Tag Archives: whangarei

Stock Cars and a Little Bit of Rough Housing

Whangarei Saloon and Stock Car Club races every fortnight right across from the Norsand Boatyard.  Matt and I used to love watching the stock cars, speed boats, and other race car races when we lived in America so we could not resist making a trip out to Whangarei Speedway.

The stock cars, Northland Mini champs and Club Champs were scheduled to race.  The drivers ages ranged from 12 to 75 and there was a little bit of rough housing going on the muddy track. 

The stands were single rows of chairs located on 3 different levels above the track.  We scored seats on the lower level close to the start/finish line.

We had a great group come out to play with us:  Kara and Ollie (and his 2 crew: Kelsie and Owen), Sharron, Mirko, and Daniela.  

The “Cars”

There were a variety of cars racing, not just stock cars.  Some looked like they could barely run and others were transported in special enclosed trailers.

These cars were great fun to watch as they had a metal bar surrounding the car (not the beautiful yellow one) that allowed them to safely collide with each other.  The fancy yellow one had some money invested into the sport.  He was really fast and took the corners beautifully.  His front tires would always point to where he wanted to go while the rest of the car went wonky across the muddy apex.

These beautiful oldies but goodies came out to race and put on a good show.  Matt loved the confederate flag on the roof of the one car!  #5 was in it for the win.

And finally the stock cars came out.  The #8 corvette smoked everyone.  It was really fast and the driver took the corners exceptionally well.  #8 and #21 won their perspective races.

Stock Cars

Stock Cars

Of course I had to go down to the pits to see the cars up close.  As I neared the super fast corvette with a 409 engine I smiled at the driver and asked to sit inside!  It was super low to the ground and very warm!

It was a super fun day with friends.

Our blog posts typically run 8-10 weeks behind actual live events.  However, I switched this one up as I needed more time to complete a few other blogs.  We attended the races at the end of April.  Did you see what Matt did while I was back in the states – check out our last blog post.

Limestone Island & Quarry

Limestone Island sits in the middle of the Whangarei river.  Cruisers, container ships, cargo ships, and day sailors continually pass by this once bustling limestone quarry.  The island made primarily of limestone has had a diverse history.  From a war zone to cement factory to nature preserve.  After passing her over a dozen times we decide to stop and explore her history.

In the early 1800’s several Maori tribes fought over possession of the island.  In the mid 1800’s the island was leased from the Maori and Lime works was established.  Then, in 1881 the first batch of Portland Cement was produced in New Zealand (and probably the Southern Hemisphere).  In the early 1900’s, Lime Works employed 270 people until 1918 when most of the equipment and buildings were moved to the main land.  Limestone Island was still quarried for limestone for a number of years.  

In 1965, the Aero Club was allowed to graze cattle on the island.  In 1989, the island was gifted to Whangarei District Council.  This was also when the start of conservation and ecological restoration began.  In 1996, the first rangers cottage was built. Since then, the island has since had over 23,000 trees planted and its become a haven for kiwis, birds, and lizards.

Limestone Island Today

There has been a lot of work to restore native vegetation, stabilize historic structures and provide beautiful walking trails and signage for visitors. The visitor center has two towering tikis with beautiful carving and sea shell eyeballs at its entrance.

Sugar Shack anchored in Shipwreck Bay which was a little disconcerting but a beautiful spot none the less.

In 1968, a very famous pirate radio ship called Tiri ran aground in Whangaparapara. It lost engine power and was then swept onto the rocks.  Later it was laid to rest on the shores of Limestone Island along side another shipwreck.

Today you find towering stacks standing proud, furnaces, kilns, and lots of ruins of what was once a majestic cement factory.

You can walk through the ruins, inside the kilns and around the entire factory which is just a small reminder of what it once was.

We climbed to the top of a hill that overlooked the ruins and you can see Sugar Shack in the anchorage.

The single men’s residence, built in 1874, was just a long building with small, dorm like spaces.  The caretaker’s residence, built in the mid 1800’s, was beautiful and had a fireplace in every room! 

This was once a busy port, but now the enormous dock is in ruins with gaping holes in the structure.

Around the end of the island we found this old, metal conveyor belt that we assumed transported the gravel or cement from land to the ships.  Lower photo is a great example of the beautiful limestone that stands proud on the island to this day.


The only inhabitants are the caretakers, a dozen sheep, and 2 dozen kiwis.  The island has proven to be a tremendous breeding ground for kiwis.  With the removal of stoats and rats, the kiwi eggs and baby chicks thrive.  Once the kiwis reach 1200g they are returned to the mainland.

The Cement Factory in its Prime

I love the diagram which walks you through the life of the limestone.

There is a lovely walking trail that takes you around the entire island during low tide.  It takes about an hour to walk the trail around the edge of the island.  There are several other trails that lead you across the island and around the ruins as well (see map at the top of the post).  The limestone on the trail and the shells were super pretty.

We enjoyed several days at this anchorage where we were able to fully explore this lovely little Limestone Island.

Our blog posts run several weeks behind actual live events.  This blog post occurred around mid-May 2024.  Don’t miss out on our last blog post where we  wander around a beautiful bird sanctuary at Tiritiri.

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?