Family walks including for people with tiny legs.

Walks for those with tiny legs

From ancient kauri trees to tidal pools and waterfalls, the Matakana Coast has plenty to intrigue the little explorers in the family.  Pack a picnic and allow plenty of time to explore the rock pools, listen to bird calls or pick up sticks along the way.

Parry Kauri Park, Warkworth – 10 to 30 minutes

This accessible, easy set of boardwalks weaves amongst magnificent kauri trees – some up to 800 years old. Choose which sections you complete and spend 10 to 30 minutes enjoying the dense bush and vast kauri.  This walk sits alongside the Warkworth Museum which is a great place for kids to visit with interactive displays and information that give insights into the lives and pursuits of our pioneering heritage.

Scotts Landing, Mahurangi East – 30 minutes

Historic Scott Homestead is a handsome backdrop for a low tide ramble out to Casnell Island – toddlers will love this. Spot sea creatures in the rock pools, see who can find the most glorious shells and savour the views of Mahurangi Harbour, before enjoying a picnic on the Homestead’s lawns.

Snells Beach waterfront, Mahurangi East

Head to Snells Beach waterfront for an easy, flat walk along the foreshore footpath. Kids can scoot their pedal-free bikes, paddle safely in the shallows or enjoy a kick about with a ball. There’s also a playground, a café at the northern end and plenty of shady trees for your picnic.

Highfield Garden Reserve, Mahurangi East – 15 minutes

With easy access pathways, beautiful views and friendly donkeys, this walk is bound to appeal families with little ones. Feed the donkeys and then follow the paths upwards to take in splendid views. A side trail leading down through the bush to Algies Bay has numerous steps and is not suitable for pushchairs.  Access the Highfield Garden Reserve from the carpark on Mahurangi East Road, between Snells Beach and Algies Bay.

Family Walks including for people with tiny legs

Great family walks

Ti Point Coastal Walk – 2 hours return

This gentle, sheltered walk along the southern coastline of Ti Point peninsula is popular with young families. You’ll pass through native bush, sandy beaches and rocky coves with lovely views of Omaha, Tāwharanui and Hauturu Little Barrier.

You’ll drive right passed Ti Point Reptile Park open everyday from 10am.  Stop in and get up close with over 40 species of native and exotic reptiles, alligators, turtles and spiders.

The walking track begins at the car park at the end of Ti Point Road, by a picturesque wharf and popular fishing spot. Dogs are welcome but must be kept on lead to protect the kororā (little blue penguins) that nest along the shoreline. In wet weather it can be slippery in places. Watch out for tree roots.

Matheson’s Bay Track – 40 minute loop

From Matheson Bay beach, follow the west side of the stream across the grassy reserve, to find the start of the track. The trail climbs gently through native bush rich with flora and fauna including kauri, rimu and pōhutukawa trees, native ferns and nikau palms, and darting birdlife such as kōtare (kingfisher), kākā (the north island’s native parrot), kererū (wood pigeon) and riroriro (grey warbler).

The track is well maintained with stairs over the steeper sections. At the end of the track you’ll emerge onto Leigh Road, where you can either turn round and return through the bush, or follow Matheson Bay Road and complete the loop down to the beach.

Matakana to Omaha or Point Wells Walkway & Cycleway – 7 km

This walkway and cycleway is a community initiative linking the coastal settlements of Omaha and Point Wells with the vibrant village of Matakana. Starting at Plume Café in Matakana Village, cross the wooden footbridge overlooking the waterfall then turn right across the fields to Tongue Farm Road. Here you’ll find the first terracotta wayfinder column engraved with the trail map and local topography, made by the talented artisans at the neighbouring Morris & James Pottery. Pop in for a coffee or the free daily tour.

Continue along Tongue Farm Road until you see a wayfinder column on your left, and follow the trail to the top of the hill. Cross over Whitmore Road and continue along the side of Takatu Rd. At trail’s end, cross over the road for your next wayfinder, with a bench seat and spectacular views across the orchards to Ti Point, Omaha Beach and Little Barrier.

The short gravel descent is steep and even experienced cyclists may need to dismount and descend with caution. At the bottom of the hill, the trail descends gently through eucalyptus trees to Jones Road, where you can pop into OOB for a real fruit ice cream in the summer.
At the north end of Jones road you have a choice: turn right to cross the causeway for Omaha Beach, and grab a coffee and something delicious to eat from the Farmer’s Daughter or go straight ahead through farmland to Point Wells for tidal swimming.

