For most of the year the peaceful east coast town of Whangamata is a magical place to take time out for rest and recreation.
However, pay Whangamata a visit at Christmas, New Year’s Eve or the January peak holiday season and you will find the 4,500 residents outnumbered ten to one by young people in full celebration mode.
The town is in an excellent location, bounded by quiet estuaries, a Pacific Ocean surf beach and bush covered hills. Bush and beach exist side by side here so marine and land-based recreational opportunities are legion. Ocean Beach is a 4km long crescent of smooth white sand that curves around from the narrow harbour entrance to the mouth of the Otahu River. The harbour bar attracts consistent rolling waves and an excellent surf break makes this area a true surfie mecca.
Whangamata is well provided with surf shops loaded with designer gear, sleek surfboards and cool customers. There’s a windsurfing school and a range of surfing instruction classes and board rental is available. Port Road, the main street, is lined with tearooms, cafes, takeaways and restaurants. Art and craft shops and open studios and galleries are popular here.
Rambling in the picturesque foothills of the towering volcanic Coromandel Ranges is a very popular pastime. The Wentworth Valley stands out as a pristine environment. A 10km, 2 hour return walk to the Wentworth Falls is through regenerating native bush and passes numerous swimming holes along the way. Conservation guides run a range of ecotours embracing nature experiences like night glow-worm trips, gold mine exploration, coastal excursions focusing on flora and fauna and also Maori medicine and bush food tours. Other activities for visitors who want to do it all, include horse trekking, mountain biking, golf, kayaking, diving, big-game fishing and water-skiing.
The nearby beaches of Whiritoa, Opoutere and Onemana are fun to visit for a change of scene and surf. Whiritoa is a small seaside resort with an idyllic ocean beach popular with surf-riders and also surf-casters keen to catch a pan-size snapper.
Accommodation is relatively scarce in January but other times are quiet. Lodges, tourist resorts, motels, holiday parks and campgrounds are available.
Whangamata has a lot to offer the visitor who wants to do it all – or nothing at all. All you need to bring is time – everything else is here.