If you’re missioning around Northland any time soon, put Matapouri on your map. Follow the road northeast of Whangarei for 26km and you’ll come to the cute village of Ngunguru. Keep going for a kilometre and you’ll reach Tutukaka with its busy marina, slews of dive crews and game-fishing boats.
From Tutukaka the road heads slightly inland and 10km later you reach the golden sands of Matapouri – home to Otito Reserve and the Mermaid Pool (Te Wai o te Taniwha). At the beach’s north end a sign points to the Mermaid Pool, which as the name suggests is a natural plunge pool filled by the tide.
The pools are a longtime favourite with the locals but they haven’t been easy to get to in the past – you had to follow a track through a hole in the rock and clamber along the rocks out to the pool while the waves crash at your feet (depending on the height of the tide on the day!).
A rock fall across the hole in the rock recently put paid to that access-way and people now take the more energetic and at times tricky route over the hill. But the pools are so loved by the community that plans are underway to find an alternative route. Watch this space ...
In the south, glacial waters, swing bridges and beech forests provide a stunning setting for a mermaid’s romp. On the scenic road over Haast Pass – the southern gateway to the West Coast – you’ll find the Blue Pools.
There are a number of short walks along this stunning route with one of the best, the Blue Pools Walk, just north of Makarora in the World Heritage listed Mount Aspiring National Park.
The walk is world-renowned and a must-see highlight of any south island adventure. Well maintained gravel paths and boardwalks lead through native silver beech forest to a swing bridge high above the Makarora River, where more than the occasional teenager has been known to bomb into the icy cold water.
The track continues into the forest to a series of sparkling pools that have been sculpted by centuries of erosion. The glacier-fed water in these deep pools is deep azure blue and clear to the bottom – keep your eyes out for brown trout! The walk to the pools is only 20 minutes, leaving plenty of time for a swim or you can follow the track along the river for a couple of hours.