Known for its stunning beaches and walkways, Mangawhai is a must-see destination in New Zealand’s North Island.
Mangawhai is located only 90 minutes from Auckland, making it the perfect weekend getaway for locals, or it makes for a quick pitstop from the largest international airport in the country, and a good half-way point on a road-trip to Paihia and the Bay of Islands.
As well as the awesome outdoor activities Mangawhai has to offer, there is a historical museum, eclectic Mangawhai shops, and plenty of artisanal foods to try.
Follow this guide for the best things to do in the coastal town of Mangawhai.
Things to Do in Mangawhai
1. Swim at Mangawhai Heads Beach
No trip to Mangawhai is complete without spending a few hours at Mangawhai Heads Beach. We love to come here for the weekends and just put up a beach umbrella, fold-out camping chair, and get into a good book.
The right-hand side of the beach is the calmer estuary. This is perfect for younger families, and for swimming and kayaking.
The left-hand side of the beach, where the Surf School is located, is the place to be in Mangawhai for surfing. This is also the best side of the beach to catch the sunrise, as the sun rises above the rock formations.
Walk along the left-hand side of the beach to the dunes with a body board, and go dune surfing. The hardest part is climbing (or scrambling) up the dunes.
2. Mangawhai Cliff Walk
The Mangawhai Cliff Walk is my favourite thing to do in Mangawhai and one of the best places to visit in New Zealand. The views are unreal for the effort required for this walk.
Park at the main beach car park at the end of Wintle St. Walk along the surf beach which is to the left-hand side, until you reach the start of the track through the bush filled with native Pohutukawa trees. The first part of the hike is the hardest as it includes a stair climb to bring you to the perfect elevation for the stunning views of the coast. As the name suggests, the path of the walkway climbs along the cliff and then descends along the rocky shoreline.
Those with ankle injuries may want to sit the last part out, otherwise, walk back the way you came after reaching the lookout point.
The walk is 9 km long, which takes about two to three hours to complete at a leisurely pace.
3. Shop at the Mangawhai Markets
On a Saturday morning, most towns hold Saturday Farmers Markets. Queenstown, Wellington, Matakana, Nelson and Mangawhai all come to mind. Head down to Mangawhai Tavern area on Moir St for the Mangawhai Market. Buy your fresh produce for the week as well as crafts, souvenirs, homemade jams and olive oils, and freshly cooked food for lunch.
A Saturday market wouldn’t be complete without live music. This really makes for the cheerful atmosphere around Mangawhai Tavern.
4. Stay at Tui & Nikau Cabins
Tui & Nikau Cabins is the perfect mix of holidaying in a serene, remote location, and convenience with being so close to Mangawhai.
The cabins are located an 8-minute drive into Mangawhai Heads town and a 3-minute drive to Mangawhai town. There are plenty of rooms to choose from including a studio apartment room for couples or budget travellers, to chalets that would fit a family of four. The accommodation is new and modern, with charming wooden ceiling beams and decks with expansive views of the lush greenery.
The chalets are spaced apart for privacy, but there are also shared areas for campfires (i.e. roasting marshmallows) and barbecues.
5. Mangawhai Estuary Walk
The Mangawhai Estuary Walk, like the Mangawhai Cliff Walk is a 3-hour return walk on a relatively flat gradient.
Start the Wide Tractor Track at the end of Raymond Bull Road. Head towards the right across the beach. You’ll get wet feet wading through the estuary at the start of the walk. Time this walk around low tide.
Dotterels are New Zealand native birds and if you’re lucky, you may be able to see them nesting by the sand. They’re a light sand colour, and small and podgy!
Please note as this is a protected area for our native birds, dogs are not permitted on the walk.
The walk will end at the beach entrance at Pacific Road. From there, make your way back to the car along Black Swamp Road.
6. Eat at Bennetts of Mangawhai Cafe
When it comes to food options in Mangawhai, the list certainly is not long, but Bennetts should be at the top of this.
Bennetts chocolates have become a nationwide treasure, now being stocked at Faro and other specialty supermarkets.
Bennetts of Mangawhai have been around since 1998 and have since perfected their chocolate recipe to include delectable flavours including feijoa milk chocolate, plum crumble and flat white. These are the perfect treat to bring back for friends and family back home, that is, if they make it back there without being eaten!
7. Order MEAN BRGR Mangawhai
MEAN BRGR is one of the best burgers I’ve ever eaten.
This shipping container is located in the heart of Mangawhai heads and is open daily for dinner, and Thursdays and Fridays for lunch too.
They do double and triple beef patties, and have expanded to include chicken, fish and vegetarian burgers as well.
Order before 6pm to skip the wait, or head down to Mangawhai heads beach until your order is ready. When we head to Mangawhai, we usually bring these burgers and some ice-cold beverages to the beach to watch the sunset.
8. Walk through Tanekaha Loop Track
The Tanekaha Loop Track is a combination of three tracks in the Tanekaha area that will take 4-5 hours to complete.
- Tanekaha Falls Track – up to 1.5 hours return
- Langs View Track – up to 2 hours return
- Tanekaha Forest Track – up to 2 hours return
There are two other tracks that are not included in the loop.
