Update: Mermaid Pool has been indefinitely closed, as it was being inundated with visitors who were trashing it. It’s taking a much-needed rest from humans. We still highly recommend visiting Matapouri Beach (without going to Mermaid Pool) and Motutara Farm campground.
Driving along the Tutukaka Coast in the Northland region of New Zealand, you may think you’ve found yourself in Hawaii. This coastline is just brimming with white sand beaches, sparkling blue water, and greenery everywhere – and the subtropical climate makes for a temperate environment year-round. You’ll have a hard time not stopping every five minutes for a photo-op!
One of the most amazing beaches in this area is found in Matapouri, where you’ll come across an incredibly stunning bay perfect for warm-weather swimming and sunbathing. It’s absolute paradise here! If you’re in the mood for adventure, though, there is much more to be found on this beach – a secret swimming hole lies just a hop, skip and scramble away.
This swimming hole, aka “Mermaid Pool,” is only accessible at low tide, and requires a bit of agility to get to. Walk along the northernmost point of Matapouri beach until you reach the end – then scramble over the rocks or wade through the ocean (again, at low tide!) until you reach the beach just beyond.
From this little beach, you’ll see a sign marking a path – walk up the path until you come to a section where you’ll need to use ropes/roots/sheer willpower to climb up to the top of the hill.
From here, you’ll walk through some palm trees until you get to the other side – where Mermaid Pool lies waiting for you to take a dip.
At high tide, Mermaid Pool becomes washed over with waves. At low tide, though, it’s the most perfect, serene swimming hole – an oceanfront bathing pool for the adventurous!
We suggest bringing an inflatable inner tube for floating around the pool in – and some goggles if you want to dive down and check out the sea urchins and starfish that cling to the rocks below. If it’s not super warm out, we’d also recommend bringing a wetsuit so you can maximise your time in the pool.
Enjoy hanging out at Mermaid Pool for as long as possible, but be sure to give yourself enough time to get back to the main beach before high tide creeps in again!
While there are accommodation options in Matapouri, we highly recommend driving a bit further to camp at Motutara Farm, in Whananaki. It’s about a 50 minute drive to get to Whananaki from Matapouri, but if you’re travelling North from the Tutukaka coast or vice versa, it’s really not too out-of-the-way and is so worth a visit.
This campground is, hands down, our absolute favourite campground in New Zealand – and that’s saying a lot!
Motutara Farm is a privately-owned campground on a working farm, and is situated amongst two absolutely beautiful beaches – King’s Beach and Barron’s Beach. Once you check in and pay your camp fees ($16 per adult, $8 per child), you can just drive in and take your pick from plenty of perfect campsites, many of which have ocean views.
The facilities here are basic; there are pit toilets and cold showers, and no power hookups or cooking facilities. It’s the perfect place to get away from it all – just be sure to be self-sufficient and bring in your own supplies and a camp stove or portable bbq setup. There is plenty of fresh drinking water available so no need to worry about that.
There’s a small dairy in the township of Whanakaki that has all the basics, but it’s best to stock up on food/drinks in one of the bigger towns on your way in (Whangarei would be a good choice if you’re coming from the south).
Whananaki is also home to the longest footbridge in the Southern Hemisphere, which is fun to walk across. There’s also great kayaking to be found in the harbor, if you happen to be toting along a kayak.
Our favourite thing to do here is to bring a picnic dinner and some wine/beers, set up camp and just relax! Sip some drinks, swim in the sea, stroll on the beach, and repeat – it seriously can’t get any better than this!