If Bream Head is pictured as a great dragon slumbering on its belly, walking the Te Whara Track is to traverse its spine from snout to tail.
Te Whara rates amongst the best day walks in Northland. It follows in the footsteps of Māori ancestors, delivering an honest day of tramping with serious elevation changes and sets of gruelling stairs. It’s possible to walk in either direction, but, for me, beginning at Urquharts Bay is best. This allows walkers to ascend the track’s harshest stairs with fresh legs (rather than finish the day tumbling down them) and ensures the best views are faced head-on at the day’s end.
There’s no messing around; the track immediately climbs on short, sharp stairs to reveal stunning views of Smugglers Bay before plunging beneath a canopy of coastal flora. Highlights of the bush section are the occasional volcanic plugs, which rise precariously above the canopy and provide the best and only views from the middle section of the track. Serious care must be taken by anyone brave enough to climb the plugs; a slip could be fatal. The final plug, Te Whara Peak, reaches a towering 476m and shows off exhilarating 360-degree views. From here, the track descends sharply at first, before shifting to a gentle slope as it emerges from thick mānuka scrub. Here, the views are sensational, as the track meanders down an easy grass path towards Ocean Beach – one of Northland’s finest strips of pristine white sand.