Road Trip Destinations: Whangarei to Helena Bay

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By Ben Selby

There are plenty of things to like about Northland but a few things always spring to my mind first and foremost. The warm climate, the views and some simply stunning roads. One could wax lyrical all day about the various bays one could visit, but the subject of this month’s Classic Car Road Trip is a day trip from Whangarei to Helena Bay.

Whangarei itself is also a delightful place to visit. Full to the brim with nice walks, eateries and art galleries, there is plenty for everyone. However, to really experience the majesty of Northland, you need to get out of town. As mentioned before, lets head off to Helena Bay.

Start off by heading north along good old State Highway One. Heading through Kamo and past the Fonterra Dairy Farm at Kauri, your classic should be all warmed up and humming along. This section of SH1 manages to be quite light and flowing so you should make some good progress.

When you arrive at the settlement of Whakapara, you take the first left onto Russell Road. It is here where the road starts to get really good. Russell Road is utterly majestic in terms of a drive. As you start to make your way ever closer to the coast, it starts to rise and snake its way through forests and canyons.

It is here where you can drop down a cog or two and let your classic unwind to the full. While one would never encourage any form of “beyond the limit motoring,” lets say one could partake in the merest smidgen of driving exuberance.

If you hadn’t eaten before you left Whangarei, don’t fret. Eventually you will arrive at probably one of Northland’s best kept secrets for dining, views and artwork. The Gallery and Café is situated in a lush subtropical garden with stunning views of the east coast. From the moment you park up, you are quickly pulled into a tropical wonderland. Oh, and if you listen carefully, you will hear the ribbitting of a pond quite literally full of frogs.

With a comprehensive menu of eats and beverages, you can admire the stunning views and then tootle around the Art Gallery. Here you can purchase from a great selection of artworks from local artists.

Back on the road, all that remains is to follow the rest of Russell Road down the hill towards Helen Bay itself. Take a right onto Webb Road and this will take you down to the beach at Teal Bay Recreational Reserve. Here you can go for a saunter along the beach or, if its warm enough, go for a swim. Mind you, it warms up once you are in, right?

Helena Bay is also home to the famous Helena Bay Lodge. Once the private residence of Russian Billionaire Alexander Abramov, it was turned into a luxury accommodation at the request of the steel magnate to give the most high-profile clients the ultimate New Zealand luxury retreat. However, with suites starting at $1750 US a night, it is likely to appeal to the select few.

Being just 40 minutes from Whangarei, Helena Bay offers some amazing scenery and roads. In other words, just another perfect excuse for a day out with your classic car.

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