Kia ora: Opotiki

From coast to bush, the best of the Bay is never far away, writes Elisabeth Easther.

Opotiki's slogan is 'coast by nature'.
Opotiki's slogan is 'coast by nature'.

Where is it? In the Eastern Bay of Plenty, a 40-minute drive from Whakatane or 360km from Auckland.

Origin of name: Opotiki comes from the name of a spring above Waiotahi Beach and dates back to a legend from the migration from Hawaiiki, about a chief, his brother and their two Tanahanaha fish pets known as O-Potiki-mai Tawhiti or "two pets from afar".

Population: 9000.

Town slogan: Opotiki - coast by nature.

Town mascot: There isn't an official one, but the image of three kids riding a single horse down the main street is quintessential Opotiki.

Famous local: James Rolleston, who starred in the movie Boy, lives there.

Best website: opotikinz.co.nz.

Biggest business: Kiwifruit is integral to the local economy and horticulture in general. Ditto farming and forestry. Aquaculture is soon to boom with a mussel farm expected to be operational by 2019 - once in full swing it's hoped to generate roughly $50 million a year and employ more than 400 people.

Source of pride: The beautiful nature, the amazing weather, the friendly people.

Sounds historical: The area is loaded with history and Hukataia Domain is home to an ancient burial tree that's over 2000 years old. Some of the oldest puriri trees are here.

Town fiestas: The Opo Lantern Festival next to Waiotahi Beach each January; The Muriwai Tournament when all the marae compete in netball and rugby with people coming all the way from Australia to play. The Motu Challenge multi sport event in October; Trash & Treasure every November at the Waioeka Domain.

Best reason to stop: Because your heart will feel light when you see how beautiful everything is.

Best place to take the kids: The Pipi Beds (Te Ahiaua) on SH2, 6km before town at the mouth of the Waiotahi River. There's a nice grass area, shellfish to collect, a play area, safe swimming that's not too deep, some good shady trees, sand, crabs under rocks - what more could you want?

Best place for a drink: The Masonic Hotel is an old-style Irish pub in the middle of town. They do hearty pub dinners in a beautiful colonial building.

Best food: Arigato Mum's Sushi Bar is open day and night; their pork belly is highly regarded. Two Fish Cafe does nice lunches in a groovy environment.

Best flat white: Two Fish. Enjoy your coffee at prettily mismatched chairs and tables and watch the world go by.

Best bakery: Hot Bread Shop bakery - their mince and cheese pies cure everything that ails you.

Best shop: Tangata Whenua Gallery for beautiful kete (baskets), jewellery and gifts. The woman who runs it is very interesting if you fancy stopping by for a korero (chat).

James Rolleston, star of the film <I>Boy</I>, lives in Opotiki.
James Rolleston, star of the film Boy, lives in Opotiki.

Best museum: Opotiki Museum is very impressive with two main levels and a mezzanine. There are a lot of heritage buildings, old equipment from farming days and colonial evocations of how houses used to look back in the day.

Art gallery: Soul Time is a neat gallery/shop where the owner makes her own products, including soap from goats' milk that she milks herself and kawakawa leaf balm.

Best walk: There are tonnes of walks round here, as 70 per cent of the land is DoC managed. One of the nicest is Te Waiti track; it starts at Boulders Campsite by a river in the bush and meanders up river to a DoC hut and is in total wilderness, how the bush used to be.

Best view: From Onekawa Pa site you can look up the harbour and to the east coast to SH35. From that pa you can see the entire region spread out, great for watching the sun go down. It takes about 20 minutes of uphill to get there, but well worth it.

Best swim: The wharf; the town is surrounded by two rivers that meet at the wharf which has a slide, two rope swings and a pontoon.

Best mountain biking: The Motu Trails are just over a year old and hundreds of cyclists come through every weekend. The Pakihi Track goes through bush before joining a dune track giving riders bush and coastline in a single trail. Idyllic.

Best adventure: The glow-worm walk at Ohiwa Domain. With a torch, walk 20 minutes up through native wetland and bush, follow signs to find the glow-worms. You'll see them on the side of the track and right at the end, there's a giant tree overhanging a cliff and it's really sheltered. There you'll see thousands and thousands of Arachnocampa luminosa glowing like stars in the night sky.

Best place to pull over: SH2 heading towards Gisborne, in the Waioeka Gorge about 25km from Opotiki, is loaded with history. The Tauranga Bridge Track is one of only two harp-strung suspension bridges in the Southern Hemisphere. Go for a swim, a walk, or just gaze into the crystal clear river and watch the trout swimming around.

Best facilities: Behind the i-site, clean with showers, too.

Here for a short time: Hire a bike and ride the Motu Trails or walk them if you'd rather.

Most fabulous item of wildlife: Glow-worms, fish and flounder. The largest North Island population of weka live here, tui and kereru are flourishing too. Watch orcas hunting stingrays, they come right into the rocks, dive on top of the stingrays and have them on toast.

Safety warnings: Nothing to be afraid of here.

Locals say: Haere mai.

Visitors say: Ka pai.

Thanks to the team at Opotiki i-site for their boundless enthusiasm.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a4 at 21 Sep 2014 16:41:43 Processing Time: 1032ms