Surfing the sand dunes is also a must. The Hokianga Express water taxi provides free boogie boards. Photo / Northland Inc
For Mark and Kathy Fray, owners of Onepu Moana Retreat in Opononi, visiting Hokianga is all about making memories and bringing the good vibes home.
Hokianga is an incredibly special place, for Kiwis in particular, as it is Aotearoa’s birthplace. We describe it as a “haven of peace where paradise, history and holidays are one.”
Just over an hour from Paihia and Kerikeri, a little north of the Kauri coast, lies the beautiful west coast of New Zealand’s North Island with the iconic sand dunes of Hokianga and a port which winds 30 km in the far north.
Although Opononi rose to nationwide fame in the summer of 1955-56 for Opo the friendly dolphin, to the locals it is just a small piece of a thousand years of fascinating history. Other things (arguably more remarkable) that put us on the map include “MANEA – Footprints of Kupe”, a new multi-million dollar attraction at Opononi; Rawene Village, which is New Zealand’s second oldest European settlement after Russell (I recommend walking around the interesting old buildings and listening to the museum curator tell the story of Clendon House) and Mangungu Mission House in the upper Hokianga, where the greatest signing of the treaty took place.
Start the day with egg bene and a white dish at the BoatShed Cafe on the Water in Rawene. From there, you can take the ferry from South Hokianga to North Hokianga to visit the art galleries of Kohukohu Village, once New Zealand’s most active timber export town.
Surfing the sand dunes is also a must. The Hokianga Express water taxi provides free boogie boards and high tide is the best time to go as you can ride the dunes all the way to the warm harbor. There is nothing better than enjoying a plate of fresh mussels and a cold beer at the Opononi tavern, or sitting on the terrace of The Heads hotel in neighboring ÅmÄpere.
If you have time, stop to take in the magnificent views from the Mangungu Mission House in upper Hokianga or take a dip in the natural waterholes at low tide along the secluded coastline at ÅmÄpere’s South Head .
For more water activities, take the kids hand line fishing off Opononi Wharf, or get out on the water of Hokianga by renting a kayak, renting a jet ski, or booking a cruise on the Hokianga. Ranui boat.
Finally, my biggest tip is this. No matter how many nights you planned to visit Hokianga, add 1 to 2 extra nights. There is more to see and do here than most newbies realize. Not many people know of the fantastic 1 to 3 hour walking trails in Wairere and the extraordinary wonders of the giant basalt rocks. There is also a fantastic four-hour Twilight Encounter tour with local Maori guides, walking among the ancient giant kauri trees of the Waipoua Forest, including TÄne Mahuta.
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