I’m a first time visitor to the Tutukaka Coast. Growing up it felt like everyone had been there, and James talked about it all the time. So when I was given the brief from the family to find somewhere warm, not too far from home that doesn’t cost too much and has lots to do (they don’t ask for much do they?) it was top of mind.
I must admit I did very little research before going. I quickly decided on Pacific Rendezvous Resort (on account of the amazing views and reasonable rates) and figured the rest would sort itself out. Which of course, as these things usually do, it did.
The first thing to know about the Tutukaka Coast is that it has impossibly beautiful views around every corner.
The second is that despite it being a warm October school holiday week it wasn’t crowded at all. Despite it not officially being peak season up North we were swimming every day at the ocean and in unheated pools.
So on to the important things – where to stay, play and eat on the Tutukaka Coast.
Where to stay
I’m going to start with this because not only is it where we started but it was also one of the most amazing parts of our stay.
We stayed at the Pacific Rendezvous Resort. I loved this place so much that I debated doing a whole post just about it but then decided you couldn’t possibly come to Tutukaka without staying here so I’d just talk about it here.
The views in this place are absolutely sensational.
Perched up on top of a cliff you have views into the Tutukaka Harbour on one side and then out to the Poor Knights on the other side.
You are perfectly positioned to not only catch the sun as it rises, but also see the sunset glow.
We chose the 3 bedroom supreme ocean view suite and I have to say walking around that these have the hands down best view. But to be honest, no where here is going to have a bad view!
We paid just $220 a night for our amazing place. The price does go up over Summer and they get booked out a long time in advance – hence another reason to visit in the October school holidays!
The views were so amazing that I actually found it hard even to read a book. My eyes kept wandering out side and it was actually hard to do anything other than relax and stare out the window.
It also meant that we wanted to spend as much time here as possible which helped to keep costs down.
There was a pool and two spa pools to keep the kids entertained and close by.
We took bikes too so the kids would zoom off on these to the park, pool, games room or well stocked camp dairy to deposit their pocket money.
There are two private beaches you can walk to. Bearing in mind you are on a cliff top so the walk down is easy – up not so much!
The first beach is a sandy, secluded beach with a pontoon for the kids and an awesome bush walk down to it.
The second is a rocky beach best suited to fishing. We gave it a go but didn’t have any luck.
And there is a pretty amazing spot to bbq on too!
This is way more than just a place to stay – it’s a destination in itself.
Where to play
Despite not having a long list of commercial tourist attractions (or perhaps because of it) there is a huge amount to do in the area – most of which is free!
We weren’t sure what the weather would do so we decided to play it by ear and decide each day what we would do.
Our first day was a bit overcast so we explored around the amazing grounds and private beaches of Pacific Rendezvous Resort.
The next day however dawned so amazing that it was impossible not to adventure further afield. In the end it was the low fog in the sheltered harbour with the boats emerging on flat seas to adventure out to the Poor Knights that did it for me and we booked a day cruise with A Perfect Day.
And oh my, it was indeed that. It was incredible (according to our 10 year old, the best day of her life). We saw dolphins, seals, penguins, albatross and went in the worlds largest sea cave.
We’ve written loads more words about this amazing experience over here.
Day 3 James went off to scout out locations on his bike to take the kayak and do a bit of swimming. This is probably a good point to pause on the fact that I drove to Tutukaka with 3 kids and a trailer. James went by himself on the Harley. Hmmm….
Anyway, back to the quest for the perfect bay. He didn’t have to go far to find Matapouri Bay. Matapouri Bay is another spot around these parts that holds a lot of significance to our family, being where James parents went on honeymoon.
James went on bike in the early morning and sent back pictures of a pristine, empty beach.
Turns out we take exactly as long as most other families with kids in school holidays take to get moving because by the time we arrived it was a bit more populated but by no means too busy.
The Mermaid Pools have been closed (due to damage) but there was still plenty to do.
We had turns using the kayak. For my turn I went out to the buoy and just sat there – far away from the calls of Mum and Cat. James took the fishing lines out but only managed to catch a rock Cod.
We ate a picnic lunch on the beach and snoozed lazily in the sand afterwards.
The kids swam in the still warming October ocean.
And me and Soph went and climbed around the rocks and made our way through the spongy sand in the estuary.
Days 4 & 5 were a bit more overcast so it was off for a little rock fishing in the beach, reading, games of polka and a bit of swimming around the Pacific Rendezvous Resort.
Our tip, take each day as it comes and pick the activity most suited to each day. The weather here (like most spots in NZ) changes so fast that you want to grab every perfect day and save up your other activities for the less perfect days.
Where to eat
There’s not a huge amount of options in Tutukaka for dinner. Which makes it kind of easy I guess. And luckily, they are all great options with loads of fresh produce and kids menus.
Schnappa Rock has a real beach side feel with the walls feeling thrown together and everything so casual with a really good vibe.
Wahi is more “refined” but has great booths to sit in and colouring for the kids.
Both have great menu’s, but expect to pay Auckland prices so for us eating out every night definitely wasn’t an option.
For a cheaper option try the fish and chips at Ngunguru. They’re really yum and you have the added advantage of some spectacular views while you wait for them to be ready.
If you are planning on cooking your own meals it’s best to shop ahead. There is a small dairy in Tutukaka which stocks the basics but this does close early. And when you are in a paradise like this who wants to leave to go shopping, even if Whangarei is only half an hour away.
We adored Tutukaka – it’s a great place to tick everyone’s boxes and a 5 day stay was totally easy to fill with amazing things to do without blowing the budget. Despite (or maybe because of) the lack of paid entertainment options the kids adored this place and are already planning their next trip back there.