The main center in Northland is the Whangarei (fahng-ar-ay) District; Whangarei Harbour was traditionally a meeting place for Māori tribes traveling south by waka (canoe). The full Māori name of the harbor, Whangarei Terenga Paraoa, means "swimming place of whales" but is also interpreted as "the meeting place of chiefs." Europeans started to settle in the area from the mid-1800s; now it's a town of roughly 45,000 people, rooted in the agriculture, forestry, and fishing industries. Boatbuilding is a traditional business, manufacturing everything from superyachts to charter boats. There is also a growing community of artists who have retreated to the North where housing is cheaper. The mouth of the harbor is dominated by the volcanic peaks of Whangarei Heads, atop Bream Bay. The drive from town to the Whangarei Heads takes about 20 minutes heading out on Riverside Drive, past mangrove-lined bays. At the Heads are stunning white-sand beaches and coves with safe swimming, and several hikes, including up the peaks of Mt. Manaia.


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