Simple pleasures in Whakatane
Whakatane in the Eastern Bay of Plenty nestles underneath high bush-clad cliffs beside the sparkling South Pacific Ocean and has one of the most scenic settings any town could wish for.
It also confuses a few overseas visitors with the pronunciation of its name – locally the ‘Wh’ is pronounced as an ‘F’.
Whale Island from Kohi Point Lookout
Maori carving at Kohi Point above Whakatane
The first time we visited Whakatane was a couple of years ago when we had just got the bus and not yet joined the NZMCA . We stayed at Whakatane Holiday Park on the banks of the river and just 500m from the town centre.
It’s in an excellent central location and I am not denouncing the campsite when I say we have never returned or stayed in any other campsite since. We have purely discovered the joys of free camping, POPs and NZMCA membership. While Whakatane council have just announced the end of a trial period of freedom camping in a central town car park; there are still plenty of local options for NZMCA members and several excellent camping grounds out of town on the coast road including at Pikowai and Matata.
We liked Whakatane from our first visit.
There is a lovely main street and central shopping area with a great selection of eateries scattered around.
The riverbank walkway is excellent for cycling and passes a large children’s playground, a skate park and miniature train before leading you past the wharf, i-site and up to the harbour for a clear view of nearby Whale Island.
From this spot near the harbour you can see across to White Island, New Zealand’s most active volcano and a popular destination for day cruises.
A steaming White Island can be in the distance (48kms out to sea)
Maybe another reason we like to visit Whakatane is that the town is one of New Zealand’s sunniest spots.
In 2010 it was named Sunshine Capital with the country’s hottest temperature around 55 days a year.
This year the title has gone back to Nelson but Whakatane is a lot nearer for the KiwiBlogBus and will certainly do for us.