Puhoi River Kayaks

Auckland: Puhoi’s paddling playground

Novice kayaker Debbie Griffiths and kids go down a lazy river.

The six-year-old seems a little bemused when he glances back at me from the front of the kayak.

“This is fun; we haven’t even capsized yet!”

It turns out Nate had been keeping his serious misgivings about this adventure to himself. We’ve already exceeded his low expectations of our kayak trip by remaining inside the vessel.

A 20-minute drive from our North Shore home gets us to the rural settlement of Puhoi on a crisp, clear Saturday morning. This historic community was originally settled by people from Bohemia in the mid-1800s on the promise of free land, Kathy Mankelow’s ancestors among them. After a stint working overseas, she returned to the settlement 22 years ago with husband Cody to begin their own family.

They set up a weekend kayaking business from their home, which backs on to the river so that Kathy could stay at home while the kids grew.

“It got so busy that it quickly became full time for both of us,” she explains.

Puhoi River Canoe Hire is now popular for corporate team building days as well as for day trippers, tourists and families with children aged three years and up. Cody tells me it’s the repeat business that makes it particularly satisfying.

“We get people who remember coming here as a 10-year-old and now bring their own children for a paddle.”

It’s a friendly and warm family operation and the years of experience mean it’s a well organised, tidy set-up without that sterile “sausage factory” feel.

When we arrive, several other groups are being briefed about the route they’ll take down the river, which includes a map and helpful photographs. Others are being fitted for lifejackets and shown the correct way to paddle.

Puhoi translates to mean “slow water” and that’s the big drawcard for families. It’s a safe 8km-long glide down towards the coast with the outgoing tide. More experienced paddlers are encouraged to paddle up for a kilometre first to see Puhoi township or to branch off to explore Hungry Creek River before doubling back to continue on to Wenderholm Regional Park.

Our family has booked two double kayaks and are advised to paddle upstream first to get a feel for them so that we can easily return to get any problems fixed on our way back past headquarters. Husband and 10-year-old Asher are confident and soon disappear around the first bend with Nate and I close behind. Birds, the splash of the paddles and the breeze in the trees are the only things we hear as we watch the changing landscape.

Crowded overhanging willow trees soon thin out and the river widens as we pass green paddocks dotted with cows. As we near the estuary, we see the mudflats.

“Cool. Look at those birds.”

Asher has spotted a pair of herons gliding across the river to land on the bank ahead of us. That begins the game of “what bird do you see?” in which Nate scores big with ducks, a kingfisher and a circling hawk.

It’s not long before we’re approaching the bend in the river that runs underneath then alongside State Highway One. On a day when feeling “at one with nature” was the main aim, this close proximity to modern life is the part I was least looking forward to. The traffic, though, is a mere murmur and gliding under the road bridge proves fascinating to all of us.

After that, the passing cars are forgotten and we’re back to studying crabs on the marshlands and discussing likely homes for crocodiles and other deliciously ridiculous things that young kids and parents chat about when there’s no homework or after-school activities to rush off to.

I’m surprised that despite the dozen or so other kayakers who were being launched into the water when we arrived, we hardly ever see anyone else. The peaceful river is ours.

Older child, Asher, is enthusiastic about WaterWise lessons in school and now takes the chance to relax with her feet over the side while dad paddles. Nate – who’s revealed himself as a nervous Nelly – has been given a kid’s paddle that doesn’t need to be turned and now feels confident enough to dip each side into the water.

“Wow!” he exclaims again. “This is so much fun!”

The double kayak is easy for me to paddle and control thanks to the rudder. Another dad is assisting his daughter with a tow-rope attached to his single seater. There are options for everyone to enjoy the day. One woman I chat to afterwards had not paddled before and is thrilled by the experience.

“That was so lovely,” she says.

“I have some amazing photos and I’ll definitely do it again.”

Kathy agrees it’s the perfect introduction to kayaking for beginners.

“The river is so slow-moving, it’s considered safe enough for customers to go down by themselves,” she says.

“It gives first-time paddlers the confidence to go on to try sea kayaking or faster-moving rivers.”

About two hours after setting off, we reach Wenderholm. We’re helped out of the kayaks and given a ride back to our vehicle in Puhoi. We have packed a picnic but the historic Puhoi Pub is also an option for lunch – it’s just steps from the Canoe Hire property and has plenty of tables out front where kayakers can eat and drink in the sun.

I find it’s sometimes difficult to gauge whether kids have enjoyed a new experience but, in this case, it proves easy.

When we get home, Nate writes a story about his kayaking trip. He calls it: “My super duper amazing day out.”


Puhoi River Canoe Hire is open daily from September 1 until June 30. The river is tidal so bookings are essential to ensure your kayaking adventure coincides with the high tide. Contact Kathy or Cody to find out the best time for the date you’d like to go out.

Need bed and breakfast accommodation and a quick break? Puhoi is just two kms from the end of Mahurangi West Road and paddling the Puhoi River is a great way to pass a few hours while staying at our B&B at Mahurangi West.

NZ Herald

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Less than an hour from Auckland city you will find one of New Zealand’s most picturesque destinations. Between Auckland city and Northland is 1500 square kilometres of rolling green countryside with stunning beaches, native bush, exotic islands, sheltered harbours and  coastal reserves, walking tracks, beautiful regional parks, boutique vineyards, friendly towns, villages, cafes, restaurants and  markets. The Matakana Coast area offers everything from a traditional Kiwi beachside holiday, to a day out wine-tasting at one of the many vineyards.

Matakana Village itself  is a small town in the Rodney District of New Zealand. Warkworth is about 9 km to the south-west, Snells Beach the same distance to the south, Omaha is about 7 km to the east, and Leigh is about 13 km to the north-east.

