Dargaville - Northland

Dargaville Travel Blog

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Whangarei Falls, Whangarei
We waited for the peak traffic to ease (and one of Mel's superb coffees) before heading out of Auckland in the direction of Northland, the peninsula that stretches north from Auckland.  The trip up to Dargaville was pretty slow because LOTS of roadworks along the way - they seemed to go on for ever.  Furthermore, road-building in NZ is a bit different to Australia - they seem to use rocks the size of coconuts which are hell to drive over, especially in Steve the Starlet, we were a bit worried about him making it but the little fella pulled through fine.
Vintage chainsaw collection at The Kauri Museum, Matakohe
  You just have to take it very slowly, and pray to god that the idiot flying past you doing twice the speed limit doesn't send up a rock to smash your windscreen or dent the panels.
On the advice of our friend Lionel, we stopped at the Kauri Museum in Matakohe, and it was so worth it!  The museum is excellent ($15pp), you can spend hours in there learning about the trees themselves along with the industry that grew out of it and the people it employed.  There's also a big Kauri gum collection, which is interesting in it's own way - it's like amber and many pieces had insects etc., in them from thousands of years ago.  Noel has been looking for a walking stick for a while (not sure if it's to keep Melissa in line, or to lean on, but guess we'll find out eventually) and we got a lovely one here carved out of kauri, with a curved kiwi on the top - sounds strange but looks really nice!  Arrived in Dargaville late afternoon - cabin was incredibly tiny, so think the park owner here was getting a bit greedy - he'd blocked off the through door to the second room and let it to someone else and because there's a gap under the door and the walls are like paper, we could hear every time they rolled over in bed (and no doubt they could hear us too).
Giant kauri tree, Waipoua Forest
  Dreadful, but not much around so had to bear with it.
On our second day here, we headed off to the Kauri forests.  We stopped first at the Kai Iwi Lakes - they looked good for fishing, but not as scenic as we thought they would be as they are surrounded by pine plantation, most of which had been cut down.  We then stopped at the Trounson Kauri Park - this has been set out really well, once again with little signs on the various trees telling you about them and their uses.  The path is really good so quite easy to walk along.
A bit further up the road is the Waipoua Forest, home to some of the most spectacular kauri trees you can find.  There are various walks, and their time estimates are very generous.  The car park costs $2 but someone watches your car, so worth it.  We walked around to The 4 Sisters (4 trees bunched together) and to Te Marua Ngahere (the father of the forest).
Cross section slice of an ancient kauri at The Kauri Museum, Matakohe
  This is the 2nd largest kauri tree in NZ with a girth of 16 metres.  It's believed to be over 4000 years old and is quite amazing.  Just up the road is Tane Maheeta, which is considered the largest in NZ.  It's not as big around as Te Marua Ngahere but is taller.  This one is very near the road, a few minutes easy walk.  We continued through the forest to Omapere at the mouth of the Hokianga Harbour.  There's a huge sand hill at the opening which apparently has not altered in decades.  We also stopped at Rawene and saw Clendon House (an historic home of a prominent historic NZ'er) but it was not open the day we were there.  The town has some lovely old woodend buildings and the car ferry goes from here across to Kohukohu which would save a lot of time for those driving further north.
Giant kauri, Waipoua Forest

Our third day involved driving straight over to Whangarei, 1st stop the Town Basin (marina).  Noel went to Claphams Clock Museum ($8pp) and we then walked around the shops and galleries in the Basin.  There are a couple of galleries selling work by local artists which were lovely, but a bit out of our budget.  We then headed over to the Margie Maddern Fernery in the gardens - a collection of over 80 NZ ferns, Melissa's mum would love it!  We stopped into the Whangarei Art Museum but there was only an exhibition showing about the NZ flat - interesting, but not what we thought would be there.  We took our picnic lunch to Whangarei Falls and sat at the bottom looking up to eat it.  It was very peaceful until a family of about 20 turned up - we then vacated the premises!  Afterwards we stopped at The Quarry, an artists section in an old stone quarry.
Part of the 1/33 scale model of Marsden Point Oil Refinery
  Lots of artists live and work here and sell their goodies, most was shut though because it was a week day.
We drove down to Marsden Point Refinery, the only one in NZ.  It was actually very good - you don't go into the refinery itself, but the info centre (free) has a 1/33 scale model of the refinery, accurate down to the last valve apparently!  YOu also watch a video that lights up parts of the model as it goes.  On our return to Dargaville, we drove down to Bayley's Beach but were disappointed because there did not appear to be any parking where you could leave the car and look at the beach - everybody just drove onto the sand, which you can't do in a hire car.  We stopped at Rick Turner's woodworker's studio on the way back - his work is absolutely superb, he goes out of his way to find the loveliest kauri he can and it really shows.
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Whangarei Falls, Whangarei
Whangarei Falls, Whangarei
Vintage chainsaw collection at The…
Vintage chainsaw collection at Th…
Giant kauri tree, Waipoua Forest
Giant kauri tree, Waipoua Forest
Cross section slice of an ancient …
Cross section slice of an ancient…
Giant kauri, Waipoua Forest
Giant kauri, Waipoua Forest
Part of the 1/33 scale model of Ma…
Part of the 1/33 scale model of M…
photo by: sissanoel