A tiki tour is the name given for a drive with a general idea of where you’re headed but with flexibility about changing where you go and how you get there. Phil and I are early risers; by 7 am we were on our way south to Warkworth, just north of Auckland, to pick up a piece of equipment purchased last week. By 9 am our pick up was accomplished and we headed east from Warkworth with plenty of time to explore the coastline.
Matakana was our first stop. Originally a sleepy farming community, over the last ten years it has transformed into a trendy holiday escape for Aucklanders who appreciate art, music, fine wines and great food. We were a day too late to enjoy the renowned Saturday market, but enjoyed a quiet wander through town before discovering a short bush walk along the river that ended at a restaurant and patisserie. We indulged in a couple of pastries and a loaf of Turkish bread to share later in the day and resumed our trip east.
Water from this fountain comes from the local stream that meanders through the village. It’s a clever way of keeping people aware of the health of the waterways throughout the year.
After a brief stop to admire the Leigh wharf we continued to the Goat Island Marine Reserve. It’s a beautiful spot with clear waters, tidal pools, fascinating rock sculptures and extensive views north and east. There were three separate groups of students preparing to scuba dive when we arrived. Auckland University has a marine studies centre that provides an excellent research facility to monitor the ecological impact the reserve is having in the region. Goat Island Marine Reserve
From the edge of the rocks we could see snapper, sting rays and parore but the glare made it impossible to capture them in clear photos. Little Barrier Island was visible to the east and the view north encompassed the Poor Knights and Hen and Chickens Islands plus the sweep of land out to Whangarei Heads.
We left with definite plans to return over summer with snorkels to further explore this magical spot.
(left) Phil’s degree in geology came in handy to explain the weathered conglomerate rocks sculpted into magnificent shapes.
(right) We could hear the native tui’s excited song 100 metres before we discovered the source!
Our final stop was Pakiri Beach, 20 minutes north of Goat Island. The white silica sands stretched to distant points north and south creating an idyllic beach. We quickly discovered the tide line was covered in a treasure trove of every sort of shell. I was particularly excited to find two intact sand dollars as I’ve never seen them at any other beaches in New Zealand. A playful dalmatian with energy to spare adopted us for the duration of our stay. His owners were no where to be found but were likely the local holiday park owners.
In addition to tent sites the holiday park offers a range of beautiful cabins to rent that overlook the beach. We added them to the growing list of things to do over the summer.
While we didn’t stop at any further beaches, we drove through Mangawhai, Waipu Cove and Waipu Beach as potential future holiday stays. We are so spoiled in Northland that it’s easy to limit ourselves to a handful of stunning local beaches. Our Sunday drives are reminders to sometimes take a detour, stop along the way, and to embrace the journey as well as the destination.