Last year, Whāngārei hosted an international arts festival, Street Prints Manaia, where artists painted 15 large-scale murals around the city. The theme was ‘tuia te muka tāngata’ - weaving the threads of humanity - and the artists interpreted this in various ways.
After downloading a map of the murals’ locations, I spent a couple of hours wandering around Whāngārei, discovering and admiring the large paintings. Some artworks were rendered powerfully in black and white while others were painted in vivid colours.
People and animals were represented, either realistically or in abstract or fantastical ways. The artists themselves came from as far away as Brazil and Italy, though a few were homegrown. One of my favourite works was by Whāngārei artist Earnest Bradley, who was a driving force behind Street Prints Manaia.
When tracking down the murals, I became aware of a variety of other artworks that have appeared in the city. Walking beneath two of Whāngārei’s rail bridges, there are huge murals, painted as part of Resene’s Mural Masterpieces Competition. On Rust Avenue, Trent Morgan and helpers painted a variety of symbols linked to the city.
On one wall, the blocks of colour suggest weaving, the blue and green used on the other side show the profile of Whāngārei Heads. Jasmine Fuller’s depiction of Northland’s flora and fauna on the Water Street Bridge are based on the theme of turning to nature for inspiration.
The Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser has had a significant influence on Whāngārei. The Arts Museum Trust is behind the building of a Hundertwasser-inspired gallery at the Town Basin, and there are themed works all around the city.
On Rathbone Street, a face with a moko kauae (chin tattoo) looks out from an artwork inspired by Hundertwasser’s Irinaland Over the Balkans, while around the corner, students from a local primary school have their pictures displayed. Their art was enlarged and made permanent by the team at bepartoftheart.co.nz.
There’s more art to be found along ‘the Loop’, Whāngārei’s waterfront walkway. Earnest Bradley is responsible for the bird pictures on the toilet block as well as the children depicted having fun on the other side of the river. Mike Tupaea and Charles Williams are two other local mural artists; their works can be seen at the Pocket Park that links the walkway to the shopping centre at Okara.
A whale, birds and kites are all part of the murals that represent Māori mythology related to the area. And then there are the murals decorating businesses around the city. At the Town Basin, there’s a beautiful work adorning the walls of Clapham’s Clock Museum painted by artist Steve Pike, while at Laurie Hall Park, flowers adorn the walls of Mint Floral, a florist shop.
The mural was painted by Jasmine Fuller (also responsible for one of the bridges) and her partner Bryce, who own the business. There are many more murals to be found, seemingly around every corner. Even the council building, Forum North, has new panels outside. Whāngārei’s street art is worth checking out.
When you’re visiting Whāngārei, why don’t you... go for a cycle?
Whāngārei’s cycle network expanded with the opening of the shared path section from Kensington to Kamo. Leave from opposite the library on Rust Avenue (where you can use the internet, get a drink at the café and admire the 10 carved pou representing Māori, Celtic, Pacific Island, Korean and Dalmatian cultures).
The 6.5km of path takes riders (or walkers) past parks, schools and shops out to the city fringes. Another good ride is around the Hatea Loop, which goes from the Town Basin beside the Hatea River. A side-trip from the Loop Track turns at the Te Matau a Pohe opening bridge and takes riders along a 6km off-road section to Onerahi.
After trailing beside the river, the track goes uphill and connects to the Waimahanga Track. (There is a car park on Waimahanga Road for those who want to cycle this section only.) Gum trees and banksias line the route along the track, and the surface is red, giving the impression of cycling in Australia. This section was once an old railway line, so it is flat. The next part goes uphill then down to the harbourside at Onerahi.
- A printable map of the murals created as part of Street Prints Manaia can be found at whangareinz.com
- There are places for motorhomes beside the Loop Walkway — Bascule Car Park on Port Road (for non-self-contained vehicles) and Finlayson Street Car Park (self-contained)
- A downloadable brochure outlining freedom-camping areas in the Whāngārei district is at wdc.govt.nz
Looking for other fun things to do in Whāngārei? Here are a few suggestions.
Climb a mountain
Mair Park nestles beside the Hatea River in central Whāngārei. There is a river walk from the Town Basin to Whareora Road that takes about an hour but, if you want a view, go up one of the two tracks that lead to the mountain’s summit.
Parihaka is a bush-covered former pā site, and it takes between 40 and 50 minutes to reach the top. The views over the city and along the harbour from the 240m summit are amazing and well worth the climb.
Check out a Kauri
A.H. Reed Kauri Park has been a reserve for 130 years and is named after the naturalist, writer and long-distance walker. Raised boardwalks take you over streams, through the forest canopy and around the bases of mature kauri trees, some 500 years old. There are two loop walks here, taking between 15 and 30 minutes.
Discover a waterfall
Whāngārei Falls is just a few kilometres from the city centre but seems a million miles from any hustle and bustle. It’s a 30-minute loop walk from the car park to viewing platforms on both sides of the river and to the base of the falls.
Whāngārei Falls are stunning, dropping more than 26m over basalt cliffs into a pool at the bottom. There is a footbridge across the river, which is a great spot for admiring the action. It is also possible to walk to Whāngārei Falls from A.H. Reed Park, passing through farmland and native bush.