Whangarei, the provincial capital of Northland, is often bypassed by travellers on their way north to the Bay of Islands, but there are some interesting attractions around this region.
The major thing that draws most people to Whangarei is its proximity to Poor Knights Islands, considered by many to be New Zealand’s premier diving spot.
The easily accessible and much-photographed Whangarei Falls are just 5km from the town centre. They’re not the highest or biggest in the world, but they are picturesque and there are a couple of nice walks you can take around them. About seven minutes from the town centre are the Abbey Caves, home to glow worms and 30 million year-old limestone formations.
On the coastline in the Whangarei region are more than a hundred beaches and bays with good weather year-round and plenty of opportunities for swimming, fishing, and kayaking.
Whangarei’s town centre is generic and charmless (and eerily desolate at night); but there’s a cute quayside area called the Town Basin, with colonial-style restaurants, arts and crafts shops, cafés and a museum with one of the largest collections of clocks in the southern hemisphere, Claphams Clocks.
There are a few very good hostels in and around town, and many Whangarei folk feel their hometown is underrated. A plan to construct a $9.5 million Hundertwasser art centre devoted to the Austrian artist’s work has locals hoping that Whangarei will become more of a destination in its own right.