This trip starts at Opononi and offers a number of alternative opportunities to explore. You may wish to spend a number of days doing all that there is to do.
Head West on SH 12 through Omapere, Waimamaku and the Waipoua Forest until you emerge high on the ridge at Katui. From this point you have a choice of itineraries:
S15/a – Donnelly’s Crossing, Trounson Park
After passing Katui look for the sign posts to Trounson Park and turn left into Proud Road. This metalled road will take you first to Donnelly’s Crossing, at one time the terminus of the railway line from Dargaville and will then lead into Trounson Park Road. Follow this to Trounson Kauri Park. Park in the car park, but don’t leave any valuable items in your car.
The walk through the park takes about 45 minutes and the boardwalk tracks are suitable for wheel chairs. Guided night time forest walks are also available, phone (09) 439 0621.
Visit the Department of Conservation web site to read more about this inland island of protection project.
After leaving Trounson follow the signs to Kaihu to return to SH12.
S15/b – Maunganui Bluff, Aranga Beach
Travelling further southward on SH12 you will come to Aranga, marked by the school on the left of the road. About 2 km further on, look for the sign to Maunganui Bluff on your right. Follow Aranga Coast Road until you come to the sea.
On your right is the base of Maunganui Bluff. To your left, Ripiro Beach stretches in a straight line to the North entrance of Kaipara Harbour. This beach was the original road for travellers from Auckland via Dargaville to the Far North. When they came to Maunganui Bluff they had to turn inland and travel behind the bluff to get past it. There is now a track for the fit to the top of the Bluff.
The rocks at the base of the bluff are a popular spot for locals to gather mussels and other shell fish. It is also a wild place in a storm.
S15/c – Kaihu
Further south SH12 comes off the high ridge and down into the valley to Kaihu.
The first building you see on your right is the Kaihu Hotel, renown for the fact that it is only one room deep. About 1 km further on you come to Nelsons Kaihu Kauri, an opportunity to see the work of local carvers and turners. Next door is usually a heap of ancient kauri logs excavated from the swamps, which have preserved them ever since they fell over.
S15/d – Kai-iwi Lakes
About 6 km south of Kaihu you will see the signs to Kai-iwi Lakes and Omamari on your right.
Follow Omamari Road to the turn-off to your right to Kai-iwi Lakes, which are a group of freshwater lakes separated from the sea by sand dunes. The lakes are popular for camping, boating and canoeing. To read more about the origins and legends of the lakes and the early Maori occupation click here >>
When you leave the lakes, turn right towards the sea and travel to Omamari, the place according to Maori legend where Kupe’s canoe was wrecked and buried when it left the Hokianga after returning to New Zealand. You can then return to SH12 by continuing on Babylon Coast Road.
S15/e – Baylys Beach
Just before you reach Dargaville you will see the sign to Baylys Beach on your right. This road leads to the holiday beach settlement on the coast.
Besides surf casting (fishing) from the beach, horse treks are available, and you can hire 4 wheel motor bikes at the Baylys Beach Holiday Park to drive along the beach. Two operators offer tours in special buses up or down Ripiro Beach, where they can point out the remains of wrecked ships exposed by storms.
If you are hungry the Funky Fish Café offers interesting meals and refreshments.
S15/f – Dargaville Museum
As you enter Dargaville you will see signs on the right of the Museum, which is situated on a hill overlooking the town and the winding Wairoa river. Outside the Museum are the two masts of the ‘Rainbow Warrior’, the Greenpeace vessel sunk by French saboteurs in Auckland Harbour.
The Museum contains relics from many of the ships wrecked around the entrance to the Kaipara Harbour or on the coast. It also has an extensive working exhibit of the kauri gum diggings and other exhibits of early pioneer life. It is open every day from 9.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m.