Just over a year ago we went for a little drive – from our home in Whangarei we travelled south for around an hour, along the coast, and landed in Mangawhai. Within minutes of arriving we decided we absolutely had to stay. For good. House hunting commenced and a few long, impatient months later, we made Mangawhai our home.
Moving during the dead of Winter hardly seems like a good idea, but once the perfect house came up we knew we had to act quickly – so despite having to pack and unpack between down pours and sun showers, we spent our first night in our new home in early July 2016.
As quickly as we had fallen in love with the place, we fell even more in love with the charm of the caring community, and quiet calm that descends over the village in winter. We had neighbours introducing themselves and inviting us for wine within days, offers of WiFi while ours was being connected, and people walking past our deck would smile and wave!
Adventure is Calling:
There is so much to do and see in Mangawhai but we already had our sights set on our first adventure: The Mangawhai Cliffs Walk.
Starting at the famous Surf Beach, the track is clearly marked about 15mins walk down the beach. Winding up the cliff front pretty quickly – the stairs make a great workout – the rest of the walk is easy, even for very small adventurers. The view from the top is simply breathtaking – on a clear day you can see all the way back to Whangarei Heads, out to the Hen & Chicks and all the way south to Hauraki Gulf. We followed the cliffs all the way to the other end and returned via the beach. We were lucky with the timing of the tides that day, but it always pays to check the tides before you head out – the return track via the beach is tide dependent, although you can always just wander back the same way you came.
Around The Town:
There are a good variety of quality cafes, restaurants, and all the basics are covered – a pharmacy, book store, petrol stations, bottle store, award winning butcher, Four Square supermarkets (2), bait shop, gym, and a good number of businesses located at The Hub. There are also really great Saturday morning markets down at the village – we manage to pick up most of our fruit, veggies, fresh bread each weekend, and a few other local treats like organic nut milks, olive oil, and handmade soaps.
Another reason we decided to settle in Mangawhai is it is rural and coastal, while still being a really central commute to either Auckland or Whangarei, and lots of amazing places in between. The more time we spent here, the more we found to do.
In the Area:
About a 40min drive away is Piroa Falls. A very short walk through lush native NZ bush will have you at the foot of the picturesque falls, and the little stream makes for hours of fun for kids. The walk is only about 10mins but the river height will rise incredibly fast when it rains so please keep an eye out on the weather – tourists were recently caught off guard and were left stranded across the stream until the flood waters subsided hours later.
If you want a great family day out Sheep World is a 40min drive south of Mangawhai and is surprisingly fun! After driving past a hundred times and never giving it a second glance, we made the trip one day and absolutely loved it – the sheep show was really informative, funny, and interactive, and the host is typical kiwi humour wrapped in moccasins and dripping with good old kiwi can do. We spent a few hours and enjoyed it so much we even wrote about it on our Facebook blog. There’s a huge range of friendly animals, lots of little tracks through the small forest, and the pink sheep were the cherry on top for Little Miss Three.
Don’t feel like driving anywhere?
Here’s the best part: you don’t have to. The best beaches are within walking distance of the town centre, or a nice easy bike ride from either end of town. And the local beaches are absolutely beautiful. Golden sands – with sparkling black sands nearer the northern end of the beach, crystal clear blue water (even in winter), rocks to climb and explore, sand dunes to surf, and lots of cool little pools at low tide for tiny adventurers to paddle in.
The beaches alone make Mangawhai magnificent – but it’s the people, the community, and the small town vibe that make it magical.