The track starts only a few minutes’ drive outside of town. Bring supportive shoes; tramping boots are recommended but not absolutely necessary. The Tanekaha walk will include boulder hopping and a swing bridge. You’ll also see waterfalls on the Langs View Track. When you get to the Trig at the end of the Langs View Track, look for the Tanekaha Forest Track sign.
This is a kiwi protection zone where dogs are not permitted.
9. Visit Mangawhai Museum
The Mangawhai Museum celebrates the town’s history. It’s hard to miss when making your way from Mangawhai Town to Mangawhai Heads.
Admission is only $12 per adult and $3 for children under 10 years. Family passes for $20 are also available.
As this is an indoor activity, this is equally a choice of activity in Mangawhai during the heat of the summer, as well as something to do in Mangawhai in Winter.
10. Sample Cheese at Kaiwaka Cheese Shop
Kaiwaka Cheese Shop is located about 20 minutes away from Mangawhai off the main road. Changes are, if you’re heading to Mangawhai you’ll need to pass by this shop anyway.
If you’re a fan of cheese, this is well worth a stop. They’re open every day from 9 am – 5 pm. Sample a few flavours before you choose a wedge of cheese or two to take to your Air BnB to enjoy.
11. Taste Wine at Te Whai Bay Wines
Te Whai Bay Wines specialises in Chardonnay, Chamboucin, Rose, Syrah and Merlot wines. Set at the foot of the Brynderwyn Hills, this winery is the perfect stop on a sunny afternoon to enjoy a wine (or two), with a fruit and cheese platter accompanied by live music.
Te Whai Bay Wines is only open from Labour Weekend in October to Easter in April on Saturdays from 12 pm – 5 pm, so plan your wine tasting around this. Spaces are limited, so call up to book and secure a slot.
12. Visit Olives on the Hill
Olives: you either love them or hate them. Mangawhai is home to Olives on the Hill. Conveniently, this is less than 1 km away from Te Whai Bay Wines, so it makes sense to visit both places during your trip.
Consider hiring a bike and cycling along the rural roads to get to Olives on the Hill.
13. Play a Game of Golf
Many golf clubs are exclusively members only, but at Mangawhai Golf Club, visitors are welcome. They’re located in the heart of Mangawhai off Molesworth Drive.
The all-year 18-hole course is located in and around the coast, which makes for beautiful views that are different to the regular green plains you see at most other golf courses.
You can also hire gear if you did not bring your own.
Head to the lounge bar for a drink after a long day of golfing.
14. Climb through Waipu Caves
If you’re heading to Mangawhai from Auckland, Waipu Caves is right on the drive, about 20 minutes from Mangawhai.
The cave is filled with stalactites and stalagmites. Head to the end of the cave and turn off your phone’s torchlight. Wait a minute and you’ll start to see the glow worms appear. Near the entrance to the caves on the right is a small opening where you can also stand and watch the glow worms.
There’s a short walk around the caves too that showcases the limestone structures against the greenery.
The rocks can get quite slippery, so I’d recommend wearing aqua socks or sports shoes you don’t mind getting wet.
15. Visit Te Arai Point
Te Arai Beach is a very popular location for surfers. Regardless if you are a surfer, Te Arai Point offers some great views of the coast. Head right when you’re at the car park of Te Arai Beach and you’ll reach Te Arai Point after a few minutes’ walk.
Pop down to the beach afterwards and sink your toes in the white sand as you admire the crystal-clear turquoise waters.
If you’re game, surfing lessons are also available. Otherwise, head to the old quarry swimming hole for some calmer water.
It is only 20 minutes away from Mangawhai, so it makes for a great place for a half-day trip.
Tui & Nikau Cabins are our top pick for accommodation in Mangawhai. It’s the perfect spot to stay for families, groups or couples.
If you don’t mind staying in a private guest room within a larger house (it’s very private) then this Mangawhai Ridgetop Guest Room is one of the best places we’ve stayed in NZ. The views are truly breathtaking.
Where to Eat in Mangawhai
Mangawhai is a small town so you’ll be fairly limited on places to eat. Head on into the main Mangawhai Heads township and you’ll find a few restaurants and eateries here that are perfect for anything from a snack, a coffee, or dinner.
There is a sushi shop here that is delicious and we highly recommend, as well as a couple of okay bakeries. The highlight for us is always Mean Brgr across the road.
How to Get to Mangawhai
Getting to Mangawhai is quick and easy which makes it such a popular destination for Aucklanders looking to escape the city. It’s just a 90-minute drive from downtown Auckland to get to Mangawhai.
From anywhere else in New Zealand the drive will be a bit more substantial and it may make sense to fly to Auckland first.
Things to Do in Mangawhai in Winter
We’d recommend doing almost everything on this list in Summer as beaches and walks don’t quite feel the same when it’s cold and raining. With that said, any of the indoor activities such as the cheese shop, restaurants and winery are great winter activities in Mangawhai.
If we were in Mangawhai in Winter we’d probably still try to find a bit of clear weather to head on down to the beach as it really is the highlight of this little town.