Explore the road less travelled in the Eastern Bay of Plenty
If there was ever a time to take a journey to a place with expanses of space, stunning landscapes and serenity – 2020 is it. With travel plans dashed at a moment’s notice, we look to last-minute adventures and road trips of discovery. And, there’s just a place not too far from home where you’ll really experience a true escape.
Whakatāne, at the heart of Eastern Bay of Plenty, is known as a summer holiday hot spot, with families flocking to Ōhope – voted New Zealand’s most beloved beach. However, as Whakatāne local and tourism marketing advisor Anna Williams shares, there’s much more on offer year-round.
“We’re the sunniest spot in New Zealand. So, albeit for a bit of rain now and again, Whakatāne is a great place to visit throughout the year, whether you’re after an activity-packed trip or just to relax and enjoy the peace,” says Anna. “There’s an exhilarating feeling you get when you have expanses of space and beautiful landscapes almost to yourself.”
If you need some activities thrown in amongst the serenity, you might be surprised to find what Whakatāne serves up. Eco experiences top the list, with a chance to get up close to curious seals at Moutohorā (Whale) Island eco sanctuary or venture into the ancient wonderland of Whirinaki Te-Pua-a-Tāne Conservation Park. Moutohorā (Whale) Island is accessible by guided tour only. The 143-hectare remnant volcano is one of Aotearoa’s best-kept secrets, located nine kilometres offshore from Whakatāne. The predator-free island is home to a number of New Zealand’s rare and endangered plants, birds and reptiles. You can spot dolphins, little blue penguins, curious seals and native birds. Saddleback/tieke, kakariki/red-crowned parakeet, bellbirds, tui, and grey warbler all flourish – many of which are endangered or seldom seen on the New Zealand mainland. A visit to the island includes a stop at Sulphur Bay, where geothermal springs come up through the sand creating your own hot pool – just like Hot Water beach but without the crowds.
Although a bit of a trek from town, the one-and-a-half-hour drive to Whirinaki Te-Pua-a-Tāne Conservation Park is worth it if you’re keen to explore one of New Zealand’s most untouched and oldest native forests. The park is a site of significant unspoiled nature, with 155km of walking, tramping and mountain bike tracks, 51 endangered species (the endangered whio (blue duck) is one of many rare birds who call Whirinaki home) and towering 1000-year-old trees – kahikatea, totara, matai, rimu, miro and tawa. This Jurassic-like place is an experience you’ll remember forever. Whether you’re a summer holiday Ōhope regular or have never ventured to the Eastern Bay of Plenty, a trip to Whakatāne should be top of the list.
Find out more and plan your trip at Whakatāne.com