This laid-back sun-drenched eastern corner of the Bay of Plenty has golden sand beaches for those who want to laze and swim. It also has action aplenty for adrenalin-junkies and adventurers. This is a town that is small in numbers but big in attitude.
Start with an orientation walk through the riverside town. The Whakatane Museum on Boon Street has great photographic and artefact exhibits, including a display about White Island, New Zealand’s only active marine volcano. Pohaturoa rock is a local landmark and sacred site where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed by local chiefs. Muriwai’s Cave once provided shelter for the first Maori settlers on the famous Mataatua canoe from Polynesia.
The main visitor attractions are out on the blue Pacific Ocean. Popular year-round trips leave the wharf for fishing, diving and big game charters, to swim with the dolphins and to visit White Island. This continuously active volcano is the ultimate adventure. With its roaring steam vents and sulphuric fumaroles it is a stark and desolate wonderland. White Island offers the unique experience of standing on an active volcano, swimming with dolphins and catching a marlin all in the one place.
Walking opportunities abound in Whakatane. As well as the town centre walk there is the notable Kohi Point Walkway known as The Sacred Footsteps of Toi, which leads to Toi’s Pa, reputedly the oldest pa site in New Zealand. Other popular walkways are the Ohope Bush Walk, the Mokorua Scenic Reserve, Latham’s Track and the Matata Walking Track.
Outdoor activities including hunting trips, trout or sea fishing, diving, white water rafting, kayaking, windsurfing, jet-boating and horse trekking.
Further east is the settlement of Opotiki, the gateway to the very scenic East Cape touring route and to the stunning native forests of the Waioeka Gorge and Raukumara Forest Park.