Monthly Archives: March 2024

Whangapoua: Pristine Beach With a Tragic History

Most cruisers visit the west side of Great Barrier island, especially its famous Smokehouse Bay  We stopped by last season but it was in the midst of a storm and was completely empty.   This season we decided to mix it up a bit.  We have always wanted to visit the East side of Great Barrier but you have to have just the right weather conditions to anchor in these exposed bays.  The weather was in our favor and we headed to Whangapoua also known as Motoroa Point.

Just off NZ’s coast are loads of islands to explore.

After we left Hen and Chickens we saw our window to go to a bay on the east side called Whangapoua Bay. At the North tip of Great Barrier there are these beautiful pinnacles that jet out of the sea to greet you as you pass by.

Based on the satellite charts Whangapoua Bay has a very long 2.4 mile beach that is begging to be walked on!  We motor the 40+ nm because the winds were very light and arrive to a gorgeous bay that we have all to ourselves.

A Walk on the Wild Side

This is an absolutely gorgeous beach.  Super soft sand and a variety of landscapes.  First you have the beautiful, green hillsides, then these rich, green towering evergreens, then flowing sand dunes, and pockets of tiny shells.

These tiny spiral shells were so beautiful.  I desperately wanted to collect these beauties. However, I left them there as I was sure they were filled with little critters waiting for the tide.

The beach seems to go on and on and on… We walk from end to end, taking our time and enjoying the beauty of this bay.

The Tragic End to the SS Wairarapa

Despite its beauty, Whangapoua Bay has a very sad history as it is the location of a tragic accident. From the bay you can see the outlines of white picket fencing that mark the mass grave sites.  The SS Wairarapa crashed along the rocky entrance causing New Zealand’s third most deadly shipwreck.

Evidently, the captain didn’t respect the weather conditions. He did not slow down or navigate properly causing this horrific disaster where over a hundred people perished.   The SS Wairarapa had a tragic ending that is remembered on this beach.

We somberly walk back to our boat and thank the Heavens modern technology has improved so much.

Haratonga Bay 

We move a few nautical miles (nm) to a new bay called Haratonga Bay.  The sun was out but it was pretty darn chilly so I put on leggings and grabbed my jacket!

Our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behind actual live events.  This blog post occurred toward the end of January.  We visit a Chicken Anchorage in our last blog post – but did we see any chickens?

A Hike & a Chicken Anchorage

Matt and I are still at Urquharts bay so we decided to get one more hike under our belts before we head to the Hen and Chickens Island group.  There is a great, “easy” walk called Smugglers Bay Loop.  It starts at the car park, takes you through a WWII Gun Battery, to the tip at Busby Head, across Smugglers Beach, and back to the car park.  Estimated 1.5-2 hour walk across wide open fields and pastures, through a nature preserve forest, along a beach, and over a tall hilltop.

Our loop is the dark dashes on the left.  We start at the car park, pass the gun emplacement, down to Busby Head, over to Smugglers Bay and back up to the car park (we don’t do the part that crosses in the middle).

The Path

There is a clear, distinct dirt path that takes you through the most beautiful green pastures dotted with grazing cattle.

After you pass through these pastures you arrive at the Bream Head Gun Battery.

The Bream Head Gun Battery – WWII

These buildings are the remains of the Bream Head Gun Battery. They were built to defend the port in 1942.  The builders carefully disguised the buildings to look like a farmhouse with out-buildings.  The house was the armory and accommodations for officers. 

Three buildings remain standing and in relatively good condition.

The Beautiful Forest Preserve

The forest is only a small portion of the hike, but lovely none the less.  We spotted a NZ pigeon which are really pretty birds.

View of the gorgeous waters.

Busby Head and Smugglers Bay

We head up to the top of Busby Head and get beautiful views of Smugglers Bay.  Afterwards, we walk down and over to Smugglers Beach where we are able to walk the two pretty beaches.

Back through more green pastures.

We end our hike feeling good.  There were several hills and lots of beautiful scenery.   Here is a comparison between our Mt. Manaia hike and the Smugglers Loop. Manaia first then Smugglers.

