Explore the Village
Kohukohu, like the entire Hokianga has a wealth of history.
According to Te Tai Tokerau tradition, the legendary Polynesian explorer, Kupe visited the area in 925 AD prior to his return voyage to Hawaiiki. Angry at the food from the hangi (earth oven) being insufficiently cooked, he cursed those responsible using the word kohu. Hence Kohukohu.
The first recorded European to enter the Hokianga Harbour arrived in 1819 and by the 1830s, Kohukohu was the heart of New Zealand's timber industry. The country's first Catholic mass was celebrated 8 kilometres north of Kohukohu at Totara Point in 1838.
For nearly one hundred years Kohukohu was an important timber milling town and the largest commercial centre on the north of the harbour. In 1900, the township had a population of almost 2,000 people. Walking around the village you will find a number of information boards giving a taste of how the village once was.
The village volunteer library is open at various times during the week and has great collection of local history information and old photos.
These excursions will each take a good half day if you take your time and stop along the way to take in the views and maybe chat to a few locals. Within about an hours driving time from Kohukohu there are a wide variety of things to do and places to go. These excursions will each take a good half day if you take your time and stop along the way to take in the views and maybe chat to a few locals. To list just a few:
North of the Hokianga
Drive west and you will come to Mitimiti - a small settlement which lies close to the Warawara Forest, between the mouths of the Whangape Harbour and Hokianga Harbour. The name "Mitimiti" is thought to come from a Māori term meaning "to lick", a reference to the belief that the souls of the dead, on their way to Cape Reinga, paused here to drink at the mouth of the Mitimiti Stream.
It is a beautiful wild place - if you have yet to experience New Zealand's west coast beaches then go and take a look. Miles of golden sand, crashing waves and maybe inspiration awaits you.
Ahipara and Ninety Mile Beach
Feeling a little adventurous - then take Rakautapu Road (the old stagecoach road) out of Kohukohu (you will find the start of it across the road from The Waterline). The word Rakautapu means sacred tree in Maori. Keep your wits about you and drive to the conditions - the road is windy, very narrow in places and is not tar sealed. It follows the ridge in the hills and offers some amazing views across the valleys below. Follow it along for what seems like miles until you come to the junction with Paponga Road where you turn right. Keep going until you meet the tar sealed road to Broadwood where you turn left. Keep going through Broadwood for about another 30 minutes and you will meet the road from Kaitaia where you turn left to Ahipara. To speed your return journey go via Kaitaia and over the Mangamuka's - turn right at Mangamuka Bridge through the gorge road.
South of the Harbour
An Excursion to the Big Trees
An hourly ferry service takes you across the water to the pretty village of Rawene. Maybe stop here for a wander round the craft shops and art galleries and perhaps a cup of coffee at the Boat Shed cafe (also on stilts over the water) before you set off on your expedition. Follow along the road past the cafe to the boardwalk which will take you through the mangrove trees - an important part of the harbour ecosystem.
The next part of your journey takes up out of the village until you meet the main road. Turn right and after a short drive you will arrive in Opononi and Omapere. The sand dunes are amazing! Find a place to park (there's no trouble finding somewhere!) and get out and maybe take a stroll along the beach. The i-Site visitor centre is a great resource - all kinds of information about the area as it is today but also about its history.
After you leave Omapere and drive up the hill away from the harbour watch out for the turn-off to the right to the viewing area. Perched high up on the hill the views down the harbour are breathtaking and there are some displays here which are well worth looking at. If you have time, there is pretty walk that leads down the hill to the ocean.
Leaving the harbour continue your drive to the Waipoua forest.
As the largest remaining tract of native forest in Northland, Waipoua is an ancient green world of towering trees and rare birds. The highway through the forest is memorable for the natural gateways created by huge kauri trees and the fringing of colourful ferns along the road's edge.
This forest is the home of Tane Mahuta, the country's largest kauri tree, which is approximately 2,000 years old and still growing. Nearly 18 metres to the first branch and 4.4 metres in diameter, Tane Mahuta is rightly called 'The Lord of the Forest'. Another significant tree in Waipoua Forest is Te Matua Ngahere – 'Father of the Forest' – which is estimated to be between 2,500 and 3,000 years old. If you have time, continue down the winding forest road until you reach the turning to the visitor centre on the right. There are interesting displays about the ecology of the forest, a cafe and good picnic places by the river.
Explore further afield
The Bay of Islands excursion
Keep going straight through the town and eventually you will arrive at the Stone Store - a heritage site by the river with a great little cafe. After you have had time to explore here you can shop in the town (there's ample parking) or simply head out of town and when you reach the roundabout on SH10 turn left and head south towards the Bay of Islands. When you reach SH11 turn left and follow the road to Paihia. Along this road there is a turning to the left to the Haruru Falls - it only takes a few moments ot reach them and it is a pretty spot. When you reach the coast, at the roundabout turn left to Waitangi - a must visit if you are from overseas and want to learn some more about the founding of modern day New Zealand. Apart from the Treaty house and displays there are some lovely views, places to picnic and a good cafe. When you have seen all this head out towards Paihia township and park in the middle behind the shops. It's a pretty touristy kind of place but if you have the time take one of the ferries over to Russell - the journey takes about 20 minutes (less on the high speed ferry).
Russell has a colourful history but is now one of the prettiest small settlements in the country. Lots of places to eat and drink or just sit and take in the atmosphere. When you are done, take the ferry back to Paihia pick up your car and head back towards SH10 - the north-south road. Turn right but in about 100 metres turn left into Te Ahu Ahu Road towards Waimate. Some little way up this road look out for a right turn to Waimate and follow the road along to the Waimate Mission. It's a beautiful setting high up on the hill and the site has considerable importance in our country's history. After leaving the mission keep going for a short while until you reach SH1 - turn right and you are on your way back to Kohukohu.
How to get there from Kohukohu. I've copied these directions from Google - its a cross country route along roads that are usually good but not tar sealed - (another adventure!). If the weather is bad a 4 wheel drive vehicle would be best for the trip across the country to SH10. If you are concerned about this just take the road to Kerikeri and pick up SH10 there:
Leave Kohukohu and go to Mangamuka Bridge where you turn left onto SH1 (signs for Kaitaia/Cape Reinga). After about 3.0 km exit right to Iwitaua Road (signs for Otangaroa) - turn right to stay on Iwitaua Road. Iwitaua Road turns slightly right and becomes Otangaroa Road. After about 6 km turn right to stay on Otangaroa Road and then after 10 km turn left onto Taratara Road and after 5 km turn left onto SH10 heading north. The road will take you to Mangonui.
When you leave the village continue heading north on SH10 a drive around Doubtless Bay. Keep heading north until you reach SH1 and head south turning off at Mangamuka Bridge towards Kohukohu.
It's makes for a pretty long day's driving but it's perfectly possible to visit Cape Reinga for the day from Kohukohu. Take the road out of the village to Mangamuka Bridge and turn left on SH1 and just keep going until you reach the end of the road! The road over the Mangamuka's is very curvy - take your time especially on the downhill stretches and especially when the road surface is wet. Remember that the NZ traffic police take a dim view of speeding!
If you need supplies for your journey there are some large supermarkets in Kaitaia which takes about an hour to get to from Kohukohu and is the shopping centre of choice for many Kohukohu people. After Kaitaia there are only very small settlements so it's a good idea to stock up there.
It's a pretty drive and there are quite a few places where you might want to stop for a picnic so be prepared to make a day of it and enjoy the journey as well as the destination.