The Dukes Nose, or Kairara Rock, is one of the absolute jewels in Northland New Zealand that should definitely be added to your must do list if you're exploring this area of New Zealand.
Nestled in the northern reaches of New Zealand, Northland is well known for its rich diversity especially when it comes to landscape photography. With a coastline dotted with dramatic cliffs, turquoise waters, and hidden coves, and some of New Zealand's most incredible podocarp forests (including the oldest and amazing Waipoua Kauri Forest), there is so much to choose from when adventuring through Northland.
The Dukes Nose track is one of those locations that for a moment would have you believe you've been transported to some far off islands in Thailand or South East Asia. The incredible views above the Whangaroa Harbour and beyond makes this hike one that really shows just how beautiful this part of New Zealand is.
QUICK FACTS ABOUT THE DUKES NOSE TRACK KAIRARA ROCK NORTHLAND
If completing the full hike: Wairakau Stream Track - 5.6km one way, Dukes Nose Track - 500m one way
If taking the water taxi: Dukes Nose Track from Lane Cove Hut - 500m one way
Location if completing the full walk: End of Campbell Road, Totara North, Northland (parking available), North Island
Time: 5-6 hours return
Elevation gain: 409 metres
Difficulty: Intermediate (the track up to the Dukes Nose summit is precarious and required climbing up a couple of steep rock faces - think twice if you're not so good with heights)
Hut booking: If staying overnight, Lane Cove Hut must be booked prior
Facilities: Toilets available near the Lane Cove Hut (long drops)
Kauri Protection Cleaning Station: please make sure you use the Kauri Dieback cleaning station when you reach it at the start of the hike. This is to protect New Zealand's native Kauri tree from the Dieback disease which is threatening all Kauri in the country.
WHAT CAMERA GEAR I TOOK
Canon 5DMkiv body
Canon 16-35mm lens
Nisi Filters (10 stop, 6 stop and 0.9nd grad)
Lightweight travelling tripod
Spare battery x 2, charger and spare memory card
DUKES NOSE TRACK - THE HIKE AND THE PHOTOS
I can't remember exactly where I first saw images from the Dukes Nose hike (Kairara Rock) but I remember thinking I've absolutely got to see this place for myself the next time I head to Northland.
It wasn't until 2021 that I finally made it to the trail head and I wish it hadn't taken me so long to tick this one off, it truly is an incredible sight and one for every landscape photographer.
There are two options available to when it comes to the Dukes Nose track and getting up to the summit.
WALK IN VIA THE WAIRAKAU STREAM TRACK
The walk in via the Wairakau Stream Track is the option we chose and it was absolutely worth the longer hike through New Zealand native forest and towering volcanic valley walls which you miss if you take the water taxi option. The complete return trip is 12.2km in total and will take you around 5-6 hours to complete.
The Wairakau Stream Track begins from the end of Campbell Road Totora North and starts off up an old 4wd track. Once you reach the top of the 4wd track incline (approximately 1.5km) you will see a sign post for the Wairakau Stream Track and start your walk through the beautiful coastal New Zealand forest, towering volcanic valley walls and along the stunning harbour's edge. We saw our first Ruru (NZ Native Owl) by taking this option! There are two small stream crossing which you will encounter along the way that might require you to take off your boots, depending on what the rainfall has been in the area prior. We completed the track in dry weather conditions and the crossings were no issue at all.
Once you reach the Lane Cove Hut (approximately 3.5km), have a rest/drink/refuel, and then continue on up the 500m to the top of Kairara Rocks (approx 45 minutes).
This part is not for the faint hearted and includes 2 x steep climb grab rails up vertical cliff face. It is very much worth it for the views, but if you have a fear of heights then I definitely suggest you take an encouraging buddy with you to help you get to the top.
All worth it for this view
WATER TAXI OPTION
To skip the first part of the hike, you can catch a water taxi from Whangaroa Harbour to Lane Cove Hut, then continue the rest of the track up to the Dukes Nose Kairara Rock path (45 minutes).
Be sure to book your water taxi well in advance, and if you're staying the night at Lane Cove Hut then book your return voyage also so you don't miss out.
THE DUKES NOSE SUNSET PHOTOS
We decided to hike the Dukes Nose track in the afternoon so that we could be at the summit in time for golden hour and sunset. This did mean that we had to hike back out in the dark (we weren't staying overnight at the Lane Cove Hut) but we made sure to be down at the hut before it got dark so that we didn't have to do the steep rock face without any light.
The Dukes Nose is a location that works well at both sunset and sunrise, and if we had been able to stay at the hut it would have been great to try these shots at sunrise also. Our decision to hike the Dukes Nose was a spur of the moment one while we were in the area so we hadn't booked anything in advance.
IS THE DUKES NOSE TRACK WORTH IT?
An absolute resounding yes! The view is one of the best in the North Island of New Zealand and if you're heading north and looking for an incredible photo location and don't mind a bit of effort getting to it, this is the one for you.