If you’ve become a couch potato, and put on a little weight over the colder months, book a break in Whitianga and take your walking shoes with you. On a clear day, a ferry ride and scenic walk, followed by a well-deserved coffee, is an enjoyable way to break the winter cycle of over-eating and inactivity.
Ferry nice day out!
You trip begins with a short (8 minute) ferry crossing from the town of Whitianga, over the Whitianga Tidal Inlet, to Ferry Landing and the start of Purangi Road. The Ferry runs regularly (check online for times) and is very reasonably priced at just $7 return for adults (bank cards are accepted).
Once you reach Ferry Landing, you have an option of taking two trails, one to the historic site of Ngāti Hei pa, and the other to Purangi Road. Both can be found on map 1 of this helpful site.
Ngāti Hei pa site
To encounter history that is still visible today, veer right as you leave the ferry, and follow signage carefully to find the trail leading into Whitianga Rock Scenic and Historic Reserve, and the sight of what was once a well-fortified pa. Ngāti Hei pa took advantage of its high perch overlooking the Whitianga Estuary, and formations are still visible today. Although the return trail from Ferry Landing to the pa site can be made in around 20 minutes, there is a great deal of history to be enjoyed, especially if you do some background reading before you go. We recommend you allow at least 35 minutes.
Maramaratotara Bay Track
This scenic trail branches off the track to Ngāti Hei pa site, and leads along past pretty Back Bay where the inhabitants of Ngāti Hei pa used to gather shellfish. As you pass by, be sure to look out for the avocado tree close to the water’s edge. It bears small fruit in season.
From Back Bay, the trail proceeds steeply uphill to a viewing platform affording stunning vistas over Whitianga township, the tidal inlet, and ocean. Continuing on, the trail leads down again until you reach Purangi Road.
Picnic at Cooks Cove
Having emerged from the bush, you could return to Ferry Landing along Purangi Road, in which case your journey will take around 1.5-2 hours. If you plan to venture further, however, pack a thermos and sandwich (in winter, eateries along the way are generally closed), and enjoy a picnic on the sand at Cook’s Beach a further 2.5km south-east along Purangi Road.
Alternatively, if you feel you’ve done your steps for the day, hop back on the ferry and make for Whitianga’s main street French Fig Cafe (open 7am-3pm weekends in winter) for a scrumptious afternoon tea. This cheerful, cosy eatery (rugs available if you’re dining outdoors) has an all-day menu but we couldn’t go past its caramel and nut-topped brioche and apple and apricot tart. The Fig also boasts some sweet French-inspired giftware which makes for fun browsing while you sip your well-deserved coffee.