Touring the Iconic Whakatane

Touring the Iconic Whakatane
  • Written by
  • Dyani Van Basten Batenburg

Kiwi Made

There’s no need to dread winter to come, because when other regions start turning down the heat, there’s one that keeps powering through the autumn months – Whakatāne.

“We always say summer ends after Queen’s birthday weekend,” enthuses Anna Williams, marketing advisor for Whakatāne District Tourism and Events. “Our extra season of summer means Easter holiday time is still prime to go surfing, biking, walking and exploring

– we cater to all.”

Alongside its outdoor offerings, Whakatāne has long proved itself a town to spend time in – and it has the thumbs up from a resident Kiwi icon.

“Our area is now home to over 300 wild Kiwi, making us the official Kiwi capital of the world™. Many of them live within a stone’s throw of suburban streets, and you’ll find them spread amidst the bush clad hills from Whakatāne to Ōhope Beach,” explains Anna. “It really is very special because 20 years ago numbers were down to eight, and thanks to the volunteer-lead Whakatāne Kiwi Trust predator control operations, they’ve flourished.”

And, these native chicks are definitely something for everyone to celebrate and share in, says Anna.

“From April to June, Kiwi Night Walks are held every Friday evening. It’s a great opportunity to hear the Kiwi calling and rustling through native bush, and discover other fascinating creatures that come alive when the sun goes down.”

For those holidaying with Easter egg-fuelled kids in tow, taking a one-hour self-guided walk of the Fairbrother Loop, or following the Kiwi wandering trail, is destined to burn off some energy. “You can pick up a scavenger hunt brochure from the i-Site and find the ten life-like, life-size bronze kiwi statues which wander right through the heart of Whakatāne,” says Anna. “Great fun for the whole family – and a way to explore the town.”

Good vibrations

Because there’s plenty to get excited about, says Kathy Potter, owner of the region’s renowned Mexican cantina, Cadera and proud local.

“For us that have lived and breathed Whakatāne our whole lives we know why we never leave,” she enthuses. “It’s because the lifestyle, the people, the stunning scenery, the beaches, the walks, and vibe is just so easy going and all-embracing.”

It’s not about ‘trying’ to be ‘real’, it just is, says Kathy.

“We’re not just a gateway to the East Cape, Whakatāne is a place to connect with across the board – surfing, biking, golf, fishing – plus food!”

Anna agrees. “Restaurants like Fisherman’s Wharf in Ōhope and Cadera, and L’Epicerie Larder have such a strong following of locals and visitors because they imbue that relaxed, everyman’s atmosphere and draw on the best of local flavours and utilise local produce. We don’t go without!”

And, kicking back and relaxing is also an adventure in itself when visiting the region, thanks to renowned Awakeri Rail Adventures. Travelling at a leisurely 20 kilometres per hour, you traverse a piece of New Zealand’s rich rail history and experience nature’s beauty – farmland and bushland scenes – all from the comfort of a rail-cart which has been cleverly adapted to be self-driven along the rail tracks.

Did you know you can explore the East Cape by air too? White Island Flights now offer scenic flights to the East Cape that includes Ōhope Beach, Ōpōtiki, Te Kaha, Waihou Bay church, Waihou Bay, Hicks Bay, Te Araroa, and the East Cape lighthouse returning via Mount Hikurangi.

Holiday on Whakatāne time

With extra rays to indulge in, pack the car and turn all thoughts towards the east! Whakatāne has the best line up that caters to young and old. Learn to surf with the family, checkout the variety of mountain bike tracks, take two swings at the golf courses or tour the bird and wildlife sanctuary of Whale Island.

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