White Island is an icon of Whakatāne — but there’s much more to discover.
Out on the horizon from the Whakatāne coast, you’ll often see the puff-cloud of White Island/Whakaari. It’s like a little steam post-it note saying, “You must do this!” When you do take a trip to Whakaari, almost 50km off the coast, that little post-it puff-cloud takes on a whole new scale. The volcanic island has a main crater 1.5km across. Huge rocks are strewn, legacy of violent past eruptions. Thermal activity is everywhere. The dramatically coloured crater cliffs soar 300m upwards.
White Island Tours
You can get to the island with two Whakatāne-based companies, White Island Tours boat trips www.whiteisland.co.nz and Frontier Helicopters www.frontierhelicopters.co.nz It is a truly extraordinary experience, known around the world.
Back in Whakatāne, there’s plenty more to do. The town itself has a friendly, holiday feel, with boutique shops and lots of good dining choice. A recommended visit is to Te kōputu a te whanga a Toi, Whakatāne Library and Exhibition Centre. Or visit the extraordinary Mataatua Wharenui, a fully carved ancestral house that travelled the world for over a century before returning home.
A visit to the famous Ōhope Beach and nearby Otarawairere Bay is essential to get the vibe of the area: the huge sweep of the coastline out to Eastland; the firm-packed sand bedded with shells; the big sky, rolling waves and massive pohutukawa forest.
If you are a keen walker or runner, go further along the Ngā Tapuwae o Toi (footprints of Toi) track. In places, the steps are big and uneven, but the views are magnificent. Or if you want just a taste of forest trail, park near the bottom of Ōhope hill and walk the Fairbrother loop in Ōhope Scenic Reserve.
This is wild kiwi country. Whakatāne is now known as the kiwi capital of the world. There’s amazing work being done by the Whakatāne Kiwi Trust to grow the kiwi population, which now numbers hundreds of birds.
Adventure & Sports
You get an adventure of a different kind with KG Kayaks. Owner Kenny McCracken offers a range of guided paddle trips, including on Ōhiwa Harbour at moonlight, and Ōhope Beach to Otarawairere Bay.
Together with ProSail charters, Kenny also offers a superb sailboat then paddle half-day excursion to Moutohora, from where Whakaari is well in your sights.
White Island Tours and Diveworks offer trips landing on Moutohora, where the song of tieke (saddleback birds) rings clear.
There’s ample reward for golfers, too. Ōhope International Golf Club has one of the best links courses in the country, with truly sublime ocean and harbour panoramas. Whakatāne Golf Course has fast running greens and forgiving fairways, while further to the east, pack the clubs and explore some new courses.
The Eastern Bay is of course a fishing mecca: ocean, harbour and river. His Nibs Outdoors Fishing is a great way to get out on the water, catering for groups of up to six, and supplying everything you need.