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North IslandNorthlandTutukaka

Time: 3 hr one way Distance: 5 km

This coastal walk runs along a legal road along the east coast between Sandy Bay and Whananaki South. It mostly follows a well-graded pohutukawa-lined farm track, with excellent views of the coast and the Poor Knights Islands (please note that there is limited beach access from the track, but you can get to the seashore at Sheltered Bay after the farm road passes through a gully of native vegetation). Keep to the farm track, which leads up over a rise, over a stile, then down into a grassy valley.

The road then winds up a bush covered hill to a gate at the top. From here, a short side track leads you to the Capitaine Bougainville memorial on the headland north of Oruaea Bay. From the turn-off to the monument the track is at a lower standard and more arduous. The coastal walk continues north to a recreation reserve on the Whananaki spit.

Here, the track splits. Depending on the tide, either continue towards the houses and walk around the estuary or, at high tide, take the road opposite the entrance to the recreation reserve and follow it to the estuary. The walkway passes close to homes. Please stick to the track and respect the residents’ privacy.

You can walk the track either starting north of Sandy Bay (described here), or at Whananaki North.

From Whananaki North, the start of the track is located next to the school. Take the footbridge across the estuary and head south parallel to the shore.

You find the southern end of the walkway past Wooley’s Bay where Matapouri Road meets the coast. The entrance is at the “end” of McAuslin Road (limited parking).

Historic heritage

The Capitaine Bougainville tragedy occurred in 1975, during an easterly storm, 12-metre swell, and giant waves breaking 300 m offshore. It became Northland’s worst maritime disasters.

The Noumea-registered freighter was taking meat and dairy products to Sydney with 29 crew and 8 passengers on board when a fire broke out in the engine room, directly below the lifeboats. With the fire raging out of control, Captain Jean Thomas made the call to abandon ship at 3:40am. The combination of wind, mountainous waves and a powerful current made launching the lifeboats perilous. Many drowned when their lifeboats capsized; others succumbed to cold. The disaster claimed 16 lives.

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