Looking for the best things to do in Mangawhai? You’ve come to the right place!
Located in Northland, this gorgeous little beach town has a lot to offer. Surrounded by the Mangawhai Harbour it’s certainly a popular summer destination. In the southwest part of the harbour, you’ll find the Mangawhai township and in the northeast, you’ll find Mangawhai Heads.
The two are located only 5 kilometres apart so very close indeed.
Whether you’re planning on staying for a week or a weekend, you’ll find plenty to do in Mangawhai.
14 Best things to do Mangawhai
1. Visit the Mangawhai Tavern Market
The markets happen every Saturday and are a fantastic thing to do if you’re hanging around Mangawhai for the weekend. You’ll find lots of fresh produce from the area, crafts and products.
There is also a great selection of food stalls so you certainly won’t go hungry.
The live music gives these markets a great atmosphere.
2. Do the Mangawhai cliff walk
The Mangawhai Cliff walk is an easy 2-3 hour walk and seeing as it’s voted as one of New Zealand’s best short walks, it’s definitely a must do! You’ll walk from the shoreline to the cliff tops while enjoying some stunning views along the way.
This 9km return track starts on Mangawhai Beach, then you’ll endure a steep climb for about 20 minutes until you reach a lookout point.
On a clear day you might be able to see the Coromandel Peninsula and Great Barrier Island on the horizon.
From here you continue walking on the track across the land, winding your way through pohutukawa trees before descending down to a stony beach.
If it’s low tide, you’ll be able to make your way back along the beach. If not, just go back the way you came.
3. Swim at Mangawhai Heads Beach
One of my favourite things to do in Mangawhai is of course to relax at the gorgeous Mangawhai Heads Beach. A trip to Mangawhai isn’t complete without heading to the beach!
If you’re visiting Mangawhai Heads Beach in the summer, it’s the perfect spot for a swim. The water is lovely and blue and the sand is super fine and soft.
The waves are great for surfing if that’s your kinda vibe otherwise swimming here is pretty safe. There’s a surf club so if you’re visiting at a time when the beach is being patrolled there’ll be flags out to swim in between.
4. Slide down the Mangawhai sand dunes
At the beach, you’ll also find the popular Mangawhai sand dunes. Great for kids and adults alike to slide down, just make sure you bring a boogie board with you!
To access the dunes, you’ll need to drive to the Pacific Beach access.
5. Explore the Tanekaha Tracks
Consisting of 5 main walking tracks, you certainly won’t get bored! All tracks come together to form loops so getting lost is virtually impossible.
You’ll walk through lush forests and if you take the popular Tanekaha Falls track, you’ll come across waterfalls, a swimming hole and the remains of the kauri dam. It would be a fantastic walk to do in the summertime so you can cool off along the way.
This track is 3 kilometres long and takes about 2 hours.
If you walk the Puriri track, you’ll find two giant trees which are believed to be over 1000 years old. One of these trees is the largest in New Zealand!
The Puriri track is a little bit of a shorter walk, at 2.2 kilometres it takes about 1 hour.
6. Go kayaking in the estuary
The estuary in Mangawhai is beautiful and is a popular spot for swimming, fishing, kayaking and more. There is a lovely holiday park located near the estuary too which is a great place to relax if you’re planning on staying in Mangawhai for a few nights.
Kayaking on the estuary is a great way to explore the area and makes for a pretty relaxing afternoon.
If you don’t have a kayak of your own, it’s possible to hire one from Mangawhai Heads Surf School. There are also kayaking tours run by Kayaking Mangawhai if you’d rather have a guide and the company of others.
You’ll also get to hear about the history of Mangawhai on the tour.
7. Browse the shops at Mangawhai Village
Even if there’s nothing in particular you need, it’s worth stopping by Mangawhai Village to have a wander around the shops. The village consists of many New Zealand small businesses that would love your support.
When you’re done shopping, there are a number of restaurants and cafes in the area too.
8. Visit the Mangawhai Museum
For a little bit of history, why not visit the Mangawhai Museum? This museum is relatively new and modern. Stories are told with a fantastic collection of displays, videos and graphics.
Life around the Mangawhai harbour is celebrated, including the fight to save the endangered Fairy Tern. Alongside this you’ll find other stories of the Maori wars, the lost golden bullion from the second world war and of course the local natural history around Mangawhai.
You’ll want to allow plenty of time to take it all in!
The museum and the shop are open daily from 10 am – 4 pm.
9. Play golf at Mangawhai Golf Club
Established back in 1979, Mangawhai Golf Club is known as one of New Zealand’s best coastal golf courses. It’s consistently ranked among New Zealand’s top 25 courses.
With great character, layout and design, the welcoming atmosphere is inviting to golfers of all levels. The sand-based 18-hole coastal course means it is always playable. You can expect well-groomed fairways and immaculate greens while being surrounded by native flora.
The facilities are complete with a clubhouse, lounge bar, cafe and golf shop for the perfect day out. There’s also a driving range for those who want to have a bit of a hit without committing to 18 holes.
If you’re a keen golfer, playing a few holes at Mangawhai Golf Club is a great way to spend the day. It is recommended that you pre-book tee times and cart hire so bear that in mind.
10. Eat chocolate at Bennetts of Mangawhai
You won’t last very long in Mangawhai without hearing about Bennetts chocolates. This local business is incredibly popular so of course, it had to make the list for the best things to do in Mangawhai.
Established in 1998, Bennetts of Mangawhai has been handcrafting delicious chocolates ever since. Made from sustainably sourced cocoa and fresh, locally sourced ingredients, their award-winning product is certainly worth a try!
