Kia Ora: Omokoroa

Tiny Omokoroa is welcoming and safe, locals tell Elisabeth Easther.
Taking a ride along Omokoroa Beach. Photo / NZME.
Taking a ride along Omokoroa Beach. Photo / NZME.

Origin of name: Some say Omokoroa is Maori for "land of the long lizard" while others say it means "place of the small white grub" as in huhu - considered a delicacy back in the day, with diners travelling far and wide to enjoy their huhu treats here.

Population: 2600 and rising daily.

Town slogan: The Paradise Peninsula.

Town mascot: The gecko.

Famous locals: Te Waharoa (revered Maori chief), Joseph Gellibrand, (early European settler who, at one time, owned most of the peninsula), Stephen Scahill, (golfer and winner of the Eisenhower Trophy in 1992).

Hot stuff: Local fire chief Ian Blunt is a bit of a legend round these parts and is known (unofficially) as the Mayor of Omokoroa.

Local fire chief Ian Blunt. Photo / NZME.
Local fire chief Ian Blunt. Photo / NZME.


Best website: omokoroabeach.nz or omokoroa.co.nz.

Main employer: Though there are lots of small businesses in the town - including a recently opened supermarket - a large proportion of the community commute the 20 minutes to Tauranga and surrounds for their employment. Retirement is also a popular occupation.

Dual purpose: The local library shares a tiny building with the police station, giving new meaning to the concept of "throwing the book" at people.

Source of pride: This is a small community, welcoming and safe, and it provides many of the amenities you'd expect to find in a much larger town. Locals are proud to call Omokora home.

Town fiestas: On the second Sunday of each month, the local Lions hold a market in Western Park from 8am-12pm. The school gala is always a hoot and last year it featured tractor racing; their Harbourside Carnival is also worth stopping in for.

Here for a short time: Visit the wharf where kids can play happily for hours. Or just watch people fish as the boats come and go.

Best reason to stop: To relax before heading on to the big smokes of Tauranga or Auckland.

Thank you ferry much: Take the ferry to Matakana Island, 10,000 hectares of farmland, orchards and relaxation. Great for surfing, bird watching or chilling out. Enjoy a tour of the island and maybe even stay a night or two as it's really rather special.

Best place to take the kids: The wharf is pure enjoyment, winter or summer, as is the impressive playground beside it. The brand new skate trail at Western Ave Reserve is also epic.

More fun: There's the park by the wharf, and the school has some fabulous play equipment too.

Reserve your place: The Gerald Crapp Reserve is a fetching strip of coastal land around Omokoroa Pt where you'll find steep cliffs, a pa site, abundant bird life, ancient trees and thoughtful new planting.

Best walks: Several charming walkways allow visitors to wander right to the end of the peninsula - but you'll need a good chunk of the day to do it justice. Trails are mostly linked together, offering up stunning views of the harbour along the way. Be sure to take your togs though as there are lots of lovely spots for stopping and swimming.

Best view: On a nice day you can't beat the view from the Fork 'n' View restaurant - sit on the balcony, look out over the water and make your lunch last all day.

Best swim: Jumping off the wharf is excellent fun or, if you're lucky enough to have a key to the school pool, that's a sweet dip.

Nice arts: The Omokoroa Artists' Group has been active for over 20 years, meeting every Thursday from 9am-1pm at the Settlers Hall, they welcome artists of all levels to join them.

Cream of the coffee: Beached on Blue is a new addition to Omokoroa's culinary life; located on the Esplanade, its coffee and food are as delicious as those views out to Matakana Island

Get baked: Funky Cookies and Cakes are based in Omokoroa, producing bespoke biscuits and cakes for all occasions - from kombi vans to trains, handbags to spectacular wedding cakes - they ship all over New Zealand and Australia. funkycookiesandcakes.vpweb.co.nz

Best food: The Fork n View Restaurant at the Omokoroa Boat Club is the place to go. Serving light snacks and hearty meals including pizzas, burgers and some really inventive salads.

Wet your whistle: The drinking establishments are both sports club bars so, you either need to be a member or be signed in by a member, although visitors are warmly welcomed. Choose between the Omokoroa Golf Club and the Omokoroa Boat Club.

Best cycling: Currently under development, the 16km cycleway linking Omokoroa and Tauranga is supposed to be finished by the end of the year. Utilising some existing paths as well as building new ones, the tracks will also be open to walkers.

Best adventures: Paddle around the harbour in a kayak and, if you're feeling lucky, trail a line and catch a fish. Or give angling a whirl from the wharf and maybe catch a kingfish - there's dinner sorted.

Best kept secret: Many people say the Omokoroa Golf Club is probably the best course in the Bay of Plenty, beautifully cared for with astonishing views, it has a doozy of a clubhouse too.

Wildlife: Birds (and bird nerds) love it around here. Predator control helps keep birds safe, and the bird trail is now dotted with fascinating information panels on some of the creatures you might spot. Residents include poaka (pied stilts) kotare (kingfishers) kuaka (bar-tailed godwits), torea (pied oyster catchers), tui, tauhou (silvereyes) and kotuku ngutupapa (royal spoonbills).

The verdict: Not too big and not too small, Omokoroa is just right.

Thanks to Jim Dunseath for spilling the beans.

Checklist

WHERE IS IT

In Tauranga Harbour, Omokoroa sits on a small peninsula that reaches out towards Matakana Island. about halfway between Tauranga and Katikati. Access is off SH2 or via the ocean.

- NZ Herald

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