Chasing the sun

Chasing the sun
  • Written by
  • Harri Sharman

A Whakatāne winter escape

Dreaming of a winter sun adventure? You don’t need to look far: there’s a stunning winter sun trap right on our doorsteps. Whakatāne is well known for being one of the sunniest spots in New Zealand, even during winter months. It’s the perfect affordable escape, without the maddening crowds of summer.

Whakatāne and nearby beach towns Ōhope and Ōpōtiki offer wide expanses of stunning landscapes, adventures, and relaxation with plenty of opportunities for soaking up some soft winter sun. Experience the peaceful serenity of a native bush walk, accompanied by the rustling sounds of native birds.

From April to July, you could encounter the calls of a kiwi on a guided night walk, operating during these months while kiwis are most vocal. Walks are run by the Whakatāne Kiwi Trust every Friday night and depart from either Ōhope Scenic Reserve or Mokorua Bush Scenic Reserve.

Another must-do experience for nature lovers is a guided tour to Moutohorā (Whale Island), a predator-free eco-sanctuary nine kilometres offshore from Whakatāne. The island is home to various species of rare and endangered birds, reptiles, and plants – see if you can spot tuatara, tīeke (saddlebacks), bellbirds, dolphins, little blue penguins, and fur seals. Tours include a stop at secluded hot water beach, Sulphur Bay, perfect for warming up in your own hand-dug hot springs pool.

Whakatāne town also offers the perfect retail therapy experience in its compact, charming town centre. Nestled between the spectacular, bush-clad cliffs and a scenic river walkway, the bustling shopping precinct boasts boutique stores from homeware and gift shops to fashion and health and beauty. The Hub shopping centre is home to all the main national retail chains, so you’ll be covered if you need to pick up a forgotten holiday item as well.

People in a spa pool
Where to stay

Ōhope Beach Top 10 Holiday Park
Ōhope On the eastern end of the stunning Ōhope beach, this family-friendly holiday park offers a range of accommodation for all budgets. From campsites to basic cabins up to self-contained apartments with spa pools, with every option you’re never far from the beautiful 11km beach. On site you’ll find hot tubs, a sauna, and a hot soak pool, ideal for relaxing and warming up in winter months. In case of wet weather, there’s also an indoor movie room and games room to stay entertained, plus a pizza oven, onsite shop, and lots more.

Waitress serving tables during dinner time
Where to eat

The Comm, Whakatāne
Conveniently located in the heart of Whakatāne just a short stroll from the waterfront, The Comm. is the perfect stop for all-day dining. Stop in for a craft beer or cider after an outdoors adventure or grab a bite of delicious soul food for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The menu offers something for everyone (including kids) with brunch options, pizza with gluten free bases available, tasty burgers, a full dinner menu and a range of sharing plates and snacks. Wash it down with a Good George beer on tap, a cocktail, or a hand-selected New Zealand wine. Check their website for upcoming live music nights and entertainment as well.

Outdoor pool
Where to relax
Awakeri Hot Springs, Awakeri

Take a short trip out of Whakatāne proper to discover Awakeri Hot Springs, a beautiful bushland sanctuary. The family-run Holiday Park’s special attraction is the natural spring-fed mineral hot pools, with geothermal water taken directly from deep bores. Enjoy a relaxing soak in the 37-39°C hot pools, perfect for unwinding during an action-packed holiday. The hot pools area is partially covered with large shade-sails, and there are smaller pools for children and toddlers too.

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