worms; or ascend Parahaki Mountain from Dundas Rd, right in the city [30 mins]; or spiral around mighty Mt Manaia’s forested flanks to it spectacular craggy summit [60 mins over exciting Mt Tiger Rd].  Then Whangarei Heads at Ocean Beach offers a challenge: as wild as an offshore island and very similar in vegetation.  Surfers and divers love Kauri Mountain at the north end of Ocean Beach.  Kayakers explore Taiharuru estuary, Pataua and Horahora rivers.

Just ninety minutes to the west coast, an easy day trip, you reach the warm, gin clear waters of Kai Iwi Lakes; the stark, raw beauty of Manganui Bluffs and the richest forests on Earth: multiple tracks through Waipoua Forest kauri glades to meet the largest tree in the world: Tane Mahuta and father of forest: Te Ngahere or meditate in the forest cathedral by the vast Yakas kauri.
 Tutukaka Coast provides you with a hub to explore the north.  You can easily be at Cape Reinga by lunchtime.

 Besides  presenting  the best walks and locations on the Tutkaka Coast our disc  surveys the rain forests and mangroves; the birds and the coastal fishes.
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