Last Updated: 21st Sep 2023


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Whitianga Rock to Cooks Beach

Whitianga, Waikato

Submitted by Sean McWilliams

Last Updated: 21st Sep 2023


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I've done it Done


Grunt Factor: 12 ?

Gnarl Factor: 23 ?








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Trail Map

Type of Run

Urban fringe

Out and Back

Undulating, some big hills

Dog Friendly

Native bush



Run Makeup


Sealed Road

Easy Single Track

Untracked / Route only

Average Uphill Gradient: +6.5%

Average Downhill Gradient: -6.5%


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Estimated Times to Run







Run begins at the bottom of Whitianga Rock path and climbs up a short set of stairs. Follow the path around to the left when reaching the first junction; this takes you towards Back Bay (the path is also part of an old earthwork rampart from the site's days as an occupied pa).
Continue on the path across Back Bay and enter the bush trail on the far side. From here there is a vertical climb of approx 100m with a 2.6% gradient, mostly wooden stairs. The descent on the opposite side of the ridge is equally steep. Turn right upon exiting the bush and cross the road.
Continue down the footpath and turn right at the beach. Follow to beach around and up the signposted Shakespeare Reserve track. Follow this all the way around. When it rejoins the main road, turn left towards Cooks Beach. Take the next signposted left (Rees Ave) then continue straight ahead and down a right-of-way to the beach. Turn right and run down the beach to Purangi Estuary (great for a swim!).
Return by heading back the way you came.

The stone steps at Ferry Landing are one of the oldest stone structures in NZ. Neighbouring Whitianga Rock is a pa site from the Ngati Hei people who inhabited the area pre-colonisation. Flaxmill Bay is the site of a large flax mill from the 19th century. Shakespeare Cliff features a lookout over Mercury Bay, and adjacent Cooks Beach was where Captain James Cook observed the transit of Mercury in 1769.

If you know of any public toilets near the trail start or on the route, please login and then let us know so we can update this section.

Trnasport from the Whitianga side can be by passenger ferry or car. The drive around is about 40km, the ferry takes 5min. Parking lot at track entrance. There is also parking on the Whitianga side, alongside the beach or next to the playground.

39 km

38 minutes




See course description. There are only a couple of potential wrong turns. Coming down from Shakespeare Cliff towards the road, you can go left down to Lonely Bay. It's a short and pleasant diversion to a beautiful beach and is easily recoverable.

Perfect throughout.

Windproof jacket, First aid kit, Cellphone

There are taps at the beaches along the way, and a general store at Cooks Beach.

The bush can get very dry during summer, and wasps can be an issue.


Nina's Cafe
Victoria St, Whitianga
Great food, great coffee. It's a local institution!

Purangi Winery
Main Highway, Purangi
Great wood-fired pizzas, plus wines, liqeuers, and cider brewed by the owners.

Trail Legend

Ruth Steeghs

Ruth Steeghs

has completed Whitianga Rock to Cooks Beach once in the last year.

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Trail Reviews

Good hearty run. The track up the Pa site is a bit gnarly in the dark and the stairs on the way back are a real test of determination

Ruth Steeghs

February 2

There was too much footpath walking for my liking. The views from Shakespeare Park were nice but I preferred to take the trails rather than the gravel road. There are some nice trails you can take for variety on your return.
I did this trail the opposite direction and be aware the GPX track turns off Purangi Rd earlier than the actual trail. By coincidence where the gpx track goes is an overgrown trail so I had a good adventure and as a bonus discovered a new trail I will submit soon. Coming back I realised the track off Purangi Rd is obvious and well signposted. That part from Ferry Landing over the hill was fun and great views.

Kirstine Collins

September 8, 2020

Nice short sharp hills make for fun (painful fun) repeats, and the combination of stairs, technical rooted trail and rock keeps it interesting. Remember what time the ferry stops if youre staying in Whitianga (I almost missed it)

Brad Harris

March 6, 2020

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