The trail follows a mix of gravel pathways and rural roads, so is not suitable for wheelchairs or small children on bicycles. Confident younger children may be able to cycle the section between Point Wells and Omaha, but will need close parental supervision as sections of the trail run alongside busy roads. All riders should exercise caution on the ascent and descent to Takatu Road.

Omaha Beach

With white sands stretching four kilometres Omaha Beach is a popular destination for a morning or evening stroll.

Wander over the sands, or follow the footpath that rises and falls behind the dunes skirting stunning architecturally-designed homes, with stunning views to Hauturu Little Barrier and beyond. The path runs from the Surf Club car park to the southern end of the beach and is safely shared by walkers, dogs and cyclists.

Along the way you’ll pass five pouwhenua handcarved by local iwi. At the southern end of the beach, you can walk around the rocks at low tide to secluded Pink Beach, a popular picnic spot. Or stay on the footpath as it curves inland and to the left of the tennis courts, where you’ll find a tranquil pond teeming with bird life. Energetic walkers can continue around to the Quarry Loop, with more than 130 steps and views as far as Great Barrier and the northern tip of the Coromandel Peninsula on a clear day.

At the northern end of Omaha Beach, a dotterel reserve is tucked away behind an impressive, community organised, predator-proof fence. Quiet, careful visitors might catch a glimpse of some of the world’s rarest birds. No dogs allowed and remember to give the birds plenty of space.


With white sand beaches, rolling pasture and lush native forestTāwharanui Regional Park is undoubtedly one of the jewels of the Matakana Coast. The 588-hectare park is New Zealand’s first integrated open sanctuary and has walks to suit most ages and abilities.

From the Anchor Bay car park, the Mangatawhiri Walk offers a 20-minute ramble through regenerating wetland – an excellent way to glimpse wildlife.

At the east end of Anchor Bay, you’ll find the Sanctuary Hut where you can learn about the wildlife and the park. Then head out on the 4-kilometre Ecology Trail through wetlands and atmospheric native bush, over grassy hilltops and along the ocean’s edge. An astonishing array of native wildlife can be found in these habitats. The Ecology Trail is for most levels of ability (including young children) but there are plenty of steps, some hills and a few rocky outcrops to climb around.

The sanctuary is protected by a predator-proof fence and dedicated community volunteers, so remember to leave your dog at home.

Tawharanui Walking Family Walks including with people with tiny legs


Leigh Harbour Trail – 1 hour return

Starting from Leigh Harbour boat ramp, walk along the rocky foreshore. You will climb steps to the head of the harbour, cross two pedestrian bridges and follow a boardwalk to get to the shade of the bush track. Continue on the trail or take a side path up and over the hill through a stand of kauri trees. Both paths reconverge ahead of a sandy beach, perfect for a refreshing dip before you return the way you came.

Take extra care on the bush track – in places it is narrow with a steep drop. The first part of the track may be underwater at high tide; alternative access is available from Ferndale Avenue. Dogs allowed on leash.

Goat Island Walkway – 3km, 2 hours return

Leave your car in the main Goat Island car park and follow the driveway to the University of Auckland’s Marine Laboratory, where the start of the walking track is well signposted on the right hand side.  The Marine Lab discovery centre is a fantastic place for children to experience marine life.

The gravel walkway runs behind the Marine Lab to the cliff-top where you can enjoy views over Goat Island and Pakiri beyond. The track winds downwards into coastal broadleaf forest and ends at Tabletop Reef – where more remarkable views of the Hauraki Gulf stretch out to Hauturu Little Barrier and the Hen and Chicks islands.

On your way back, pop into the visitors’ centre where kids will enjoy the exhibits and touch tanks or hire snorkelling gear down on the beach and marvel at the diverse sea life of New Zealand’s oldest marine reserve.

Pakiri Beach

The untouched, sandy wilds of Pakiri Beach stretch for more than 9 kilometres, bordered by crashing surf and sand dunes. You can cross the river on the beach and walk all the way north to Forestry and Te Arai beaches, or head to the southern end to search for tiny marine life in the rock pools under the cliffs. Leave your pets at home as this stretch of coastline is home to a handful of New Zealand’s most endangered endemic bird, the tara iti (fairy tern). The tide is very strong so swimming is not recommended – the estuary’s shallows, however, are an excellent habitat for paddling about, especially for younger visitors.

Pakiri Beach Family Walks including people with Tiny Legs


Mahurangi West – 30 minutes to 3 hours

This Mahurangi Regional Park has several beautiful walks to suit all abilities, ranging from 30 minutes to 3 hours – there’s even an orienteering course! Three beaches line the coast of Mahurangi West and the walks wind through the area’s epic scenery, allowing you to savour some of the most breathtaking views in the region.

