With a population of 56,400, Whangarei is the Northland’s largest city. The lack of population certainly does not mean there is a lack of things to do in this natural wonderland. Tyler and I spent one full day in the city and found more than enough to keep ourselves interested and entertained.
Whangarei Falls is undoubtedly the town’s treasure. It was easy to find and fairly full of tourists, even in the middle of winter. The 26-m high waterfalls were worth a view and the nicely paved walk down to them was easy and refreshing.
There is even a long track that is perfect for a lengthy stroll or a nice morning run.
It’s also worth noting that Whangarei Falls now has a grassy terrace area where fifty-one freshly planted trees reside. Each tree was planted to represent a victim who was lost in the Christchurch Mosque shootings in March of 2019. This memorial shows the grief shared by the citizens of Whangarei. The students of Child Flight Charitable Trust completed the planting on June 29, 2019 — just eighteen days before we visited the site.
After the falls we headed back up the road to the Whangerei Quarry Gardens. It was very easy to throw away the whole morning just meandering through this volunteer-based garden.
Established in 1997, the Quarry Gardens is a magnificent example of what volunteer efforts can do to change wasteland into a beautiful atmosphere for all to enjoy. The area was previously a rock quarry, which plays into the garden with strange historic artifacts located throughout the flora. We loved looking at the old quarry equipment as well as the huge plethora of flowers and shrubs.
Through 24 hectares of plants, flowers and shrubs, Tyler and I strolled the morning away. There were hundreds of different and unique species, all intriguing in their own way.
You’d never guess that the whole thing was based on volunteer work. Everything was very professionally done and as an avid lover of gardens, I’d say this one nears the top of my list.
I was surprised to find that Abbey Caves were not well marked as they are an undeveloped spread of three natural caves just outside of Whangerei city center. We actually drove past it at first because we didn’t believe we had arrived. Our GPS didn’t believe it either!
The caves are a wonderful place to spend an entire afternoon (2.5-3 hrs.) if you have the time. We spent 1 hour on one cave and had a blast.
The Organ Cave is not known as the easiest of the three caves, but Tyler and I were up for an adventure per usual and we wanted to see the “Bengal Tiger-like marks” that we had read about inside the cave’s walls.
What we found was Bengal Tiger marks and much, much more.
When turning out our head torches we looked up and saw tons of glowworms, a New Zealand special, and even saw two eels in the water below us! The cave formations were fun to crawl around in and wonderful to look at.
Downtown Whangerei looked adorable. We made a few loops to look at the shops from the van window, but we were out of time to stroll around. Looking back, we could have easily spent two full days exploring the natural beauty of Whangerei, as well as the cute downtown shops.
That evening we drove 30 minutes back south and camped at our favorite camping spot yet, Riotahi.