NZ off the Beaten Track – Less than one hour north of Whangarei is the beautiful road that is the back road to Russell in the Bay of Islands. These days access to Russell is usually via the Opua car ferry. All very good for those for whom time is short.
If you are the kind of people who are roaming New Zealand’s magnificent back country, where the locals holiday and play but far from the tourist routes, take this route. You will not be disappointed. I have lived in the North for 20 years, and had never been down this road.
First stop (and last stop) Helena Bay Gallery and Café
For many years I have heard of this Gallery, and wanted to visit – and it far exceeded my expectations – this has to be one of the best galleries in New Zealand.
Artist and entrepreneur Peter Brown has taken a bush block high in the hills and created a small paradise. Great parking (even for that bulky campervan), enticing walkways and waterways with outdoor art pieces, and inside some of the most beautiful NZ artworks – I challenge you to go there and not fall in love with something!
Right beside it the Café has fantastic food – German themed, with great coffee and of course beer. We had coffee and cake on the way down the beaches and lunch on the way back. Well worth it – I tried the Kiwi Lamburger with handmade Kumara Chips and a German beer overlooking the native bush, sculptures and out to see – it was magic.
Teal Bay/Helena Bay
We asked at the café where the best swimming was – they all said Teal Bay, and when we drove down the hill, we could see why. Helena Bay is beautiful, but has a rocky beach.
Turn right for a km or so, and Teal Bay’s sandy beach beckons. We all said we would happily stay there for a week or so – Book a Bach has several options. An estuary gives great kayaking and boat access, and the beach was great for swimming.
This picturesque beach looks out on beautiful Whangaruru Bay – there is a shop and a place to hire kayaks and surf boards and row boats. What a water playground – who would not want to stay here and explore the waterways. The Department of Conservation has a basic campground at Whangaruru, which if you have a tent or campervan would be a great option.
Another Option: Whangaruru Beachfront Camp
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