Walks and Tracks

The Bream Head Scenic Reserve has many beautiful walks, ecological highlights and spectacular views.

Spring, autumn and winter have the advantage of cooler temperatures and summer the option of swimming, however, the weather can change quickly so check the forecast and read our safety guidelines before heading off.

There are 5 walks on the Reserve, from easy walks to intermediate walks.

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Busby Head Track

An easy and beautiful loop walk that starts and finishes in Urquharts Bay car park and goes past the historic gun emplacement.  The track will take you through coastal bush to Smugglers Bay and you return over farmland to the car park. This is an easy 3km walk that will take about 1 hour and 30 minutes. This track can also be walked in the reverse direction.

Smugglers Bay Walk

Alternatively, you can walk over farmland from Urquhart Bay car park to Smugglers Bay and have a picnic on the beautiful white sandy beach and a swim and then wander back.  This is a 40-minute return walk.

Smugglers Bay Whangarei Heads
Smugglers Bay; photo courtesy of May Zing Media

Bream Head/Te Whara Track

This intermediate walk takes 5 to 6 hours (one way) and requires a high level of fitness, but its 360 degree views are one of the many rewards. Start at Urquharts Bay car park and follow the signs to the start of the walk which comprises of an undulating ridge track with spectacular coastal forest and views. It ends at Ocean Beach. When you make it up to the ridge line, especially in the area where the Peach Cove track crosses the ridge, keep your eyes out for North Island robins/ toutouwai and whitehead/popokatea. This track can also be walked in the reverse direction.

After your walk, you can go for a swim at Ocean Beach, a popular surf beach with beautiful white sand and views of Bream Head. There are Life guards on duty over summer months.

Bream Head Peninsula

Peach Cove Track

Start at the Peach Cove car park (1 km before Ocean Beach) and finish at secluded Peach Cove. A DOC serviced hut at Peach Cove can be booked in advance for up to 8 people (phone 09 470 3300) if you want to stay overnight, otherwise you will have to return along the same route.  This high fitness walk is 2 hours one way and has lots of steps.

Te Whara Loop Walk

Popular with locals, this walk combines the Bream Head/Te Whara track with the Peach Cove Track. It is a 4 hours return trip and requires a high level of fitness. Start and finish at the Peach Cove car park (1 km before Ocean Beach).

Ocean beach and bream head range
Ocean beach and Bream Head range; photo courtesy of May Zing Media

Discover Whangarei Heads has created a great online information resource about all the local walks in Whangarei Heads.  

The Department of Conservation website is also a good source to find more information and alerts about the tracks.

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Nature Spotting

The Reserve showcases the best coastal broad leaf forest ecosystem remaining in Northland and is one of the most significant Reserves in the country.  There is a complete sequence of vegetation types from the sandy and rocky seashore to high forest and rocky outcrops supporting an incredibly diverse range of species including kiwi, kukupa (wood pigeon), kaka, bellbird, grey-faced petrel and other seabirds, threatened invertebrates, bats, skinks, geckos, and many nationally and regionally significant plants.

With sustained and intensive pest control the ecosystem is flourishing.  New species have been found and perhaps more are still waiting to be discovered; birds are being reintroduced that have been absent from mainland Northland for over a century and species that were only occasional visitors from the Hen and Chicken offshore islands such as bellbird and kaka are now breeding within the Reserve, and hopefully others will follow like the red-crowned kakariki.

Bream Head is an iconic Reserve with a rugged shoreline backed by steep forest-clad slopes and rocky outcrops and peaks.  Bream Head dominates the landscape both from the sea and from the land, and as such its imposing form is a natural gateway to the Whangarei Harbour.  The Reserve is defined by a steep ridge line and peaks of Te Whara/Bream Head up to 490m high, and Matariki/Mt Lion, and Home Point and Busby Head, between the Whangarei Harbour entrance and Ocean Beach.

Kiwi footprints
Look out for Kiwi footprints in soft mud

Keep Your Eyes Peeled!

A great way to increase your enjoyment while visiting the Reserve is looking out for and identifying our wildlife.

Identify some Unique Species

We have created some information sheets.  You can load a PDF into your tablet before your trip or if you have a printer why not make a copy and bring it along with you. This is a great activity for kids. Click on download buttons below to download.

Skinks and Geckos

Here are some tips for spotting skinks and geckos:

  • Skinks live down on the ground while geckos are more usually found up in the branches.
  • If you are in doubt if the creature in front of you is a skink or a gecko remember ‘skinks blink’ (but geckos don’t).
  • Many of our skink and geckos are threatened or endangered.  By all means look but please don’t touch.  If you are moving tree debris and leaf litter to look for skinks please do so slowly and carefully.
Bream Head skink

North Island Robin (Toutouwai) / Whitehead (Popokatea)

If you make it up to the ridge line, especially in the area where the Peach Cove track crosses the ridge, keep your eyes out for North Island robins and whitehead.  You will often see the robins hopping along beside the path and if you stop they may well come right up to you.  You will see the whiteheads in the trees as they are a flocking songbird which you are likely to hear before you see. We are very proud to have robins and whiteheads in our Reserve and we don’t want them to come to any harm. Please be very careful around them and please do not feed them.

Robin (Toutouwai)
Whitehead (Popokatea)

Ecological Highlights

Ecological highlights of Bream Head Conservation Reserve include:

  • NI robin were reintroduced to Bream Head in 2016 after being absent for over 100 years.
  • Whitehead were reintroduced to the Reserve in 2017.
  • Grey faced petrel self-reintroduced to the Reserve and bred successfully in 2017.
  • Bream Head contains the largest and most healthy population of the nationally critical threatened tree – Northland horopito (Pseudowintera insperata) IN THE WORLD
  • Bream Head is home to the southern most mainland colony of the threatened native flax snail – pupuharakeke IN THE WORLD
  • Bream Head contains the largest mainland population of the tree parapara IN THE WORLD
  • A previously unidentified skink was found for the first time in 2013 at Bream Head
  • Bream Head is home to an incredible diversity of nationally and regionally significant plants and animals including  threatened species and species not seen anywhere outside Whangarei Heads.
Nesting grey-faced Petrel at Bream Head Scenic Reserve

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Responsible Visitor

We hope you enjoy your time exploring the walks and tracks at Bream Head Scenic Reserve. Here are are some safety points to remember to make sure your day out is safe and enjoyable.

Plan your trip

  • Choose the walk that suits the fitness levels in your group

Tell someone

  • Let someone know where you are going and give an expected return time.

Keep to the marked tracks

  • Some of the walks have rocky outcrops with steep drop offs so keep to the marked tracks and supervise children
  • Keep away from any predator traps for your safety
  • Read the signs and information boards at the beginning of the tracks

Take some supplies

  • Water bottle
  • Snacks for the longer walks
  • Wear sturdy shoes with good grip
  • A bag for your rubbish
  • Sweaters/raincoats in case the weather changes
  • Cellphone – there is good coverage throughout the reserve
  • Remember your camera!

Be aware of the weather

  • Check the forecast
  • Note that the tracks can be slippery after rain

Look after Bream Head Scenic Reserve

  • Don’t light fires
  • Take your rubbish home

Sorry, no dogs allowed

  • Whangarei Heads is a kiwi sanctuary, so no dogs are permitted in the reserve or on any DOC tracks in Whangarei Heads.

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