If you haven’t yet experienced the sense of giddy joy when you catch your first glimpse of the sea as you drive down the hill from Whakatane towards Ohope Beach, then it’s time you got a move on.
Whakatane, forever a holiday spot, has come of age in recent years, with eateries and experiences that seam perfectly with the laid-back culture.
Where to eat
Local favourite French cafe, L’Epicerie, has recently expanded, opening a sister store, The Larder. With a tempting array of deli items direct from France, dine in at the new outdoor courtyard for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, or take a selection of treats with you for a beach picnic. The French influence spreads to Ohope too with Chez Louis offering mouth-watering pastries, bread, and wood-fired pizza.
The Ohope cool kids frequent the ever-popular Cadera for mouth-watering Mexican food and the best margaritas this side of Tijuana; family-friendly and great for lunch or dinner. New to Ohope village is Moxi Café, which is frequently packed to the gunnels with the right mix of sensational food, great service, and funky fit-out in repurposed shipping containers.
Fisherman’s Wharf has the best setting in town. Situated on the Ohiwa Wharf at Port Ohope, the sunsets over the water are not to be missed. This beautiful dining experience is coupled with effervescent host and owner, Tom, serving delicious food with a focus on local seafood.
Those familiar with Whakatane in the summertime will likely know about Julians Berry Farm & Café. This Whakatane icon has it all—great food and coffee, fresh berry ice creams, pick your own, mini-golf, kids playground, and a petting zoo. Not to be outdone by their berry counterpart, Blueberry Corner is also a great place to visit for fresh berries, superb coffee, and delectable sweet berry treats. A giant bouncy pillow and playground is a hit with the kids.
What to explore
Whakatane offers plenty of activities, from high energy to a more laid-back approach. The Whakatane District is renowned for its superb walking, tramping, and biking trails, both coastal with incredible ocean vistas and awe-inspiring tracks through ancient native forests.
Otarawairere Bay is the hidden jewel of the Whakatane-Ohope area. Pohutukawa trees loom over a sandy beach of crushed seashells and the warm waters of the Pacific lap quietly against the shore.
The bay links to the Nga Tapuwae o Toi (Footprints of Toi) walkway, which captures the essence of the Whakatane District. It includes pa sites of major historical significance, superb native forest, spectacular pohutukawa stands, unsurpassed coastal views, seabird colonies, forest birds in abundance, and rural vistas.
West End in Ohope is an awesome spot for surfing and is ideal for learning to surf, with a gentle break and warm sea temperatures. Stand up paddleboarding (SUP) is also popular here and on the Ohiwa Harbour at Port Ohope.
Whakatane is rated as one of New Zealand’s best all-round fishing destinations. From December through late April, catch yellowfin, skipjack, albacore tuna, shark, and marlin. Year-round fish include snapper, kingfish, and many more.
No visit to the Bay of Plenty is complete without a trip to White Island, just 50km offshore from Whakatane. Known to Maori as Whakaari, White Island is arguably the world’s most accessible active marine volcano. If time allows, pay a visit to Moutohora (Whale) Island wildlife sanctuary, where you’ll be surrounded by saddleback, kakariki (NZ parakeet), little brown kiwi, tuatara, and fur seals.
- Air Chatham’s Sunshine and a Plate, 23 February–4 March 2018 Celebrate the region’s bountiful produce and sunshine during this week-long food festival. All event proceeds support Hospice Eastern Bay of Plenty. sunshineandaplate.nz.
- Summer Arts Festival, 28 January–March 2018 Running from January through March every year, enjoy music, dance, outdoor theatre, film, art, sculpture, public programmes, and more.artswhakatane.co.nz.
For more details, visit whakatane.com.