Kia Ora: Te Araroa

Elisabeth Easther finds a spot where time seems to be standing still.
The East Cape lighthouse past Te Araroa.
The East Cape lighthouse past Te Araroa.

Origin of name: The Long Path.

Population: Approximately 600.

Town mascot: One wag suggested the marijuana leaf, but that's certainly not official.

Deep roots: Most people who live around here have deep ties to the land, their parents are from here, their grandparents, and their great-grandparents.

Famous locals: Sir Apirana Ngata (respected politician) was born here; George Nepia (legendary All Black) was raised down the road in nearby Tikitiki. John Campbell (renowned runner, not to be confused with that other John Campbell) runs the motel around the corner at Hicks Bay.

Best website: gisbornenz.com or teararoaholidaypark.co.nz.

Big business: Farming and forestry keep the town afloat, while the East Cape Manuka Factory is going from strength to strength, thanks to the growing demand for their oil here and abroad.

Small change: Most locals like the place just as it is, they don't want to see too much progress, which means it's a good thing they're so far off the beaten track.

Source of pride: Ngati Porou are a proud people, proud of where they are, who they are and what they have.

Worth the effort: This is a part of New Zealand most people never visit and, those who do make it this far, have their minds blown. It's how the country used to be in the 1950s.

Town fiestas: Horse Sports is a huge event around these parts, with most kids learning to ride before they can walk. Pa Wars are also becoming increasingly popular, featuring everything from touch rugby to darts, cards to pool.

Here's an idea: Base yourself in Te Araroa then set off on explorations to places like Hicks Bay, Rangitukia, Tikitiki and beyond.

Here for a short time: Not an option.

Light entertainment: You have to visit the East Cape lighthouse. It's 22km from Te Araroa along an unsealed road, sitting on the eastern-most tip of mainland New Zealand. When you get there, climb the 700 or so steps to the historic beacon and say "wow".

Kids love: The old fashioned stuff, playing, fishing, swimming, boating, surfing and hanging out.

Trees company: You'll find the oldest and biggest pohutukawa in the land in the grounds of the local school - known as Te Waha-o-Rerekohu, it's thought to be around 600 years old. If only trees could talk.

Best playground: There's a relatively new skateboard park in town, and for swings and slides, the local kohanga has a groovy little playground.

Best walks: There's an excellent bush walk that goes around Haupara Point, very popular with fishing enthusiasts.

Best views: If you're fit, make the effort to go up to Whetumatarau, the towering historical pa site that looks out over the town. It's hard work getting there, but the views will be your reward. Another view that's easier to access is from the top of the hill above the campground - look out towards the lighthouse and across to Matakawa Point. And of course there's always Mt Hikurangi.

Best swims: Punaruku Beach is excellent for safe swimming, surfing and fishing, and Te Araroa Campground has a private beach to fall in love with. Onepoto Bay is also lovely, relatively sheltered, it's super for surfing.

Best place to stay: The campground is cosy, with mature trees and a creek running through - bring your tent or rent a unit, when you see the beach you'll never want to leave.

Worship this: St Mary's Church in nearby Tikitiki is one of the most beautiful Maori churches in the land. The woven tukutuku panels and carvings are outstanding - entry by gold coin donation.

Paddle this: On the way to Rangitukia the sharp of eye will spy a huge waka decomposing in a paddock - although efforts are being made to have it protected, if not restored.

Horse sense: Head for Tikitiki and take a horse trek with Eastender Horse Treks, freedom riding for beginners to advanced. Just brilliant.

Nice arts: A handful of artists live around here including a master carver, as locals are big on creating and preserving; if you want to know more, ask a local.

Top shop: That'd be the Four Square - happily it has everything you need to survive, from icecream to postcards, gumboots to toasted sandwiches.

You need coffee: The East Cape Manuka Company has a very sweet cafe, selling icecream, smoothies and all sorts of food, including delectable cakes. Their coffee is as good as you'll find on Ponsonby Rd, plus you can browse their Manuka products.

Feeling hungry: There's takeaway bar on the main street if you want to eat on the beach. Or go to the RSA for takeaways or a sit-down meal. If you're after the flashest option, the motel at the top of the hill has a very pleasant restaurant,

Wet your whistle: Quench your thirst at the RSA, with indoor and outdoor areas, a pool table and a jukebox, the locals will make you feel right at home.

Hunters and collectors: Fish the deep clear water of Lottin Point (Wakatiri): there you'll catch whopper kingfish and snapper. Or, if hunting's your thing, head into the bush from Raukokore and bag a big stag.

Best-kept secret: The whole flipping area, there are so many nooks and crannies to investigate, along the beach, by waterfalls, beside rivers and through valleys.

Wildlife: Look out for pigs, deer, eels, rare native frogs and more native birds than you can shake a pair of binoculars at.

The verdict: Stunning scenery, unspoilt beaches, an absence of commercialisation - this is the perfect place to switch off for a spell.

Thanks to Bill Martin for risking having his region overrun with holidaymakers.

Checklist

WHERE IS IT

Driving along scenic SH35, you'll find Te Araroa hiding 175km from Gisborne on the way to Opotiki, on the foreshore of Kawakawa Bay.

- NZ Herald

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