The Te Muri Track takes about 2 hours and is roughly 6km long. Leave your car in the upper carpark at the park’s entrance, and follow the path down to the Te Muri estuary – where you can cross at low tide. Across the estuary there is an historic cemetery as well as lovely Te Muri beach, accessible only by boat or on foot.

Mt Tamahunga Walk – 2.5km, 90 minutes to the summit

The climb to the summit of Mt Tamahunga requires a good level of fitness and stout walking boots, but you’ll be rewarded by the deep tranquility of native bush and peeks of a distant Omaha Bay to the east.

To access the track, drive past Matakana Village to Omaha Valley Road and at 1km look for the car park. The track heads almost immediately upwards crossing undulating farmland and sometimes passing curious cattle, to reach the bushline. Adventurous children will enjoy the well maintained bush track, although you may need to embrace muddy patches and scramble over a few steep spots.

Once at the summit you can either return the way you came, or continue your hike north to Rodney Road for sweeping coastal views (2 hours), or west along a section of the Te Araroa trail to Matakana Valley Road (1 hour). This 2.5km track descends gently through native bush to with stunning rural views through the trees.

Mt Tamahunga - Walks for family and tiny legs

Explore Matakana Coast history

The Matakana Coast region is rich in history. Immerse yourself in stories of Māori settlers, the Bohemians of Pūhoi, the cannibals of Kawau and Dalmatian immigrants who lived in tents on Snells beach to dig for kauri gum. 

Learn about boat building and spars from the kauri trees that lined the Mahurangi and Matakana rivers, and of how Warkworth became host to thousands of military men from America, with 25 military camps set up around the town’s farmlands during WWII.

Visit the old dairy factory in Matakana built at the turn of the century, and the unique Matakana War Memorial, the first sculpture of George V in the world, sculpted from Oamaru stone. Enjoy Goat Island within New Zealand’s first ever marine reserve.

Explore the museums of Warkworth and Pūhoi plus historic sites throughout the region. Walk the Heritage Trail in Warkworth. 

The Matakana Coast lies along the coast of Rodney District which took its name from Cape Rodney (opposite Little Barrier Island), named by Captain James Cook on 24 November 1769 after Admiral Sir George Brydges Rodney.

Before the arrival of Europeans to the District, there were Māori settlements at Tāwharanui (Ngati Raupo), Omaha to Pakiri (Ngati Manuhiri) and Mahurangi (Ngati Rongo). 

Matakana Coast begins at Pūhoi, a little village only 30 minutes North of Auckland. Settled by Bohemian immigrants from former Czechoslovakia in 1863, Pūhoi is one of only two ethnic historic villages in New Zealand. A group of 82 immigrants arrived in Pūhoi 124 days after leaving their homeland, having traveled in Māori canoes for the final four miles of their journey up the Pūhoi river. The land had originally been purchased by the Crown, which offered 40 acres of free land to new settlers to try and attract Pākehā to the Auckland region. Descendants of these Bohemian settlers still live in and around Pūhoi, and its pioneer past is proudly remembered by the community today.

Situated between the mouths of the Waiwera and Pūhoi rivers, Wenderholm is the first regional park of the Auckland region. For approximately 1000 years Māori lived in the area because it featured several natural resources. Visitors to Wenderholm can still see physical reminders of past residents, such as Couldrey House, the historic trees, a carved pouwhenua (carved wooden posts used by Māori) and the remains of Māori settlements.

Across the Pūhoi River, at the end of Mahurangi West, you’ll find Mahurangi Regional Park which was the ancestral domain of Ngäti Rongo and there are four fortified pa sites at Opahi, Cudlip and Te Muri Points and above Sullivan’s Bay. More than 100 Māori and European settlers are buried in the Te Muri upupa (cemetery) in the park. The cemetery dates back to 1860, and is watched over by two ancient and sacred pōhutakawa trees. The Mahurangi West Hall is believed to be the oldest school in Northland that is still standing on its original site. 

The Mahurangi River runs roughly north to south between Mahurangi West and Mahurangi East.  Lining its banks were kauri trees which were used to make shipping spars. The river flows through the Warkworth township, and was once the lifeblood of the town with a busy steam of sail boats constantly cruising the waterways, trading between the town and Auckland. These days the river is still in use with the Jane Gifford taking tours down the river.

