Smugglers Bay Loop Track

Smugglers Bay Loop Track

Bream Head Scenic Reserve


1 Rankers Review

1 Face-to-Face

5 Whangarei

Your Nature Guide

Marios Gavalas's avatar

Marios Gavalas

Author And Researcher

Nau mai, haere mai

Nau mai, haere mai

I'm Marios, delivering the best of Aotearoa's nature walks to your device.

I've personally walked hundreds of New Zealand's tracks and spent months in libraries uncovering interesting information on New Zealand/Aotearoa. And you'll find a slice of that research on this page - enjoy!


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3 km return | 1 hour 30 minutes return

Smugglers Bay was named because whisky used to be stashed in the dunes behind the bay to avoid customs duty at the port of Whangarei.


The parking area is signposted at the southern end of Urquharts Bay, from where the start of the track is signposted.


For 30 minutes the track crosses poorly drained farmland along Woolshed Bay to an old gun emplacement. The track is marked with orange posts.

It then crosses long grass with sporadic native vegetation for 20 minutes to the junction with the track to Busby Head. This section is marked with orange triangles.

You can bear left and return to the carpark over farmland (marked with orange posts), which takes 30 minutes, or head right.

The track to the headland pa at Busby Head is narrow but well-formed and after 10 minutes passes a signpost on the left to Smugglers Bay. To reach the tip of the headland and return to Smugglers Bay takes 30 minutes. The section to Smugglers Bay includes some very slippery areas over exposed rocks.

The return to the carpark over farmland completes a loop around the hill and takes 20 minutes.

Polynesian History

Three high middens flank the rear of the bay. Surveys of the shell and bone that make up the heaps and radiocarbon dating of the debris, have established the area was occupied for many centuries and the bountiful resources of the sea were well used.

The main inhabitants were Ngatiwai and their ancestors Ngati Manaia.

The headland pa still shows evidence of hangi pits, storage pits and terraces used for the construction of dwellings.

European History

The gun emplacement was secretly constructed in 1942 and built to look like a farm building. The siting on the western side of the heads sheltered it from enemy observation. A 6 inch naval gun was mounted on a concrete emplacement but only 3 shots were ever fired. The buildings of the remote control room and generating shed are still intact.

On the wall in the remote control room is a painted frieze of the landscape in view from the emplacement, with bearings marked beneath. The scenery is depicted before the construction of the Marsden Point Oil Refinery.


Feature Value Info


DOC Northland

Central government organisation


North IslandNorthlandWhangarei


  • Walking
  • Free


Sophie Huybrechts's avatar

Sophie Huybrechts


Ranking: 10/10

Nice track with a beautiful beach!!

Reviewed over 7 years ago and experienced in December 2014

DOC Managed

Thanks to all the good people working for the NZ Department of Conservation - for all your hard work - making NZ more beautiful, accessable and healthy! Cheers 😍

Cymen Crick's avatar

Cymen Crick

Rankers Owner