  • Floors Climbed:     104  vs 56
  • Steps:  9,759 vs 9,571
  • Miles;  4.1 vs 3.8
  • Calories: 543 vs 420

Hen and Chickens

After our walk we pull up anchor and make our way over to the Hen and Chickens island group.  In 1925, the Hen and Chickens Islands were declared a scenic reserve because of their valuable flora and fauna. They are now a nature reserve for seabirds, tīeke (saddlebacks) and tuatara – the ancient reptile unique to New Zealand.

Hen and Chickens Island Group

Hen and Chickens Island Group

The Hen and Chickens include the Wareware Island, Lady Alice island, Whatupuke Island, Marotere Islands and the Mauitaha Islands. 

We were only able to enjoy this anchorage, at the Starfish Bay (Hen and Chickens) for one night.  We left the next morning for Great Barrier Island.

Our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behind actual live events.  This blog post occurred at the end of January.  Did you read our last blog post where we climb a stairway to heaven?

Mount Manaia – A Stairway to Heaven

We pull off the Town Basin Marina dock with our friends on Q2 (Lewis, Sara and baby Skye) following us to a new anchorage, Urquharts Bay.  A beautiful, wide bay with lots of moorings and local boats.  This anchorage gave us access to many hikes and is located at the mouth of the Whangarei river. Despite how busy it was we secured a place all by ourselves.

Mount Manaia

Mount Manaia, Mt. Lion, Bream Head, and the Hen and Chickens, are scattered remnants of andesite, volcanic intusions that erupted 16-22 million years ago.  They are part of a 50km 2 (19 sq mi) stratovolcano that extended to the Hen and Chickens.

This is a sacred place for the Maori.  In former times, Maori placed the remains of their important chiefs on the tops of these rocks.  It is believed that the craggy peaks represent an important chief’s family who were turned to stone in a dispute over the infidelity of his wife.

The left arrow shows how high I went and the right arrow shows how high Matt, Rich and Michelle got (they rock climbed the last 20′).

Mt. Manaia is blanketed by native bush and has jagged peaks that jet up into the sky.  The entire area is a protected reserve which has a very well maintained track to the summit.

A Little Bit of Crazy

Our friends on Pogeyan (Rich and Michelle) invited us to go on this crazy steep hike up Mount Manaia.  We dragged Q2 along with us (even 3 month old baby Skye came along).  Matt and I had not been hiking in almost a year and I was a wee bit nervous to say the least.   Rich said it was a short hike (a little over an hour to the top), but it is straight up – a total vertical incline with over 800 steps peppered in to help you get up the super steep parts.  Yikes!

As we begin our journey our little pack slowly starts to split up.  Matt takes off, in flip flops no less, and leads the way, the other two guys are behind him for most of the trail.  Us ladies take it at a “more leisurely pace” and rest periodically as I am totally out of shape!

They installed really nice stairs over the super steep parts of the trail.  Every 100 steps there is a small mark, but I don’t believe it so I count myself.  I was spot on up to 600 steps but then things got wonky and I ended up wit 1226 stairs to the summit whereas the markers had 1136 steps.  Hmmm.  I had 2 other witnesses so I am going with my number of 1226 – which is a lot of stairs!

The Summit

After an hour we reach the platform and hope to find Matt.  And wouldn’t you know he found a crevice to hang out in….can you see him in the far left photo or the top right photo?

Michelle and I at the platform summit – I’m so happy to be sitting down.

The unbelievable views….

I’m guessing these are the children in the fable….

The Pinnacle on the Summit

We continue on around the corner from the platform summit.  Rich says we are not at the top yet.  So, we carry on and do a few rock scrambles.  At this point my legs are burning.  I made it to the 2nd highest point but couldn’t carry on so Matt, Michelle, and Rich did the last 20′.

The views were spectacular.  I wish I had the power to go up the last section but I had to save my reserves for the climb down.

We saw lots of beautiful Kauri trees and this beautiful stone archway.

At the end of the day we hiked up 1226 stairs or 104 floors, 4.1 miles and 9,759 steps.  The numbers don’t seem so impressive when you break it down. But it was a hard earned workout!

Our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behind actual live events.  This blog post occurred in late January.  Did you read about our new set of wheels in our last blog post?