At the top of the river lies the historic township of Warkworth, the main town on the Matakana Coast. Warkworth was founded in 1853 by John Anderson Brown who named the town after Warkworth in Northumberland. The town of Warkworth was previously known as Browns Mill after the sawmill established by Brown on the banks of the Mahurangi, when the area was just a timber camp supplying kauri spars. 

Bridge House Lodge, established on the site of John Anderson Brown’s home next door to the Warkworth Bridge, is the oldest surviving building in the town and a great place to dine and stay. In 1922 Stubbs Butchery first opened and took over the site on Wharf Street that once housed Bowen’s Store, the first commercial premises to be built in the 1860s. The family-run Warkworth Butchery still stands on the same site.  Although Warkworth escaped the physical devastation of WWII, at the end of the 1930’s it hosted thousands of military men from America, with 25 military camps set up around the town’s farmlands. 

warkworth hotel
Warkworth’s history can be seen as you walk through the streets following the Heritage trail (Maps available from the Warkworth Information Centre and the Warkworth & Districts Museum). Old ruins of the first portland cement manufacturing works in the southern hemisphere still remain.

On the other side of the Mahurangi River lies Mahurangi East peninsula. The end of the peninsula is a continuation of Mahurangi Regional Park encompassing Scotts Landing and the Scott Homestead, once a hotel and boarding house built in 1877 at the centre of a shipbuilding business.

Travelling back along the peninsula to Scandretts Regional Park, there are a number of sites of past Māori settlement, including two headland pā. The land was purchased by the Scandrett family in the 1860’s and run by generations of Scandretts before being sold to the Auckland Regional Council in 1998.

Further up the coast you’ll arrive at Algies Bay. Alexander Algie purchased land here in 1867, sight unseen. He and his wife firstly lived in tents while a large Nikau whare (hut) was built, followed by the building of a wooden house. A boarding house was built by the sea in 1893. The guests arrived by steamer from Auckland and were met out in the bay and rowed ashore in the family punt and dinghies.  The site of the boarding house is still owned by the Algie family who run the Bethshan Motel, offering waterfront accommodation.

Snells Beach was purchased by Cornish miner James Snell who arrived in Kawau in 1854. Prior to this, the beach had been known as Long Beach. Dalmatian immigrants would live in tents on the beach and dig for kauri gum when the tide was out. 

Tucked in at the top of the peninsula is the small seaside settlement of Sandspit which has a great boating community dating back to the 1840s. Sandspit is the gateway to Kawau Bay with Kawau Island only a quick ferry ride away. Kawau was named after the Kawau Paka; the white throated or little shag-cormorant which breeds on the Island.

A manganese mine was established on Kawau island in the 1840s and completely by accident, the discovery of copper was made. The underground seashore copper mine ruins, a pumping engine house and a small smelter remain today. One of NZ’s first governors, Sir George Grey, purchased the island in 1862 where he extended the mine manager’s house to create his stately home and exotic gardens, now restored and open for viewing in Mansion House Bay.

Amongst the surrounding islands in Kawau Bay is Moturekareka where you can see the old wreck of the Alice A. Leigh (renamed the Rewa), a 3,000 tonne four-masted steel barque built in 1889, whose history is directly linked to the end of the days of sail. Alice carried 31 sails on her lofty rig and ran trades from India and Australia to London until 1922.

History of Matakana

Timber resources in upper Matakana (now Matakana Village) resulted in settlers moving up the river around 1848 and squatting on the land until it was surveyed in the 1850’s. By 1853 John Heydn was operating a sawmill at the falls on the Matakana river, he and Peter Campbell subsequently obtained licenses for the area a year later. During the mid 1850’s, flax was being harvested from the area. 

1864 saw the establishment of the first public building in Matakana Village, the Presbyterian School, which served as a church on Sundays. The church, after some time away, has been relocated to The Matakana Country Park and is still in use.

By 1881, the Matakana population stood at around 150. By this time, all the Kauri in the area had been removed, it was then that agricultural practices took over, with fruit being an important industry. Peach wine was popular at the time.

Fruit growing gave way to farming around the turn of the century and a Dairy Factory was operational from 1902, the building is still used today, but as a gift store. (Ironically, many farms have now been converted to vineyards since the 1970’s).

Matakana House Hotel (now The Matakana) was built in 1903. Electricity came to Matakana in 1936, however it still has no ‘town water supply’ even to this day. 

One of the Matakana resources still in use now is clay. Clay from the area was made into bricks at the factory in Brick Bay, near Sandspit. In 1978, Anthony Morris and Sue James set up their pottery factory which grew to become one of the town’s largest employers and 43 years on one of its main visitor attractions.