Right Time, Right Place
Strolling Whakatane’s Historic Trail
There’s no time like the present to step back and appreciate the birds and bees, flowers and trees. Not only does New Zealand offer a unique slice of native flora and fauna to gaze upon when out for a stroll, but our rich history and cultural footprint is evident regionwide – we have much to show, tell and remember. If you’re Bay of Plenty based or bound for the holidays, you’re destined to factor in a scenic walk or two, and Whakatane is blessed with an abundance of walking trails – from Nga Tapuwae o Toi (or Footprints of Toi), to the Fairbrother Loop Track and Latham’s Hills. The region is also well ignited with its cultural roots and the infamous Historic Trail which meanders through the town and along the river bank, encompasses10 historical sites. Think a step back in time to legends told and sacred significance set down, the walk personifies the past in every sense of the word, weaving then and now each step of the way.
To begin with a view, make your starting point Toi’s Pa before ambling your way down to Wairere Falls. Toi’s Pa sits above Whakatane as part of the Kohi Point Scenic Reserve, and is the recognised home of Whakatane’s principal ancestor, Ngati Awa. From here the eye travels to Mount Tarawera, White Island and Moutohora and Putauaki. From viewpoint to waterfalls, Wairere Falls is another significant site on the heritage trail and one of the official three landmarks first cited by Toroa– captain of the Mataatua Canoe – inhis search of Whakatane. The Falls are both sacred and precious to the Ngati Awa people. The waters which flow into the Te Wairere Stream supplied the Whakatane township till 1924 – and the Falls site was officially made a reserve in 1971.
Cool and cavernous
From the Falls, stroll along the Strand and head towards the Muriwai’s Cave bordering the riverbank – another of Whakatane’s three renowned scared landmarks. The cave marks the resting place of Muriwai – a beloved daughter of Irakewa and ancestress of the Mataatua tribes –she is celebrated for her wisdom and second sight.
Irakewa Rock – the third significant landmark sited by Toroa in his quest to settle Whakatane – is a mere stone’s throw from Muriwai’s Cave. The building of a training wall in the Whakatane harbour in the early 1900s – to help improve the entrance and channels – resulted in devastation to the rock. However, today what is left of this landmark rests near the riverbank. Sticking to the river waltz into town from Irakewa Rock, and discover other historical sites along the way, including: Mataatua Waka Replica, Te Papaka, He Matapuna Paru and Pohaturoa. And, don’t forget, Kohi Point or Whakatane Heads – well worth the extra few paces from town centre to coast to see the lookout!