The area surrounding Matakana contains several vineyards and is well known for its farmers’ market, cinema, cafes, restaurants and boutique food shops.

As word has spread of Matakana as a lifestyle location and weekend getaway for many Aucklanders, so too has its popularity, transforming Matakana Coast & Country into one of New Zealand’s hottest new holiday destinations.

Mahurangi West, on the Matakana cost is about 5 kms from Puhoi, the gateway to the Matakana Coast and about a 30 minute drive to Matakana Village. Mahurangi West is a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of Matakana and is only a 10 minute drive from Ransom’s Winery. We offer luxury bed and breakfast accommodation and have excellent walking tracks through the Mahurangi Park and along the coast.

Call us on 09 4220521 for more information about the B&B accommodation at Mahurangi West Wing or go to our reservations page to make a booking.

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The healing sky above Mahurangi

By Liz Light

Te Muri walk

Te Muri walk

It’s appropriate that mahu rangi means gentle or healing sky, for the southern hills of Mahurangi Harbour are where my heart and home are. I know and love its many-faceted features of sea, sand, stone, beach, bush and bird.

On these hills, around the harbour’s rocky edges and along its string of beaches, I walk for an hour or two most days. On weekdays Chorus, the neighbour’s dog, keeps me company and on weekends Sam, my man, and I pack a knapsack with sandwiches, water, beer and chocolate, and discuss the tide and weather before deciding which of the many walks to take.

We fell for this area when we drove down Mahurangi West Rd one Sunday afternoon in 2000. The road runs along the ridge, curvy and undulating, hugging the contours of the land. The scenery from both sides is magnificent.

Northland’s soft green hills unfurl to the north, with Mahurangi Harbour’s pewter fingers weaving between them. On cloudy days the wide view is dotted with sunbursts and patches of dark shadow. Careless, infinite blue marks clear days and the sea is variously aqua, cobalt and silver.

We were entranced and, within months, bought a hectare of land, sold our villa in Auckland and Sam began building our Mahu house. It’s still being built, but that’s another story and we live in it, regardless.

The ridge road, 5.9km to the Ngarewa Dr turn-off and a further 2km to Mahurangi Regional Park, is more stunning walked than driven. But, be careful, there’s no footpath and cars can belt along, especially at weekends.

The road ends at the gate of Mahurangi Regional Park. To the north, within the park, Sullivan’s Bay has a campground and car park. Here, folk need only carry their folding chairs, chilly bins and picnic baskets a few metres from the car to the shade of scarlet pohutukawa edging the beach. For those for whom walk means a gentle stroll, the beach is a sandy 400m and, except when a northeasterly blows, soft little waves make it a pleasant swimming spot.

But Te Muri Beach, just a little south, marks the beginning of my favourite-in-the-world walk; a loop along the beach, around the point to Wenderholm, up the Puhoi River and over the ridge back to Te Muri. This takes three to four hours, depending on dawdling.

Te Muri is like a hidden paradise because it has no road access, and all those people with picnic stuff and beach toys don’t come here. The estuary can only comfortably be crossed within three hours either side of high tide so forward planning is needed.

It’s 400m down the hill to the estuary and the water is only a few metres wide at low tide. We step on to Te Muri and, here, stream meets beach, beach meets sea and sea meets sky. We relish the wide, open freedom of a beach to ourselves. We swim and paddle in crystal shallows and shoals of little fish seem, at first, to be sun patterns in ripples.

At the south end of the beach oysters grow on rocks. Black oystercatchers, red twiggy legs and long red beaks, are already feasting.

We continue south, walking the rocks between sea and cliffs. Around the point is the Puhoi River, which can’t be waded across even at low tide. Following the river inland, we head north where a farm track makes itself obvious on the hillside.

At the top of the hill, we stop for breath and the view. Te Muri is below us; sea-green meets golden sand, trimmed with pohutukawa red and finished off with green fields. When Chorus keeps me company we take her favourite walk along the bays just inside Mahurangi Harbour. She never tires of this and, though I have walked these bays hundreds of times, I never tire of them.


* Scott Point is on the other side of the harbour, still within the regional park and a one-hour drive from downtown Auckland. Here the feature is a restored 1877 homestead built by shipbuilder Thomas Scott. The house is not open to the public, but the gardens are.

There’s a pleasant bushy trail along the east side of the point and low-tide walking access to Maunganui Island.

* Scandrett Regional Park is a honey and the newest in the Auckland Regional Council’s treasure chest. It was the Scandrett family farm and is situated on a sublime finger of land pointing out into Hauraki Gulf between Algies and Martins Bays.

The homestead, built in 1884, and associated farm buildings – cream shed, barn and milking shed – are being restored and are historically interesting. There’s a stunning little beach and loop tracks out to the point that, if taken in full, make a pleasant one-hour walk.

For more information on these walks see www.arc.govt.nz or ph (09) 366 2000.

– Detours, HoS

Herald on Sunday

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Spot the Lamb at Mahurangi West

Welcome to Mahurangi West where spring has well and truly sprung.

Spot the Lamb at Mahurangi West

Spot the Lamb at Mahurangi West

Its a sunny day here with the temperature hovering around 16°, although it does feel warmer in the sun.

On my quick stroll down to Tangatu point – although people can’t seem to agree on the spelling – I snapped this photo of “Spot” the lamb in the Mahurangi Regional Park.

Granted, it is not a very good photo as I did not want to get too close to the lambs and their mothers, but I did like the spot on his head.

It is always so refreshing to see the new lambs bouncing about;  harbingers of a great summer ahead on the beaches of Mahurangi West and picnics at Mahurangi Park.

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