Forever a summer holiday hot spot, Whakatane locals will tell you the best time of year is autumn. Warm days stretch on late into April and it's not unusual to see beach swimmers in May. Eateries and experiences seam perfectly with the laid-back culture, set amongst some of New Zealand's most stunning scenery.
THE KIWI CAPITAL OF THE WORLD™
Amid the bush-clad hills between Whakatāne town centre and Ōhope Beach, an environmental success story is taking place.
More than 300 Kiwi now reside in the area, in some instances living a mere stone's throw from suburban streets. Yet 20 years ago they were facing a grim future.
Their numbers alarmingly down to just eight, predators were killing 95 per cent of their chicks in the first few months of their life – and the population was at risk of being lost forever.
Today, thanks to the volunteer-led Whakatane Kiwi Trust predator control operation, the birds have made a spectacular comeback.
From April to June, Kiwi Night Walks are held every Friday evening. Hear the kiwi calling and rustling through native bush, and discover other fascinating creatures that come alive at night.
If you can't make a Kiwi Night Walk, enjoy a self-guided walk of the Fairbrother Loop or follow the kiwi wandering trail and find the ten life-like, life‑size bronze kiwi statues which wander right through the heart of Whakatāne.
For bookings and more visit Whakatanekiwi.org
EXPLORE MOUTOHORĀ ISLAND SANCTUARY
Moutohorā/Whale Island is one of Aotearoa's best kept secrets. Accessible via guided tour only, this incredible wildlife sanctuary homes a number of New Zealand's rare and endangered plants, birds and reptiles. While discovering Moutohorā, you can spot dolphins, little blue penguins, curious seals and native birds including saddleback/tieke, kakariki/red-crowned parakeet, bellbirds, tui, and grey warbler, many of which are endangered or seldom seen on the New Zealand mainland.
Tours also include a visit to Sulphur Bay, where geothermal hot springs rise up through the sand and you can dig your own hot pool on the beach.
This is your opportunity to see New Zealand's wildlife as nature intended it and discover one of New Zealand's little-known treasures.
SPOILT FOR CHOICE
Whakatāne's sun-filled golf courses offer crisp, dry greens year-round, coupled with spectacular scenery. A range of both international-level coastal courses and picturesque country clubs offer the chance to explore the diverse scenery of the district.
Set between Ohiwa Harbour and Ōhope Beach, with views out to White Island on the northern side and the harbour wetlands to the south, the Ōhope International Golf Club is rated one of the top links courses in New Zealand.
With sandy soils and more sunshine than any other North Island region, the 18-hole course is dry underfoot year-round, offering consistent playing conditions.
Greg Turner says this of the course, "The seaside terrain is as dramatic as anything in the British Isles and the views are exceptional. This is links golf to match the very best anywhere."
10 minutes from town, the Whakatāne Golf Club championship level course offers another spectacularly scenic game. With fast running greens and lush forgiving fairways, the course provides players of all levels a challenging and rewarding 18 holes.
If you're after a road trip as well as some great golf, the Ōpōtiki Golf Club course is worth the trip. This picturesque 18-hole course is situated on gently rolling hillside overlooking the coastline and Opotiki township, offering pressure-free golf with tree-lined, undulating fairways.
For more detailed information about the courses and to book a round, visit whakatane.com/golf.
The Whakatāne 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.
Nga Tapuwae o Toi (Footprints of Toi) walkway, connecting Whakatāne township and Ōhope Beach, offers a diverse natural landscape and spectacular scenery to rival any of New Zealand's great walks.
The 16 kilometre loop is achievable as a half-day walk, or enjoy in sections suitable for the whole family. The trail includes pa sites of major historic significance, diverse native forest, spectacular pohutukawa stands, unsurpassed coastal views, seabird colonies and native birds in abundance.
The trail passes through Ōtarawairere Bay - the hidden jewel of the Whakatāne-Ōhope area. Pohutukawa trees loom over a sandy beach of crushed seashells, and the warm waters of the Pacific lap quietly against the shore.
KG Kayaks offer guided tours following the coastal section of Ngā Tapuwae o Toi. Departing from the Whakatāne Heads or West End at Ōhope Beach, take in the spectacular scenery and stop for morning tea in one of the secluded bays.
Whakatane has some brilliant bike trails, with something for every skill level, ranging from an easy family cruise to adventurous mountain biking.
Take the family to Onepu Mountain Bike Park, Burma Road, Ōhope Harbourside Trail or the Mōtū Dunes Trail in Ōpōtiki for relaxing rides. Or meander on the Whakatāne River Warren Cole cycleway, a flat, paved ride that skirts the town.
Eastern bay of plenty locals will tell you they have the ultimate lifestyle. With an envious climate, supreme natural environment and a myriad of activities on offer, we think they might be quite right.
To plan your trip visit whakatane.com