Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Living in Whangarei

View of Whangarei from the ridge above town.
When we arrived in Whangarei (pronounced Fongaray) way back in early November, we had no idea what to expect, but we were excited to find out.

Heading out of Marsdon Cove - note
how narrow the channel is!
While it might seam fairly small to those of us from the states, Whangarei is considered one of the largest cities in New Zealand, with an “urban” population of approximately 50,000.  Whangarei is the regional capitol for the Northland region, so it’s a fairly important spot in the overall scheme of things for New Zealand.

These little guys loved to greet us in the mornings....
After being in third world countries for the prior 6 months, it was incredible to be back in “civilization” with real grocery stores, cars and people everywhere.  We had heard mixed reviews from other cruisers, but I have to say that after spending many months living and working on the boat there, we came to truly love Whangarei and would highly recommend it as a home base for future cruisers.

The beginning of the Hatea River Walk
What’s to love?  First off, the area is absolutely surrounded by fabulous hikes, beautiful beaches and even some really cool caves.  Best of all – many of the hikes are located within walking distance from the main marina.  Feel like taking in a waterfall?  No problem!  Simply follow the Hatea River Walk trail and keep following the signs for Whangarei Falls.  Or maybe you want to go swimming?  Just “rent a dent” for about $35 and head out to one of the many local beaches.  Or if you really want to do something different, take a walk (right from town) up to Abbey Caves – a series of three caves that you can wonder through at your leisure.  We were amazed at the amount of walks or hikes you could do in the immediate area without needing a car to get there – very cool!


Hiking at Abbey Caves
How cute is he???

Cool cave pic - nice work Brett!
Stacey facing her fears and wading into
the water in Abby Caves.  Pretty good
considering I get claustrophobic, eh?

Fern trees are everywhere here!

An overview of Town Basin - note the huge grocery
right across the street - awesome!
Second thing to love is a very nice marina called Town Basin (also known as Whangarei Marina) that has a great staff of two (Brian and Sharron) who are ridiculously nice and will bend over backwards to help you with virtually anything you need – even going as far as putting together a packet to walk you through renewing your visa!  Town Basin is also home to a huge community of cruisers – so there are plenty of chances to socialize. We spent many evenings catching up with friends we hadn’t seen for ages as well as making lots of new friends that we hope to see again in our travels.

Bella Vita on the pilings next to Ganash - Fatty Goodlander's
boat.  If you don't know who that is, just Google it.
Third, and perhaps most important for us, was the fact that practically anything a boater could need, be it repair services or boat parts, were almost always available – WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE!  Yep – that’s right, the town was small enough that you could walk to virtually anything you needed – pretty important since we didn’t have a car.  While there we got both engines (main and genset) checked over, sails repaired and refrigeration fixed – all by highly trained people that really knew their trade.  Pretty impressive for such a small place.

Our friends Katie M II during low tide at Riverside - wow!
Yes, all in all we loved our time in Whangarei, way more than we thought we would when we first arrived.  Once we spent the time to wonder around and get to know the place it definitely felt like home – which is a pretty big deal after being on the move for so long.  If we had any complaints it would be the sand flies and the low tides, but that's can't blame Whangarei for that.  A big thanks from us to the town, the vast community of marine related companies and all the other friendly folks we met during our stay there.  You made it a truly great place to live!

Yep - the tides get pretty low in Whangarei...but
that's okay...it was well worth the muddy keel.

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