Hotels in Whakatane, New Zealand
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Situated in the Bay of Plenty region, on New Zealand’s North Island, this town is known for its year-round sunny weather and some of the warmest temperatures in the country. This town’s original settlement was born out of a father’s effort in search of his son. Since the late 1800s, it has also been a historic geographic point due to its involvement in the New Zealand Wars. Now, this town is considered as the kiwi capital of the world, after its preservation efforts of the endangered bird.
Step into Another World on White Island
No tourist leaves Whakatane without visiting White Island. Located about 31 miles off the coast of the mainland, this small island is home one of the most active volcanoes in New Zealand. This island has attracted both tourists and scientists from all over the world, and can be reached via boat or helicopter. However, most visitors opt for the helicopter tour to enjoy an amazing view of the area. Some hotels offer discounts on packages. If you’re into fishing, you can also book a boat tour that goes past the island, but these do not land on the island. On your visit, you’ll feel like you’re walking on the moon due to the area’s alien-like terrain. It’s a unique experience that is highly recommended, and most tour groups will require that you wear a hard hat and a mask during your visit. It’ll help cover the smell of sulphur from the open vents, though that’s reportedly quite tolerable. Previous visitors also recommend wearing comfortable but not too expensive shoes, as the trails can deteriorate them.
Following the Footprints via Scenic Walks and Challenging Trails
Whakatane is known for its many walking and running trails, especially the Nga Tapuwae o Toi walkways, which translates from Māori into “Footprints of Toi”. This famous group of trails lets you experience everything that the area has to offer. You’ll discover historic settlements, enjoy incredible views, and maybe spot some seabird colonies. There are many trails in the area, with most being accessible by everyone, regardless of fitness level. You can walk as little or as much as you want. The highly-recommended Kohi Point walkway lets one sneak into the Ōhope Scenic Reserve and travel all the way to the neighbouring town of Ōhope . It is the longest partial trail, taking up two or three hours, and you can always opt to take the bus back into town at the very end. Some avid hikers may choose to take the entire day to complete the entire ten-mile trek. If you’re planning on this, expect the trail to take anywhere from five to seven hours, and make sure to walk clockwise, as that’s the less challenging direction.
Magical Mataatua Wharenui
The Mataatua Wharenui is a beautiful, carved meeting house that has travelled through many countries and museums before being rebuilt at its original home in Whakatane. This home has been exhibited within various world-famous museums in cities like Sydney, Melbourne, and London. It has always been considered a symbol of unity by the local Ngāti Awa tribe. A tour through this spectacular piece of architecture is highly recommended. You’ll not only learn the incredible story behind it, but also get to experience and partake in authentic Māori traditions.
Summer Food Fests
The Whakatane region is known is highly known for its abundance in amazing seafood and lush flora, especially wild berries. Over the years, the city has become home to two major festivals that take place during the New Zealand summer season. The Local Wild Food Challenge occurs annually and has gained worldwide popularity since its inception. Participants come from all over the world to hunt, catch, or gather various foods, and then prepare a mouth-watering meal out of it. Winners are judged by not only their skills in the kitchen but also the story that goes along with it. Sunshine on a Plate is the other local festival of the area, and occurs in February. It’s a relaxed event that offers the chance to taste various local items, watch cooking demonstrations, and take a few cooking lessons. Make sure to book your hotel early, if you’re planning on attending any of these festivals, as rooms fill up quickly.