The Kowhai Coast
Warkworth is a pretty little town which lies off the highway. In days gone by it was connected to Auckland by steamship. Today it is a popular spot for holiday makers. Parry Kauri Park is a short distance out of town. Here you can take short forest walks and see huge and ancient kauri such as the 800 year old McKinney kauri. The little Warkworth Museum also lies within the park. Heading north for 4km you'll get the chance to find out everything you never wanted to know about sheep at Sheepworld. Continue for another 6km and you'll get to the Dome State Forest. Unfortunately, the area was logged about a century ago and is now in a state of regeneration. To get to the summit (336m) and some great views will take an hour return trip from the car park. Waiwhiu Kauri grove lies beyond the summit and provides a contrasting view of 20 unlogged mature kauri trees (3 hours).
The Kowhai Coast is a triangular coastal region extending from Warkworth to Sandspit through to Pakiri Beach. At its heart lies the Matakana Valley which is becoming more and more famous for its wine and gourmet food production. At Sandspit you can take a ferry for Kawau Island or take a dip at Algies Bay or Martins Bay.
Kawau Island offers history, walking, swimming and fishing. The main historic attraction is the Mansion House. This impressive structure dates to 1846 when it was built by Sir George Grey, a governor. It was later turned into a hotel. Today the Mansion House is a museum. From here you can walk to an old copper mine or the beach in the company of the plentiful wallabies which were introduced from Oz.
Just off the road to Leigh are the white sands and surf of Omaha beach. Leigh lies 21km northeast of Warkworth. It is a pretty little fishing village and you can charter boats to the Little Barrier and Kawau Islands. Goat Island has been a marine reserve since 1975. Its a great place to go for scuba-diving, snorkeling and swimming. In its crystal clear waters you'll get to see plenty of fish, including the blue maomao, snapper and cod. Watch them jump or feed them by hand.
If your car can withstand a little beating take it to Pakiri Beach. A rough, gravel road will lead you to the long white sand beach with its rolling dunes and good surf. The beach is lined by pine forest and is a popular and picturesque spot for horse-riding. Its a good idea to get onto the scenic route from Mangawhai Heads. The trip from the Heads to Bream Bay is a breathtaking 3/4hr drive. You'll see a range of views from great golden sand dunes and river estuaries to sweeping views to the Hen and Chicken Islands (marine and bird sanctuaries). Water babies will find the clear water irresistible at bream Bay and Langs Beach.