The roads that access the coast around Tutukaka and Matapouri rejoin SH1 at Hikurangi 16km north of Whangarei. About 6km further north you have a choice of routes: both go to the Bay of Islands but approach from different directions: carry straight on and you go direct to Paihia with opportunities for side trips to the Maori redoubt of Ruapekapeka Pa, and the Hundertwasser toilets at Kawakawa; turn right along Old Russell Road and you twist towards the coast on the tar-sealed but narrow and winding back road to Russell. The latter route is the most scenic way to approach the Bay of Islands, along a 70km narrow, winding road that takes about two hours. You can spin the drive out by admiring the wonderful coastline around the Whangaruru Harbour, stopping for swims in numerous gorgeous bays, and perhaps a short walk in the mixed kauri forest of the Ngaiotonga Scenic Reserve.
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The Cape Brett Track
The Cape Brett Track
Northland’s best overnight tramp is the challenging but rewarding Cape Brett Track (20km each way; 6–8hr) which follows the hilly ridge along the centre of the peninsula with sea occasionally visible on both sides: a route outlined in DOC’s Cape Brett leaflet. The former lighthouse keeper’s house at the tip of the peninsula is now a DOC hut (23 beds; $12.20; backcountry hut pass not valid) and the only place to stay on the track itself, in a fabulous location surrounded by sea and views out to the Hole in the Rock. There are gas cooking stoves but no utensils, and camping is not allowed.
The track starts in Rawhiti and crosses private land, so all walkers must pay a track fee ($30; day walkers $10). The Russell Booking & Information Centre is the place to pay your track fee, book the DOC hut and ask about secure parking in Rawhiti. You might also enquire about a water taxi from Russell to Rawhiti (around $170 for up to six people), Deep Water Cove, three-quarters of the way along the track ($190), or Cape Brett ($230; conditions permitting). Secure parking is available at Hartwells in Kaimarama Bay, at the end of Rawhiti Road, for a small fee.