Whangarei, Pt. 5: The Hatea River Walk

Welcome back! This post begins Day 2 of my vacation to Whangarei. My plan was to get an early start, grabbing some breakfast and then heading out on the Hatea River Walk up to Whangarei Falls. I needed to be back in Auckland around 6 to meet with a friend, so I wanted to give myself plenty of time for hiking.

The Hatea River Walk is divided into three segments: Town Basin to Mair Park, Mair Park to AH Reed Memorial Park, and then AH Reed to the Falls. Each segment is around 1.5km, for a total there-and-back distance of 9km or so.

Even in a small town like Whangarei, free long-term parking is not plentiful. But I chose correctly for breakfast, being the first customer at the Mokaba Cafe that morning. When I asked the lady behind the counter for parking advice, she told me to run and get my car and park in the small lot right behind the cafe, as I could park there all day for free but it filled up quite quickly. I did just that, and thus managed to sort parking and breakfast in one fell swoop.

The Hater River Walk starts out right behind the Aquatic Centre with an easy gravel path along the riverside. This would be a lovely place to just come and relax!

The track then proceeds on to a very cool boardwalk through what I guess are Mangroves? My horticultural knowledge is dodgy at best. This is a really neat area though!

Huzzah! Even when there’s no Auckland or Rangitoto to photograph, you know I’m going to sneak some stairs in! The track leads along a road and then climbs between two peoples’ properties. That’s actually not uncommon in New Zealand; even here in Auckland some of the parks have trails running essentially through someone’s yard!

We have now rejoined the Hater River. Attentive readers will note that I’m skipping along at a pretty good clip. This is Mair Park, also featured in the last post on Mt. Parihaka. In other words, I’m already nearing a third of the way through!

I was actually both surprised and pleased to make it to the park this quickly! We get a much nicer angle on the river and the park from this direction.

I’m torn between wanting to hustle things along so this post isn’t super long and showing all the cool sights I saw. Which is appropriate because on the actual hike I was torn between enjoying the sights and making good time so I don’t get caught short on the way back.

After Mair Park, the trail intersects with another road for a little bit. For some bits there’s a sidewalk, and for others you’re actually walking on the tarmac. This is probably the most boring part of the hike, but since it’s a good, flat surface it makes for a great place to make up lost time.

Once you’re off the asphalt, you’re pretty much at AH Reed. We’re two-thirds of the way there!

The stretch from AH Reed to the Falls is one of the coolest hikes I’ve done. Super easy walking, really beautiful, and lots of different terrain. From almost jungle-like growth to forest to fields…New Zealand really does have nearly everything all in one spot.

Here it pretty abruptly transitions from forest to field. Note that snake-looking emblem on the gate; that’s the blaze for the Hatea River Walk. This trail (which sadly cannot be said for all New Zealand trails) is really quite well marked. Whenever I was confused, there was that comforting squiggle to guide me.

(I almost left the gate standing open in protest of the Comic Sans-ness of the sign, but I decided to be a courteous hiker and shut it behind me. This is so New Zealand.)

I have some amazing photos of the falls coming up in the next post, but this may be my favorite picture from the walk. The climbing tree and rope swing…I just love it. I wanted to spend all day here. I also wanted to climb the tree, but I didn’t because I was afraid of damaging the poorly-nailed boards serving as ladder rungs.

I also found a majestic tree fern for Marianne. Though if my horticultural knowledge is as rubbish as it usually is, she will probably chime in to tell me that it’s actually a rhinoceros or something. I am frequently wrong about plants, is what I’m trying to communicate here.

And here we are! These are the Whangarei Falls! Or not. But this tiny waterfall makes me laugh. And I love the milky green color of the water here.

So that’s the Hatea River Walk! I know this post was a lot longer than usual, so thanks for hanging around. At the time, this was the longest hike I’d taken in New Zealand, and I absolutely loved it. The weather was about the best I could have asked for in late Winter, and the scenery was just gorgeous. Thank you, Whangarei, for such a lovely walk. And because it’s not a loop, I got to experience it all in reverse on the way back! I won’t post that, obviously.

Come back next time for photos of the falls!

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3 thoughts on “Whangarei, Pt. 5: The Hatea River Walk

  1. what a nice and varied hike!
    I had noticed paths/stairs between two properties in Wellington too. it felt strange and intrusive to me to be using them. but I decided I liked that they exist like that.
    woo, rhinoceros fern! ;D
    there needs to be a word for a tiny lol waterfall. waterflol? hm.

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