The wind was still keen in the morning on Thursday (27 August). But the sun was shining mostly. We’d set this day aside for exploring the area down towards the heads. The Whangarei Visitor Guide includes a wonderful lot of information on the area and we were keen to see more. As visitor guides go, the Whangarei one deserves an award for good interesting helpful information. It certainly provides plenty of help in keeping visitors occupied and staying longer. Parua Bay just around the corner was a good place to start – it was sheltered from the westerly. We drove on over to Pataua, a nice settlement by the sea out on the coast. The settlement is on both sides of an estuary with a footbridge between – an interesting arrangement.
Back over on the harbour side we headed through McLeod Bay to the Norfolk Avenue Lookout. It is a curious lookout in that much of the view is blocked by houses and trees. This is just across the harbour from Marsden Point and the oil refinery.
We headed on down to Urquharts Bay, the last one which is almost outside the harbour. The westerly wind combined with the high tide was washing up onto the road. At the far end was the start of the Bream Head walking tracks. The tracks go along the range for 5 hours or so to Bream Head but we figured 20 minutes to Smugglers Cove was more like what we wanted. There were maps on boards at the start showing the network of tracks, DOC is in charge here. Almost immediately a track branched off – without any explanation or sign. It seemed the Department of Confusion was back on the job. We could see tracks in several directions across the paddocks and worked out that we were on the wrong one. Passing a large group of cattle sitting down munching lunch we made our way across country to get back to the track we thought was probably the one we wanted.
It wasn’t far over the ridge and down to Smugglers Cove. Apparently this was where they used to land the whiskey back in the good old days to avoid the duty and tax. It was open to the sea but mostly sheltered from the westerly. It looked like a perfect sort of a cove for smugglers. The clarity of the water was amazing. We could see a track looping back around the headland and decided on doing a bit of a round trip. Not far along we met a local woman who explained that the track had been upgraded only 8 months ago. They have done a great job and if they get the signs done it’ll be an excellent walk of about 1 ½ hours. It took us a couple of hours because we stopped so much to take in the views. It took us ot a headland, Busby Head, and then back into the harbour via a WW2 gun emplacement. Apparently the gun was linked to a radar site back on the ocean side. I hadn’t realised we had radar going in NZ at that stage.
We got back to the car just before a shower of rain and well after lunch time. We drove on over to Ocean Beach which is indeed on the ocean side. Signs advised us that the road ahead had no beach access and directed us to the car park and beach access. It must be a popular spot in summer, there is even an overflow car park! We took our lunch off down the track to the beach. It was quite a way – they were anxious that we didn’t stray into the dunes and erode them. We found a nice big seat with a view of some of the beach and broke out the sandwiches and thermos for a cup of tea. We could see surfers but most of their activity was hidden behind a big sand hill; it looked like their conservation efforts were being a little too successful. Finally we drove over to “No beach access” side for a better view of the surfing. Clearly this was where most people accessed the beach.
We’d thought about other walks on the way back but we were happy with our outing and decided to head back to Manganese Point. Our neighbours had moved out so it looked like we’d have the place to ourselves. No sooner were we back than the wind got strong again and a shower of rain passed through – probably horizontally. It was a gusty sort of evening but everything seemed OK.