A cruisy 90 minute drive north of Auckland’s CBD, or an hour south of Whangarei, is where you’ll find Mangawhai, a gem of a beach town known for its sand, surf, food and wine.
It’s also here that you can take one of the most stunning coastal walks our country, let alone Northland, has to offer. The Mangawhai Cliff Walk is a five kilometre three-hour return track boasting breathtaking panoramic views over the Mangawhai Heads all the way to Bream Head, Pakiri, Little and Great Barrier Islands and the Coromandel Peninsula.
Now a part of the national Te Araroa walkway system, this track is suitable for most fitness types and begins at the Mangawhai Surf Club with a half hour’s (give or take 15 minutes) beach stroll, offering majestic sands dunes to your left and rolling waves to your right. You’ll then see a sign post that directs you towards your main ascent, an achievable 20 minutes uphill. If you haven’t lost your breath when you reach the top, the view from this first lookout will take it away.
From here, the track becomes easier and is mainly flat as you head around the captivating open cliff face – a part of the track where you’re bound to stop again to admire the views, but be aware that extra care is needed. If you’re doing the track in the warmer months you’ll appreciate the cooler patches that wind through shaded bush before you meander through some private property (stick to the marked path) as you continue towards the beach.
It is important to note that if you’re aiming to complete this loop track via the beach you’ll need to check the tide times before you start. The perils of misjudging the tide will become evident when you reach the massive rock resembling an archway – if there is water surging through it you’ll have to return to the surf club via the cliff. If you time it well and it’s clear, then the final stage of the walk features 20 minutes of fun boulder hopping (again, caution needed) before depositing you back onto the beach once more.
The Mangawhai Cliff Walk is just one of dozens of walks in the area, which is fast becoming the walking capital of New Zealand. Its popularity is likely due to the fact it’s one of many local walks open all year round, is easy to access, not far for Aucklanders to travel andis comfortable to complete in standard trainers or tramping shoes if preferred.
There are plenty of highlights along the way, but really, the entire walk is a highlight, especially on a clear and sunny day when the wind is light. It’s another perfect reminder of how lucky we are to have the most stunning backyard. Take plenty of water and a camera in order to preserve the views forever.