Te Ngaere and Wainui Bay
A glance at a map of the coast between Whangaroa Harbour and Matauri Bay gives an immediate impression of a deeply indented shoreline containing countless sandy coves, rocky headlands and small islands.
Although well off the main route, this stretch of Northland's east coast is one of the most renowned for its beautiful beaches and spectacular scenery. With their clear, calm waters and fine pink sands shaded by fringes of spreading pohutukawa trees, for many people - especially swimmers, the highlights along this oceanfront are the beaches at Te Ngaere and Wainui Bay.
Heading north and west by land from Matauri Bay, travelers are treated to breathtaking vistas of this coast from the heights of Wainui Road. If the views are making you hungry or thirsty, the Matauri Bay Top Shop at the intersection of Wainui and Matauri Bay Roads is the last place to buy refreshments before the campground shop at Tauranga Bay Holiday Park, 17 km to the west.
Not far from the turnoff to Matauri Bay are two schools – the Matauri Bay School and Te Kura Kaupapa Maori a Whangaroa. Matauri Bay School is a contributing primary (years 1-6) school with a roll of 38 and must surely possess the best view any schoolchild could wish for. Looking out from its classrooms across the sea to the Cavalli Islands, one wonders how any pupil could ever tear their eyes away from this enchanting outlook and concentrate on their school work.
Next door is Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Whangaroa - a full primary (years 1-8) school with a roll of 35. It is a Kura Kaupapa Maori school which teaches fully in the Maori language.
A Maori school was established at Te Ngaere in 1876, but student numbers fluctuated as local people moved to seek an income on the Kauri gumfields. In 1890, attendance at the school ceased, and the building was dragged to the top of the hill by a bullock team to make it more accessible. Changing its name to Whakarara School, it remained open until Matauri Bay School replaced it in 1954.
A little further along Wainui Road, at a bend overlooking Matauri Bay, is an area beside the road provided for travelers to pull over and take in the view. It is impossible to resist the temptation to pause here. This a mandatory stop for all those who have never journeyed on this route before.
The road continues to wind westwards along the ridge before making a steep descent to sea level at Taiaue Bay and the small settlement of Te Ngaere. This tiny beach-side community lies along one of the most picturesque small bays in all of Aotearoa New Zealand. The wide, gently-sloping beach has soft pale pink sand and a lagoon with a slow-flowing tidal river at its eastern end adds to its charms. Enclosing headlands to the north and east make Te Ngaere one of the most sheltered and safe swimming beaches in the Far North. There are plenty of ancient pohutukawa trees to provide shade, making Te Ngaere an ideal relaxing seaside picnic spot.
If you want to enjoy the charms of this shore, but out of the sight and sound of the nearby coastal road, walk around the rocky headland at the western end of Te Ngaere to a small secluded beach and more massive pohutukawa trees.