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Matapouri / Whale Bay

Image for the Matapouri Whale Bay page.
This page contains information about a beautiful beach which is a destination for the lover of our rugged east coast at its best. Sun, sea, sand and pohutakawa trees; a popular place for families in summer.
Updated: 18/12/2018 11:29 a.m.

Whale and Matapouri Bays are recognised by the Lonely Planet guide as being among the best beaches in New Zealand. 

The white sand defines the edge of the lush green native bush with mature stands of puriri, pohutukawa and kowhai. This contrasts with the clear blue water of these beautifully calm bays. 

Whale Bay was an ideal location for Māori to launch their early whaling missions and gives it the name popularly used today.

There are stunning views of the coast on the walkways between Whananaki and Matapouri and magnificent examples of native trees. 

Circular walks are possible which include everything that is special about the Northland east coast.

Times given are for walking the tracks one way only.

Matapouri Headland Track

Grade:          3
Time:           40 minutes
Distance:      1.1 km

Starting at the Whale Bay car park, the track heads towards Whale Bay. After about 300 metres, the Headland Track branches off to the right. This track has been upgraded and is surfaced for all weather use. 

It follows the paddock fence for some distance (there is a short detour to a lookout along the way) before turning left down a ridge towards the coast and Department of Conservation (DoC) reserve.

At Pebbly Beach go over the crest to Matapouri beach.  The Hole in the Rock is to the left and Matapouri village to the right although beach access is limited at high tide. 

A circular walk can be completed back to the car park via the Morrison Reserve Track or Ridge Track.

Whale Bay Track

Grade:           3
Time:            20 minutes 
Distance:       530 metres

Starting at the Whale Bay car park, a stone surfaced track of about 530 metres leads through the bush and down to the bay.

There are a number of fairly steep steps going down to the beach.

The walkway extends a further 50 metres to join the beach at another point, where there are also toilet facilities.  

Morrison Reserve Track

Grade:            2
Time:             20 minutes
Distance:        525 metres

Starting at the Whale Bay car park, the track heads towards Whale Bay. The Morrison Reserve Track starts 75 metres on the right.

There is a flight of steps before the track levels out and follows the edge of the bush reserve and new residential development.

The Ridge Track joins from the left near the bottom. The track continues around the edge of the residential area to the end of Ringer Avenue.

Ridge Track

Grade:            2
Time:             15 minutes 
Distance:        270 metres

Starting at the Whale Bay car park, the Ridge Track branches off the Matapouri Headland Track, roughly 160 metres along on the right. It follows a paddock fence down the hill and some steps to eventually join the Morrison Reserve Track.  

Follow the link below to download a printable map of the tracks.  

Whale Bay and Matapouri Headland Track map [165kb] 

What to expect

  • great beaches, bush, coast views and walking!
  • steep drops occur in places near the tracks.

These tracks are very well used, particularly during the main holiday season. 

Although the carpark is patrolled during the summer months by our Summer Safe community volunteers, please remember to lock your car and secure any valuables inside it and out of sight. 

How to get to Matapouri

The Whale Bay and Matapouri Headland walkways start at the northern end of Matapouri, on the Tutukaka coast. 

Take the route north from Whangarei through Tikipunga, Glenbervie, Ngunguru, Tutukaka and onto Matapouri, a distance of 35km. 

Matapouri can also be reached from State Highway 1 by turning off through Hikurangi and following the scenic route along the Whananaki South Road and turning right at the junction with the Matapouri Road.

The road then passes through through Sandy and Woolleys Bay to Matapouri, a distance of 25km. These roads are slow with many bends.

The walkways can also be accessed from Morrison Road in Matapouri Village or via the Department of Conservation (DoC) Otito Scenic Reserve and Matapouri beach. 

Public car parks are at the top of the hill where the tracks begin and at Matapouri beach.

Location:  Matapouri, Tutukaka Coast.


​Track grades

  1  A well made path with
     easy access for most
     people including
  2  A short walk generally
     on well made paths but
     may include steeper
  3  A longer walking track
     usually well made
     including steps and
     more suitable for
     people with
     reasonable fitness.  


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