This sheltered harbour is the gateway to the Poor Knights Marine Reserve and the white-sand beaches of the Tutukaka Coast.

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Located east of Whangarei, the Tutukaka Coast was rated as one of the top coastal destinations on the planet by National Geographic Traveller. It's a detour you won’t want to miss on your journey north.

The first coastal village you’ll encounter is Ngunguru, where a sheltered harbour is protected by a long promontory of sand.

A little further on is Tutukaka itself –  diving and fishing charters leave from the town's modern marina.  This is the place to catch a dive boat to the world-renowned Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve, or hook into a deep sea fishing expedition, depending on the time of year.

Next stop is Matapouri, a beautiful horseshoe-shaped bay that’s perfect for swimming (even in winter, if you’re wearing a wetsuit). There are plenty of beach houses in this area; if you want to rent one, talk to a local real estate company.

Just up the hill from Matapouri is the track to Whale Bay. Fringed by large pohutukawa trees, this sheltered beach is both beautiful and peaceful. Getting there along the walking track is half the fun. Beyond Whale Bay, the beaches are more open to the ocean. Sandy Bay is a much-loved surfing spot when conditions are right.

Tutukaka and Ngunguru offer restaurants, cafés and a wide range of accommodation including private holiday homes, resort motels, apartments, B&Bs and a campground. It’s a good idea to book ahead in summer, especially around the Christmas holidays.