Walking adventure – Whitianga, Ferry Landing to Cooks Beach

Walking adventure – Whitianga, Ferry Landing to Cooks Beach

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Aerial shot of Lonely Bay and Cooks Beach

In this article All About Whitianga team member Kat takes us exploring across the Whitianga river and to Cooks Beach.

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Walking from Ferry Landing to Cooks Beach

Because I live in Cooks Beach and work in Whitianga I am often asked the question “How long does it take to walk to Cooks Beach?” The answer really depends on if you just want to walk down the road, or if you want to spend some time exploring the many gems that are waiting for you just a ferry ride away.
Why not put aside half a day or so and spend the day exploring your way to Cooks Beach? Here’s a suggestion for a plan, but feel free to pick and choose what you’d like to do, you may prefer to break it up into multiple adventures!

Ferry Landing Stone Wharf & Cemetery 

After your ferry ride across the river, don’t go charging up the hill, take a few minutes to appreciate what is possibly the oldest hewn stone wharf in Australasia. Built in 1837 the wharf and ferry steps were built by Gordon Davis Browne and local Maori. Imagine the task, as some of the blocks of stone are six foot by four foot by two foot!
On the left you can take the path up to the Ferry Landing cemetery. The first section is home to the historic cemetery, where many of Mercury Bay's pioneers are buried. Walking up the sealed path will connect you back to Purangi Road at the top of the rise. It's an easy walk along Purangi Road to Front Beach and then Flaxmill Bay.

Top tip!

Make sure you read all the historical signs – they are full of interesting information.

Whitianga Rock Scenic and Historic Reserve

Alternatively you can head along the righthand side of the Ferry Landing car park and take the track to explore Whitianga Rock, Pa site and Back Bay via the Maramaratotara Track. It's about 10 minutes to the Pa site and 20 minutes along the track that connects to Purangi Road. 

It's worth taking the Maramaratotara track, you'll get some fantastic views of the Whitianga township and bay. It's a bit of a climb and you may get your feet wet if there's a really high tide, I think a small price to pay for the view. It takes around 20 minutes and that includes quick stops at the viewing platforms.

Make sure you follow the signs and orange tags. You'll need to take a left at on the track (see first image above) and head down to Back Bay. The steps finish in the water (dry if it's low tide) and you'll have to sneak under the overhanging rock, but then you'll be back on the track, follow the boardwalk and head up the gnarly path. There's a few stairs before your reach the first look out over the township. Following the ridge along the top, there's a couple more look outs, so have your camera handy. It's then down hill, with more steps before you emerge out onto Purangi Road between Front Beach and Flaxmill Bay. You can either go left and head back to the ferry or right and continue towards Cooks Beach.

Front Beach and Flaxmill Bay

If you’ve taken the Maramaratotora track and popped out on Purangi Road, cross the road and wander along the paved path towards Front Beach to the left or Flaxmill Bay on the right. Front Beach is nice for swimming although can be affected by a decent swell from time to time. Wander along the beach towards Flaxmill Bay at low tide, otherwise take the roadside path.

When you reach Flaxmill Bay, if your timing is right, and the Eggcentric café is open, it is definitely worth a stop for coffee and to die for carrot cake. Enjoy a table outside in the garden or under cover inside while appreciating the artworks. Often there are exhibitions of local artists here, along with music gigs. For the kids, grab an icecream to enjoy at the beach.
Flaxmill Bay is a shallow beach, which is great for little people, as it is sheltered and doesn’t get a big swell coming in. There are some interesting rock formations to explore, a bit of a rope swing and in the summer a pontoon for the bigger kids to swim out to. Once you’ve had your coffee and cake or icecream and swim, keep heading down the road or take the cliff path and head up to Shakespeare Reserve.

Shakespeare's Cliff Reserve and Lonely Bay

The cliff path is at the end of the beach on the left and will take you up a track with 200 odd steps to a big grassy reserve, which is perfect for a picnic overlooking the Mercury Bay. There’s a grove of trees, marvellous for the kids to play in, or if you veer up to the right, a seat to sit on and appreciate the view. Follow the track and you’ll exit out onto the gravel roadway that goes up to the cliff look out. Turn left and walk a hundred metres or so to enjoy the 210 degree view of the bay. Perfect for a panorama shot! Make sure you take a peak at the second lookout that overlooks Lonely Bay.
Follow the gravel road back down to the main Purangi Road or take the scenic track via Lonely Bay and Cooks Stream to the western end of Cooks Beach. Remember, that it’s down hill, you’ve already done the hard work up the cliff steps.

The track to Lonely Bay is on the left as you start to head down the road, just before the toilets, incase you need a rest stop. The track follows along the edge of the cliff and there are some beautiful views of both Cooks and Lonely Bay. The track meets the Lonely Bay path, so detour left and head down to paddle your feet in this often quiet and secluded bay. Beware that sometimes it gets ‘dumpy’ waves, but there’s lots of fun to be had. Pohutakawa overhang the beach and are great for a spot of shade. Rock pools to explore and at low tide, shells to collect and quiet time to be had. Some people venture around the rocks to Flaxmill Bay or Cooks Beach, but it's not recommended as you will need to swim in spots, and you may disturb the seagulls that nest on the rocks.

I suggest you head back up the track and across the parking area and down the path towards Cooks Beach. You will emerge at the western end of the beach, you can wade the stream and to cross. I suggest though that you turn right and take the bush walk along the edge of the stream, it’s lovely and cool and you’ll end up by a footbridge and reserve. Head towards the beach and take a stroll along this 2km of golden sand.

Flaxmill Bay to Cooks Beach

If you decide to skip the Shakespeare Cliff reserve, follow the hoggin path over the footbridge and then the track that meanders along in the bush beside Purangi Road. Just after you pass the road entrance to Shakespeare Cliff, you can take the path to the western end of the beach or keep parallel to the road until you reach the community hall and tennis courts. Here turn left and head to the beach or town centre.

Cooks Beach

The western end of the beach is fed by Cooks Stream and it’s a good place for toddlers play. Teenagers also like this end of the beach as when there is a bit of a swell coming into the bay, it’s where the best waves are at Cooks Beach. For those sporty types, it’s a moderate swim out to the sea cave situated in the bottom of the cliff. It’s a regular spot on the tour boats itinerary, so keep an eye out. 

The entire beach is good for swimming and the middle of the beach sports a ski lane and beach boat ramp near the reserve. Stop here for a swing for the kids and a toilet stop if needed. Walk through the reserve and beside the Fire Station to find the town centre and places to eat and get a drink. The Vessel and Go Vino Kaizen are local secrets that offer great menus. Otherwise grab some hot chips from the takeaways and head back to the beach.

At the eastern end of the beach, just before the Purangi River entrance is a cairn with a monument marking the approximate spot that Captain Cook observed the transit of Mercury. Take a moment to read about the reason Mercury Bay earned it’s name.

Just a couple of hundred metres from here is the Purangi Reserve, which is another popular family spot in the summer. The reserve has a children’s playground, toilet block and BBQ area. It is tidal, so best at mid to high tide. The concrete boat ramp is situated here also, watch for boats coming in and out of the river. Older children love this spot too, as there’s a tree to swim out to and jump off, it’s a great spot for kayak adventures and there is often paddle boards for hire.

Purangi and beyond

Across the Purangi River you can walk all the way to Cathedral Cove and Hahei. You can read about that in our article linked below. 

Related Links

Walking the scenic coastal “path of Hei” as part of the Coromandel Walks

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