Mangawhai village sits at the base of a horseshoe harbour, but it’s Mangawhai Heads, 5km further on, that's really special. Various Māori tribes inhabited the area before the 1660s, when Ngāti Whatua became dominant. In 1807 Ngāti Whatua defeated Ngāpuhi from the north in a major battle, letting the survivors escape.
Tutukaka Coast & the Poor Knights Islands
At the Poor Knights Islands, stunning underwater scenery combines with two decommissioned navy ships that have been sunk for divers to explore. Following the road northeast of Whangarei for 26km, you’ll first come to the sweet village of Ngunguru near the mouth of a broad river. Tutukaka is 1km further on, its marina bustling with yachts, dive crews and game-fishing boats.
Waipu & Bream Bay
The original 934 British settlers came to Waipu from Scotland via Nova Scotia (Canada) between 1853 and 1860. These dour Scots had the good sense to eschew frigid Otago, where so many of their kindred settled, for sunnier northern climes. Their story comes to life through holograms, a short film and interactive displays at the Waipu Museum.
Coastal Route to Russell
The quickest route to Russell takes SH1 to Opua and then crosses by ferry. The old Russell Rd is a snaking scenic and coastal route that adds about half an hour to the trip. The turn-off is easy to miss, located 6km north of Hikurangi at Whakapara (look for the sign to Oakura).