Saturday, November 22, 2008


Whangarei Harbour
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Water, water, everywhere. You’ll soon find that out if you’re traveling New Zealand by RV or auto. We found so much water, I left one chapter to water adventures in my book RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand. The Port of Whangarei is at the head of Whangarei Harbour, the Hatea River winds through town and empties into that harbour, and you’ll even find a nearby waterfall. But, you can manage to stay dry if you don’t step off the dock or get caught in a rain shower.

Located in a broad valley with hills to the east and west, Whangarei is the largest town in Northland. The Town Basin is home to many international yachts. Larger ships dock at the deep-water wharf. You’ll want to spend time around that Town Basin– I mentioned in the last post where to find free over night parking there if you have a self contained van.

Whangarei Town Basin
Yacht Harbour

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In the Town Basin you’ll find: Clapham’s Clock Museum, the largest collection of clocks, time pieces and music boxes in the Southern Hemisphere, and the Museum of Fishes– a place we wandered through several times since we always liked to hang out around the sailboats, visit the unusual shops, and have lunch in one of the cafes. On the water side, you’ll find the yacht club– not very fancy, but friendly. Hang around outside for a while, figure out who’s off one of the boats and not another tourist, strike up a conversation, and you’ll probably get invited to join a pot luck. Many of these sailors are holed up for hurricane season, waiting for a good weather window. You’ll find people from all over the world wandering that area– many serious sailors. It’s a 21 day trip from Tonga to even reach Opua in the Bay of Islands. If you see someone from a sailboat flying a foreign flag– that’s a serious sailor.

Everybody Do
Whangarei Walk
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There’s plenty to see besides sailboats around Whangarei. At AH Reed Kauri Park, you’ll find the remains of a kauri forest and a tree-top boardwalk in the 500 year old kauri trees. At Whangarei Museum and Heritage Park on Hwy 14 on the road to Dargaville, you’ll find artifacts of Maori and European history, an 1886 kauri homestead, a chapel, and the Native Bird Recovery Centre for injured birds. New Zealand attracts many migratory birds. Some, warn out from the long trip south, can’t make it home and end up permanent residents along with the local fantails and Tui birds. This is also your change to see one of those big brown kiwi birds in the Heritage Park. The Quarry, a collection of studios and workshops near the city center is open to visitors. It’s home to an intensive summer art school and welcomes artists worldwide.

If you’re a golfer, Whangarei has seven courses. Dave and I play the Whangarei Golf Club. You need to watch that overhanging tree on the 6th tee. It’s easy to tee off and end up with the ball fifty yards behind you. If you have a self-contained RV and don’t tear up their greens, ask if you can stay overnight. It’s pavement parking, but the facilities are great– nice hot showers. If you’re a golfer, many rural golf courses will let you stay over night if you ask. Occasionally, a caretaker lives nearby, but usually everybody goes home and you’ll have the course to yourself. Some courses provide RV electrical hookups. They do this as a courtesy, not to make money, so they’re not advertised. When we play golf, we ask permission to stay and have always been welcomed. The manager asks if we need the facilities open all night. The women’s facilities have fancy flowers, fancy towels and good smelling shampoo and bath products. The women’s facilities only. Dave says it’s always ‘Bring your own soap and no flowers’ on his side.

You can drive up Memorial Drive to Mount Parihaka Lookout and look down over Whangarei and the harbour. Each night the War Memorial on the summit is lit and can be seen from the town below.

Whangarei Falls, one of the most photographed waterfalls in New Zealand, is 5km out of town. We’ll be passing nearby on our next stop– Tutakaka.

Lyn Harris

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