Dive sites in the Poor Knights benefit from their waters being bathed by the East Australian Current – the same one that a certain wayward, animated clownfish made famous on the big screen. Cemented as the gateway to world-class diving long before the folk at Pixar pulled out their pens (and a protected marine reserve since 1981), it offers visitors a kaleidoscope of tropical fish – Nemo and friends will all make an appearance. Hammerhead sharks, dolphins, stingrays and giant trevally all join the marine party, too. Photo credit: Matthew Coutts
Tutukaka Lighthouse Walk
Rise early to catch the sunrise over the ocean horizon – trust us, this one is worth the eye-wateringly early wake-up call. Follow the headland through the pohutukawa trees planted by the community a few years ago and along the stairs to the rocks. From there, use the lighthouse power-poles to guide you to Kukutauwhao Island. At low tide you can walk right out to the lighthouse, stand at the entrance to Tutukaka harbour and take in views of the entire coastline. Take a deep breath: this is nature at its best.
The Tutukaka coast isn’t short of screensaver-worthy beaches, but most are tucked away and visited by only a handful of in-the-know locals. Take Whangaumu Bay. Annika recommends heading to the lookout at the end of the beach and skirting along a foliage-draped walkway that leads you to your own private stretch of beach. “From here, you have views of the whole of the Ngunguru Bar, as well as the chance to spot whales and dolphins swimming off the shore.” We say it’s the ideal place for a cold Corona and a campfire with your travel pals.