Karikari Peninsula
PHOTO: Magdalena & Thomas | Creative Commons

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Introduction

Karikari Peninsula is renowned for its amazing white sandy beaches and bays such as popular Maitai Bay. Other attractions include historical Puwheke Beach, Karikari Beach and picturesque Waikato Bay.

Place overview

Activities

  • Camping
  • Hunting
  • Walking and tramping
  • Check clean dry
    Stop the spread of didymo and other freshwater pests.

    Remember to Check, Clean, Dry all items before entering, and when moving between, waterways.

  • Kauri dieback
    Help stop kauri dieback

    Kauri dieback disease is killing our native kauri. It spreads by soil movement, but you can help prevent it.

    • Stay away from kauri tree roots.
    • Clean your gear before and after visiting kauri forest.

Find things to do Karikari Peninsula

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Water activities

The area offers idyllic campgrounds and picnic areas. Opportunities for outdoor recreation are endless, from enjoying the stunning views, walking historical sites to swimming and fishing.

The East Coast is generally more sheltered with sandy bays suitable for water sports and rocky headlands where fishing, snorkelling and scuba diving are popular.

Lake Ohia

Enjoy historic sites like Lake Ohia. Approximately 2 kilometres up Inland Road you can experience an old gum-digging site, Lake Ohia Gumhole Reserve. Here you can learn more about this historic area through interpretation signs along the Lake Ohia Gumhole Reserve Walk.

Maitai Bay

Maitai Bay is seen as the ‘gem’ of the Karikari Peninsula with its long white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters. Maitai Bay made up of two coves looking out towards the Pacific Ocean. It is a popular site with fishermen and holidaymakers for its scenic views and sheltered swimming bays. There are plenty of walks and tracks to keep people of all fitness levels happy.

Keep an eye out for the local bird life such as the variable oystercatcher and the New Zealand dotterel who frequent the shores during breeding season (late August – early March). If you see them or their nests, give them space and let other visitors know, so the birds are not disturbed.

Karikari Beach

Karikari Beach.
Karikari Beach

Karikari Beach is a beautiful white sandy beach separated from Puwheke Beach by a rocky headland. The area holds many sites significant to local Māori and early European settlement (whaling, gum-digging, fishing).

Idyllic Karikari Beach is inviting you for a swim, or you can just relax in the sun. It is also a great spot for fishing and bird watching.

Walking on Karikari Beach.
Walking on Karikari Beach

From nearby Puwheke, the highest point in the area, you can get extensive views of Karikari Bay, Puwheke Bay to the east and Karikari Beach to the west. On a clear day, you can see the entire Karikari Peninsula with Doubtless Bay to the southeast and Rangaunu Bay to the southwest.

Puwheke

View of Puwheke from Karikari Beach.
View of Puwheke from Karikari Beach

At the northern end of Karikari Beach, Puwheke sits high up on a prominent hill. Shaped similarly to an octopus head (puwheke = octopus), Puwheke was a central point of navigation and historical vantage point for Māori. There are three small pa sites on the headlands of the reserve, which are of significance to the iwi (tribe) Ngati Kahu. 

This very scenic spot has views across Doubtless Bay, Rangaunu Bay and further north toward the Parengarenga Harbour. The vegetation is mainly manuka shrubland, with a scattering of pohutukawa.

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    About this place

    Nature and conservation

    Karikari Peninsula is a distinctively shaped land mass on the east side of the Aupouri Peninsula, separating Rangaunu Harbour from Doubtless Bay. The rocky outer part of Karikari was formerly an island. Today it is part of the mainland, connected by the formation of Tokerau beach, located on the east side of the peninsula.

    Bird life at Matai Bay includes the variable oystercatcher and the New Zealand dotterel. If you see them or their nests, give them space and let other visitors know, so the birds are not disturbed.

    Behind Karikari Beach, northeast of Rangaunu Harbour, is an extensive area of sand dunes wherein lies a significant wetland area, Waimango Swamp. Waimango Swamp and Karikari Bay encompass 220 ha of beach, dunes, semi-drained lagoons and large freshwater swamps.

    This wonderful wetland area supports breeding populations of Australasian bittern, banded rail and the North Island fernbird, plus Karikari Beach is home to the endangered New Zealand dotterel, Caspian terns, marsh crakes, a shag colony and the rare native freshwater fish the black mudfish. The wetlands are also feeding areas for several species of migratory shorebirds from the Arctic.

    History and culture

    The Karikari Peninsula was a favoured area for seasonal hunting and gathering activities by pre-European Māori. Numerous midden are located in the adjacent fore dunes, showing a heavy reliance on marine resources for a long period of time with a focus on seasonal camping.

    At Lake Ohia, the former lake bed offers snapshots of the recent past and ancient history showing visible effects of gum-digging and featuring ancient remains of a once thriving kauri forest.

    Karikari is the traditional homeland for the Ngati Kahu tribe. In Maori mythology, the waka (canoe) Waipapa, captained by Kaiwhetu and Wairere, made its first landing in New Zealand at Karikari.

    Getting there

    Karikari Peninsula is about 44 km northeast of Kaitaia.

    From Kaitaia, head north on SH1 until you reach Awanui, then turn right onto SH10. Continue on SH10 for 14.6 km, then turn left onto Inland Road for Lake Ohia and Maitai Bay. 

    Know before you go

    Whatuwhiwhi is the major settlement along the Karikari Peninsula with a dive centre, school, backpackers, cafe, takeaways and general store/petrol station.

    Contacts

    Kaitaia Office
    Phone:   +64 9 408 6014
    Address:   25 Matthews Ave
    Kaitaia 0441
    Email:   kaitaia@doc.govt.nz
    Full office details
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