Wairakau Stream Track:  Whangaroa, Northland, New Zealand

One of the first walks of my New Zealand adventure started from our doorstep in Totara North, The Wairakau Stream Track. On a warm January day, we set off to follow the Wairakau Stream Track to Lane Cove Hut, a short 5km walk but one full of mixed terrain with the bonus of a swim and boat ride at the end. 

The walk started for us at the picturesque Whangaroa Harbour, a hidden gem, nestled in the heart of Northland’s stunning coastline and without doubt one of New Zealand’s most beautiful natural harbours.

It’s sheltered inlet is dotted with secluded bays and coves with a backdrop of rising crags and lush forestry. At dusk and dawn the wide open sky across the harbour regularly throws a palette of colours from golds to pinks casting a soft glow over the water and the sailing boats moored there.

Whangaroa Harbour at sunset

The harbour is a haven for fishing and boating enthusiasts and commercial boats operate from the small wharf alongside private boats and local game fisherman in search of catches such as snapper, kingfish and marlin.

This area of Totara North is steeped in local history, dating back to the 1800’s; a history that is now decaying evidence of a different maritime era. A huge, abandoned shipyard and sawmill dominates the edge of the harbour, once one of the largest shipyards in the North Island but now left be reclaimed by the landscape. 

A quirky museum along from the harbour owned by a local family tells the story of this history of Totara North, but just exploring the area; the cemetery, local houses and old buildings, familiar names and landmarks tell so much of the story.  

museum at Whangaroa Harbour

Before we joined the track, we passed a familiar sight in New Zealand; a group of mailboxes. All homes in New Zealand have outdoor mailboxes for their post and these mailboxes are an iconic feature of the landscape often designed for both practicality and creativity. 

The mailboxes come in a variety of shapes, sizes and designs adding a charm and personality to the streets and rural areas they inhabit. The ingenuity of the individual styles is fabulous to see; from simple wooden structures to old microwave ovens, outboard engines, breadbins or elaborately decorated works of art. 

new zealand post boxes

Arriving at the start of the walk, the Wairakau Stream track begins at a clearly marked sign and easy to spot orange markers continue to keep walkers on the right track.   

We start the walk on an old, wide, steep farm road before the track narrows as it enters the lush forest.    

start of Wairakau Stream Track

Towering native trees form a canopy above us creating a natural shade dappled by the sunlight that filters through the dense green foliage. Walking along the narrow track, you get a real sense of natural wilderness in this sub-tropical forest.   

foliage on the Wairakau Stream Track

Along the path we encountered rocks and exposed tree roots, weaving and intertwining across our route, all adding to the untamed, adventurous feel of the walk and adding a bit of a challenge in sections.   


Meandering through this beautiful forest the track slowly starts to descend towards the Wairakau Stream as you hear the water babbling over the rocks before you reach the water. There are two stream crossings along this walk and as we reached the first one we realised it was going to be a pretty wet crossing!   

stream on Wairakau Stream Track

Glistening rocks resting in the stream guide the way across the water back onto the path and both crossings required a bit of scrambling and wading through the water. Depending on the weather, these crossings will vary in ease, but we enjoyed the challenge as we navigated our way across the gently flowing stream. 

a new zealand stream

Once across the steams we followed the route onto a grassy flat area onto more wild, rocky terrain. Walking through the path of this beautiful coastal forest the track meanders alongside the stream with glimpses then full views of the towering volcanic valley walls raising up against the skyline.  Imposing, rugged rock formations, where native flora clings to the sheer surface, truly spectacular views as you look upwards. 

volcanic rock formation new zealand

Emerging from the dense greenness of the forest, the view starts to open out to beautiful coastal scenery as we start our gentle descent to the cove where we will finish our walk. The overhead dappled shade of the trees is replaced by brilliant blue sky and an ocean view bordered by lush green rocks surrounding the cove.

Lane Cove Hut sea view

This walk ends at Lane Cove Hut, a serviced bookable hut that sleeps up to 16 people, a simple spot in an idylic landscape. There is also a day shelter and toilets available for walkers who have not booked the hut, a perfect end to the walk, to sit, take in the ocean views and cool off with a wild swim

toilet block

We had the bonus of a boat ride at the end of this trek back across the water to the beautiful Whangaroa Harbour where we started our walk.  Whangaroa water taxis can be booked in advance for the trip back. 

Such a beautiful walk with a myriad of captivating scenery and opportunities to explore and discover; magical tree-gnarled paths, hidden waterfalls that come and go depending on the rainfall, lush sub-tropical flora of New Zealand, volcanic rock formations, the sparkling Wairakau Stream meandering across moss covered rocks all then emerging to the watery depths of the Pacific Ocean. 

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