Whangarei Heads Rd winds 35km along the northern reaches of the harbour to the Heads' entrance, passing mangroves and picturesque pohutukawa-lined bays. There are great views from the top of Mt Manaia (419m), a sheer rock outcrop above McLeod Bay, but prepare for a lung- and leg-busting 1½-hour climb.
Bream Head caps off the craggy finger of land. A five-hour one-way walking track from Urquharts Bay to Ocean Beach passes through the Bream Head Scenic Reserve and lovely Smugglers Bay and Peach Cove.
Magnificent Ocean Beach stretches for miles on the other side of the headland. There’s decent surfing to be had and lifeguards patrol the beach in summer. A detour from Parua Bay takes you to glorious Pataua, a small settlement that lies on a shallow inlet linked to a surf beach by a footbridge.