St Paul’s volcanic plug – well worth the climb
The track climbs steeply through regenerating manuka bush to the top of a volcanic plug (St Paul’s Rock) with spectacular views of the Whangaroa Harbour. Chains are installed to help you climb the last 30 metres.
Head north on State Highway 10 to Kaeo. 4 km north of Kaeo, at the one-lane bridge, turn right and follow the river to the Whangaroa township. Turn right on to Old Hospital Road.
You can access the track from the carpark at the end of Old Hospital Road.
Nature and conservation
The rock formations that dominate the scenery around Whangaroa Harbour are remnants of ancient volcanoes that erupted about 20 million years ago. Angular fragments of the volcanic rocks were scattered thickly over the landscape and sea.
The loose debris was rapidly eroded except where natural cementation had bonded the fragments into what now looks like a natural version of coarse, exposed aggregate concrete. You can see this geological phenomenon up close at St Paul’s Rock (Ohakiri Pa).
History and culture
Extensive Māori terraces surround the St Paul's Rock. You can see midden (shell refuse) eroding out from areas of the St Pauls Rock Track.
Europeans did not discover the Whangaroa Harbour until 1807, when Captain Wilkinson of the sealer ship Star sailed into the harbour. The name 'St Pauls' was given to this rock in the 19th century due to its domelike similarity with St Pauls cathedral.
Know before you go
A moderate to fairly good level of fitness is needed as the track is steep and can be slippery in places.