Make Leigh your home base and each day you just need to decide what new adventure you will take. Listed are places within around an hour’s drive from Leigh and briefly what you can do there.
This beautiful big island that stands out as you drive into Leigh is an outstanding wildlife sanctuary. Visitors can apply to the Department of Conservation for a permit to visit the island. No landing is allowed without a permit and there are strict quarantine conditions that apply. For more information check out the Department of Conservation‘s website. Leigh is the nearest access and several local boats can provide transport (Goat Island Dive’s boat Apollo and Fish HQ’s boat).
Ti Point – 4 km (6 minutes)
The Ti Point Road ends at a little wharf near the entrance to Whangateau Harbour. This is also the start of a coastal walkway which follows the edge of Omaha Bay. Closer to Leigh Road you will find the Ti Point Reptile Park that has a large range of reptiles including alligators, turtles, lizards and tuatara.
Matakana – 12km (10 minutes)
The Matakana Village is famous for its Saturday morning Farmers Market – open from 8am to 1pm. The large red buildings of the Matakana Country Park also have a Saturday Market from 9am to 1pm plus the Stables Restaurant, equestrian facilities and more. Matakana Cinemas are beautifully decorated and have a good range of up-to-date movies. There are many wineries in the area with some award-winning wines to sample or buy. Check Ascension Wine Estate to see what events are on.
Morris and James Pottery Works, on Tongue Farm Road, has a showroom where their colourful pots and plates are displayed. They also offer tours of the works.
Mt Tamahunga Walkway begins 3.6 km down Omaha Valley Rd or starts or ends off Rodney Rd or Bathgate Rd, Pakiri. There are magnificent views up and down the coast.
A cycleway track off Jones’ Road takes you to Takatu Road and recently opened to include a walking or cycling track to Tongue Farm Road. Omaha and Point Wells are also great places for some easy, flat cycling.
Omaha – 17 km (19 minutes)
The beach is long with nice white sand and a boardwalk follows the beach above the sand dunes. A series of pouwhenua (carved Maori posts) are placed at intervals alongside the walk. Surf life savers (Omaha Beach SLSC) operate on the beach during summer.
Kawau Island – Sandspit 20 km (22 minutes)
Kawau Water Taxis and Kawau Island Experience offer trips to Kawau Island and leave from Sandspit Wharf. Sir George Grey purchased Kawau Island in 1862 during the time he served as Governor of New Zealand. He introduced many exotic and native plants and animals to the island, including zebra, monkeys, kookaburra, weka, wallabies and peacocks. He enlarged and remodelled the Mansion House which is now in public ownership and restored. There are many good walks including one that passes the remains of the chimney of the copper mine.
Snells Beach – 21 km (24 minutes)
There are a good range of shops at Snells Beach including the Warehouse. The Brick Bay Sculpture Trail is a nice easy walk through native trees amongst around 45 sculptures.
Warkworth – 21 km (20 minutes)
Most visitors drive through Warkworth which is the main service centre for the area, just off State Highway 1. It has several supermarkets, banks, and most other shops. There is an extensive wooden walkway and wharf alongside the Mahurangi River which offers a good place to sit and enjoy or wander. The restored scow, Jane Gifford, has excursions from the Warkworth Wharf down the river occasionally and can be booked for groups.
The Warkworth Museum has information on the early settlers and gum diggers of the area. Next to the museum is the Parry Kauri Park where there is a 15-30 minute circular bush walk with historic Kauri trees.
Wilson’s Cement Works opened in 1872 and the remains of the old buildings can be seen via Wilson Road. There is a grassed picnic area next to the ruins and the water-filled quarry makes a good swimming hole.
The Honey Centre, on Perry Road, off SH1 south of Warkworth and is a great place to watch the bee activity or buy some honey products.
Tawharanui Regional Park – 23 km (30 minutes)
Set on a remote peninsula, this park has beautiful beach, bush and farm walks. A predator fence across the peninsula keeps most pests out allowing the introduction of some of New Zealand’s most endangered birds such as kiwi and saddleback. Note that dogs are not permitted in the park. There are no shops here so take a picnic. See more on walking tracks on Auckland Council’s website.
Scandretts Regional Park – 29 km (35 minutes)
This park sits on the edge of Kawau Bay and includes Mullet Point. It has regenerating coastal forest, a small beach and historic farm buildings. There are nice views on the walking and mountain biking tracks. See more on the Auckland Council website.
Dome Forest Walkway – 31 km (35 minutes)
This walk is around 1.2 km return to the Dome Summit. It is steep and rocky but there are spectacular views at the lookout. A small grove of kauri trees is just 800m past the summit.
The Zealandia Sculpture Garden, at 138 Mahurangi West Road, is 35 km (30 minutes) from Leigh but check their opening hours on their website. The road continues out to the Mahurangi Regional Park (see below).
Mahurangi Regional Park – Scott Pt 31 km (35 minutes)
This park is divided into three different areas, accessed from Mahurangi West 42 km (36 minutes), Mahurangi East (only access by boat) or Scott Point. There are sheltered bays, native bush, open pasture and historic sites. At Scott Point is the historic Scott Homestead. See more on the Auckland Council website.
Puhoi – 37 km (33 minutes)
A country town south of Warkworth where you can see some of the Bohemian history, visit a cheese factory, paddle down the river in a canoe or kayak or just enjoy the hospitality at the Puhoi Pub. See more on www.puhoinz.com
Te Hana – 38 km (39 minutes)
Te Ao Marama is a Maori Cultural Centre on SH1 north of Wellsford. It offers a comprehensive range of authentic Maori cultural experiences. Also check out Kerry Strongman’s studio where you can see a range of his arts and artifacts.
Wenderholm – 42 km (38 minutes)
Wenderholm sits between the Puhoi and Waiwera Rivers and was the first Auckland Regional Park. The historic Couldrey House sits in the grounds and there is a carved pouwhenua nearby. Above the beach the hill is covered with native bush with walking tracks. This is beautiful when the kowhai trees are flowering in spring.
Mangawhai – 54 km (60 minutes)
Another seaside destination with a sandy surf beach. The Mangawhai Coastal Walk is one of the best in the area, but it pays to check the tide first.
Te Arai – 56 km (60 minutes)
This beautiful beach often has good surf. A small quarry has a track each side giving good views of the coastline. A good place to feel totally secluded.
Matakohe – 85 km (75 minutes)
The Kauri Museum at Matakohe is one of the finest in New Zealand and a great place to call in for an hour or two.