Mangawhai – Squashed like Sardines

Leaving Waipu, we decided to take the coast road and avoid SH1 this would also give us the chance to explore a part of NZ that we haven’t had the pleasure of seeing for many a long year. It’s hard to know where Waipu stops, and Waipu Beach starts as there isn’t really any break in the housing between the two these days. However, in the days before development ran rampant, there was a clear distinction and around 7kms of road.

We found parking at the far end of the beach and got out to explore. Yet another example of a magnificent white sand beach which seemed to stretch as far as the eye could see. So when you consider that it’s probably not hard to work out why this place is so popular in summer.


Above the beach next to the local surf club is a large picnic area which gives a great view down the beach back towards Whangarei Heads, which you can just see in the upper left of the photo.

Langs Beach Dump

Back into the motorhome and continuing down the road, we come into Langs Beach and perhaps one of the most beautiful places in the country for a dump station. Located next to the public toilets and the carpark for the beach there was no one there as we drove past, but I would imagine you would have a great deal of difficulty with access during summer.

Talking about access, we finally arrive at a car park with spaces long enough for the motorhome. Only one major fault with this had someone parked on either side of me we wouldn’t have been able to exit the park as there was insufficient space behind us to back out and then turn and it would have been impossible to turn as we backed out as the parks aren’t wide enough. If they had just used a little more foresight when designing these carparks, they would have been brilliant. When we left I tried to back out of the park imagining people parked either side and couldn’t do it without crossing one of the white lines, so very pleased no one decided to park right next to us.

As an aside we got talking with a couple in the carpark who are keen on getting a motorhome one day. But the interesting thing was when one of them started telling us about the heart attack he had recently suffered from, and because they live here in Mangawhai, medical help is not as accessible as it is in the main cities. When his partner was on the phone to 111, they asked if he had any aspirin in the house as this can help dissolve a blood clot causing the heart attack, no aspirin but they did have disprin (same active ingredient) you need to take 300mg. So if you think you might be at risk put some in the cupboard both at home, and on the road. He took the disprin and by the time the helicopter got him to Auckland hospital, the symptoms had subsided although they still gave him a stent.

Next to the carpark is a walkway up a small hill that takes you to a lookout providing an excellent view of the breakwater, that was built to protect the boats coming in and out of the small harbour. Sadly with trees in every other direction, there were no good views of anything else from up here.

From the viewpoint, it was back down the hill for a walk along a glorious white sand beach on a day when we had really lucked in with the weather. There is a quite an unusual white rock next to the carpark almost like mudstone but made of white rather than grey mud. It almost looks like someone tipped out a massive pile of concrete.

Anyway down on the beach, it was quiet but still with a number of people out for a stroll on this gorgeous day. We decided to walk past the first headland to the start of the Cliffs Walkway, which starts almost at the other end of the second beach. Strolling up to have a look at some of the flash houses and the sculpture next to one of them.

We were just about to head back when a car drove down the driveway. If we had been 2 minutes earlier or them just a few minutes later then we wouldn’t have connected, but it turned out to be someone I know quite well from the basketball community who owns a house here. We decided against the cliffs walk on this day but will return for this one day soon.


We decided that we would spend the night at the Mangawhai Heads Holiday Park which at $20 per adult is not exactly cheap at this time of the year, but it’s close to the water with an enjoyable aspect.

This campground has a maximum length in the book at 8 metres, so we were over length, but more of a worry was Mr Blobby with a no pets policy in place we feared it might prevent our stay, however, he was granted a stay of execution as it was winter and allowed to spend the night. So they were very good in allowing us to stay.


We were assigned a spot within the park and given a map to find it, turned out to be between the two caravans (as above) which was a very tight fit. We did wonder about this and thought about going back to the office to register a complaint but in the end, decided it’s one night nobody is obstructing our view so why worry.

We cracked out the bikes and headed off to explore the town and although these are the only two photos I took on our ride (Useless I know) we did around 20kms getting to explore quite a bit of the area. With little traffic except on the main road, it felt really safe as well, although in summer I would expect it would be quite a different story. We last visited here over 30 years ago, and the pace of development is visible everywhere, with very few “baches” remaining and more palaces.

We returned to the motorhome to discover our neighbours on either side had also just returned with both horrified at how close we were to the two of them. We brought out our map and showed them we were in the correct spot. After much muttering, they decided like we did that it was only one night and to make do.

Can you spot us?

We could have made a fuss, but all of us decided that sardines it was which given the vast amount of space available in the camp was a little disappointing had we been staying longer we would have moved. In the morning, we worked out that the caravan on left of the above picture was straddling two spots shifting everyone else over and creating the situation. So it wasn’t a regular thing.


They have spent a lot of money at this camp recently (probably why they charge so much) putting in new toilets and showers as well as a modern kitchen block these are of the highest standard and the best we have encountered anywhere in the country. A novel innovation I thought the timers on the outside of the shower doors so you could see at a glance how long before one became available. $1 for 7 minutes so quite reasonable as well.

As the sun started to set behind the hills at the back of the campground, I met with our neighbours to discuss the parking issue. We realised at this point that one of the main issues was the lack of borderlines for each camping spot as you would expect to find in a campground.

Probably not somewhere we will rush back too as we don’t really like paying to stay in campgrounds but overall not a bad place.

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To view the places we have visited click here to see them on Google maps. You can click the links to read the blog about that area.

To view the Ratings, we have done for places we have stayed click here 

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