Free Activities in Whangarei: Whangarei Falls & Botanica

How has it taken us so long to visit Whangarei Falls? The iconic natural attraction of the Northland city is usually the one thing that people see if they are just “passing through”, so it should really have been the thing that we rushed to when we arrived! Well, we like to believe we have been savvy enough to stick around in Whangarei, because there is actually so much to do. Not only have we done an epic activity from the area in the form of scuba diving at Poor Knights Islands, but we have also discovered some free and affordable activities like seeing a kiwi bird at Kiwi North and seeing glowworms while exploring Abbey Caves. Now, part-way through our stay here, we can all be like: “Want to visit Whangarei Falls now?” then be all like: “Yeah, why not?”

Getting around Whangarei

From our homely accommodation at the Bunkdown Lodge, we hit the road to Whangarei Falls. The thing to know about Whangarei is that attractions are quite scattered across the city, so having a car makes exploring it a lot easier. Saying that, there is a bus service in town for those who don’t want to waste money on things like car repairs and fuel (we don’t blame you). Otherwise, you can get some great exercise walking about 20-40 minutes between accommodation and attractions.

Whangarei Falls

The well-signposted falls are easily found at the edge of town where we park up and see the falls within a mere 30 seconds of walking. We arrive at the seemingly calm Hatea River suddenly tumbling off a 26m drop into the large pool below! Wow! This has to be the largest waterfall we have seen in New Zealand – and the most accessible too. As they say on the infomercials, “but wait, there’s more!” We are just seeing one of many waterfall-admiring views of many here at Whangarei Falls. Let’s check out the rest!

First viewpoint of many First viewpoint of many
Another perspective of the top of Whangarei Falls Another perspective of the top of Whangarei Falls
Yep, still looking good, Whangarei Falls! Yep, still looking good, Whangarei Falls!
A quiet riverside walk to finish the experience off A quiet riverside walk to finish the experience off

Different perspectives of the grand waterfall

A small footbridge leads us across the river where the track continues via another viewpoint along the way, this time show the waterfall above and from the opposite side than we had seen before. Continuing on the track, we delve into a tall forest on our way down to the river. An arched bridge provides more stunning views of the forest framing the grand waterfall. Finally, we can walk right up to the waterfall’s pool where every tree, the floor, and very quickly ourselves, are getting wet off the fall’s spray. At least a family of ducks seem to like it – our hearts melt at the sight of a duckling trying to keep up on the wavy pool of water.

Walks by the river

We can’t deny that Whangarei Falls is an impressive sight, so we stick around for a while grabbing some photos and admiring it. To make the most of our visit, we take one of the walking tracks leading alongside the rest of the Hatea River. When seeing the river instantly turn calm again, so much so that we can see the reflection of the forest in the water, it’s insane to think that only a moment ago, this river was a raging waterfall!

The beautiful Forest and Whangarei Falls

From fern-filled forest to the fernery

We walk for a little while through the forest, admittedly not doing the complete 40-minute loop walk, but just to get some new perspectives down the river. It’s a pretty tract of forest filled with all-sorts from ferns and towering trees. Speaking of ferns, this sort of gives us a good transition to move onto our next free activity of the day: Botanica and the Fernery!

Botanica!

One of the walking tracks from Whangarei Falls loops back to the car park, where we then make our way to Whangarei’s very own version of a botanic gardens, Botanica.

These indoor gardens are a little harder find, hidden a the end of First Avenue. The entrance directs us to make a choice: Fernery or Conservatory first?! Oh my Gawd! We decide to check out the native plants of New Zealand first in the fernery which is very reminiscent to being the in the wildest of forests. We walk through various rooms through expected doors and the unexpected tunnel to rooms decorated in fern-covered rocks. Water droplets hang to the leaves, while each room has some sort of water feature of its own: tiny stream, cascading features and even a pool with an eel in it.

Heaps of colourful exotic plants Heaps of colourful exotic plants
The indoor garden displays  at Botanica The indoor garden displays at Botanica
It's what you do in gardens, right? It's what you do in gardens, right?

wandering around Exotic gardens

We then find ourselves travelling over the seas to Japan in the Japanese gardens. This just marks the beginning of all the colourful plants we’re about to see. The first display we walk into inside The conservatory is a room full of cacti. We resist the temptation to touch every one of them displayed in-between exotic garden ornaments.

The next room in the conservatory is full weird and wonderful plants and flowers, as well as a fish pond. It’s like a grandmother’s greenhouse on steroids.

Back to the Bunkdown

After experiencing the sights and smells of Botanica, we finally head back to the Bundown Lodge. It has sure been a relaxing day in Whangarei – a welcome change of pace after days of exploring caves, scuba diving and whatever else!

Join us tomorrow where we have another free activity to show you when with visit the Whangarei Bird Recovery Centre! See you then!

Laura and Robin

It's like a forest, but indoors: Mind blown!
It's like a forest, but indoors: Mind blown! Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Want more?

Have you read yesterday’s post about exploring Abbey Caves? How about these articles?

Until tomorrow’s blog post, be sure to check us out on the HerePin app, we also post travel tips on Facebook, as well as pretty NZ pics on Instagram. Join the Facebook Group to ask us questions, buy/sell, and find travel buddies.

See you tomorrow!

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