There’s a vast range of chocolates to choose from and there is a cafe onsite as well if you want to sit down and enjoy a bite to eat. Look out for their signature hot chocolate and famous cinnamon brioche.
11. Go see the glow worms at Waipu caves
If you’re up for a bit of adventure, why not take the short 20-minute drive to Waipu to see the glow worms?
These caves can be visited for free, without a guide – win win!
Within the entrance of the caves is where you’ll find the glow worms. Along with stalactites and stalagmites which are different rock formations commonly found in these types of caves.
There is a track you can walk at the caves too. It’s an easy 2-kilometre track that leads you through a limestone landscape, across farmland and regenerating bush up to a point where you’re able to take in some gorgeous views.
The track starts directly across from the entrance of the caves. Look for an orange post and then you’ll know you’re in the right place.
Tip: Be sure to bring shoes with you that you don’t mind getting wet as there is some shallow water to walk through in the caves
12. Swim in Tomarata Lake
Located 30 minutes south of Mangawhai is where you’ll find the lovely Tomarata Lake. It is part of the Te Arai regional lakes.
The lake is popular for swimming, water skiing, wakeboarding and many other water sports.
With direct road access, Tomarata Lake is easy to get to. The concrete boat ramp means you can launch your boat to enjoy some water activities and there are also toilet and BBQ facilities.
Heading to the lake makes for a great day out if you want a break from the beach.
13. Visit Te Arai Point
Visiting Te Arai is a must-do if you’re in the Mangawhai area! Located just a 20-minute drive away it’s easy to pop over to this beach for a change of scenery.
The beach itself is gorgeous, and one of my favourites in the region. The sand is soft and white and the water is super blue.
It’s a great surfing spot and there are even lessons given here by Aotearoa Surf. The conditions are generally pretty safe so it’s perfect for beginners.
When you arrive at Te Arai beach, head right for a brief walk to the top of the point. Here you’ll find some pretty breathtaking views.
From here you can either return to the long stretch of sandy beach or go for a swim in the old quarry swimming hole. Honestly, this swimming hole reminds me of something you’d find along the coast of Europe, it’s so beautiful!
There are other beaches to explore on either side of the point too, called Forestry and Black Swamp beach.
14. Have a drink at Te Whai Bay Wines
Last but certainly not least on the list of the best things to do in Mangawhai is to have a drink at Te Whai Bay Wines. With live music over the weekends in summer, it’s the perfect spot to relax for the afternoon.
The vineyard produces delicious Mangawhai region wines and is nestled in Brynderwyn Range, a stunning rural setting.
There are cellar door sales, wine tastings, platters and pizzas to enjoy. Beer is served too for the non-wine drinkers.
Ta Whai Bay Wines is open over the warmer months, Labour weekend through to Easter so be sure to visit between October and April if you want to head here to enjoy a glass of wine (or a bottle…).
Where to eat in Mangawhai?
You’ll be spoilt for choice when deciding where to eat in Mangawhai. There are plenty of delicious cafes and restaurants to satisfy all tastebuds.
A local favourite is The Dune Mangawhai, located in Mangawhai Village. Here you can enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner.
If you’re not sure what you feel like, you can always head to Mangawhai Village and wander around till something tickles your fancy. There’s a great range of food spots, all within close vicinity of each other so you won’t need to travel far for a delicious meal.
Mangawhai accommodation – Where to stay
With Mangawhai being a small New Zealand beach town, the most popular form of accommodation here is holiday homes.
To book a holiday home, you can do so through Bookabach. Just pop in your dates and location, the rest is easy! Plus you get the true Kiwi experience.
If booking a holiday home doesn’t sound like you, the Mangawhai Lodge offers a range of rooms, some even with their own balcony and sea views!
Otherwise, if a motel is more your style, you may want to check out Mangawhai Village Motel, located across the road from Bennetts cafe. The motel has single rooms, double rooms and apartments available.
What does Mangawhai mean?
Mangawhai means “Stream of the Stingray”, it takes its name from the Ngati Whatua Chief Te Whai. The meaning “Stream of the Stingray” relates to the evil that would return if anyone was to harm the stingrays within the harbour.
The Mangawhai harbour area was home to Chief Te Whai in the early 1800s.
What is the population of Mangawhai?
The Mangawhai population has grown steadily over the years. The latest stat from 2021 states that the population of Mangawhai sits at 6,890 people.
How to pronounce Mangawhai?
The correct way to pronounce Mangawhai is slightly different to how it reads. To help with the correct pronunciation, the phonetic spelling of Mangawhai is mang – uh – fai.
How far is Mangawhai from Auckland?
Mangawhai is located a 90-minute drive north of Auckland or 107 kilometres. It’s close enough that you can head here for a day trip but to really soak up the area, it’s best you plan to hang around for at least a weekend.
Known as a popular holiday destination in the summer, make sure you plan ahead and book your accommodation in advance!
Conclusion: Best things to do Mangawhai
Mangawhai is such a beautiful place and is well worth a visit this summer.
You can of course visit any time of year but to make the most of the gorgeous beaches in the region, my recommendation would be to wait for the warmer months to bathe in the sunshine.
If you do get struck with some bad weather, there are still things to do in Mangawhai when it’s raining, such as visiting the museum, heading to Bennetts to enjoy some chocolate, or shopping around Mangawhai Village.
You certainly won’t get bored in this little beach town, it’s a popular spot with the locals so there’s always something to do.
For more ideas on what to do this summer, check out the best places to visit in the North Island.