Try These Whakatane Must-Dos!
On the coast of the Bay of Plenty region, Whakatane is the ultimate destination to experience a balance of outstanding nature, authentic culture and unique experiences. The North Island town is dotted with coastal forest home to native wildlife like kiwi birds, as well as having an ever-present view of the billowing marine volcano, White Island. Whakatane has been a significant part of the Maori culture for centuries so finding an authentic Maori experience is never too difficult. Learn about all the ways to experience Whakatane in this list of amazing things to do in Whakatane!
With all the amazing must-dos in Whakatane, no doubt you’ll want to stay awhile. With that in mind, we’ve also put together these lists of 10 Best Motels in Whakatane and 10 Best Budget Accommodations in Whakatane so you can find a place to stay.
1. Do Some Kiwi Spotting in the Ohope Scenic Reserve
Let’s kick off our list of the best things to do in Whakatane with Kiwi spotting! Who would have thought that this little bit of forest between Whakatane and Ohope is home to more than 300 kiwi birds and countless other native wildlife?! Day or night, the Ohope Scenic Reserve is an awesome place to experience nature, being one of the largest remaining pohutukawa forests left on mainland New Zealand. Join the Whakatane Kiwi Trust for their kiwi night walks or enjoy one of the many trails through this natural and spiritually significant reserve. Learn more about the walking trails through the reserve in the 10 Best Walks in Whakatane.
Location: Corner of Pohutukawa Avenue and Ohope Road, approximately 5km (3 miles) from Whakatane town centre.
2. Ride the Mountain Biking Trails
Do you have a bike? Are you wondering what to do in Whakatane? Don’t! If you love exploring on two wheels, then Whakatane is going to spoil you silly! With three dedicated mountain bike parks in the area and several scenic bike trails, Whakatane is a great place to spend some time mountain biking. Don’t miss the Burma Road with 10-15km (6-9-mile) options to spend a day out in the countryside. Alternatively, the Whirinaki Forest Mountain Bike Track is worth the 1h50min pilgrimage into the wilderness to experience this mind-blowing forest. There are so many epic bike trails that we simply can’t list them all here, so take a look at 6 Must-Do Bike Trails in Whakatane and Mountain Biking in Whakatane.
Location: See the links above for specific locations.
3. Walk in the White Pine Bush Reserve
For some short walks among some sensational coastal forest, take a stroll in the White Pine Bush Scenic Reserve. The walks are only 30-40 minutes long on loops, making it a great side activity to your time in Whakatane. The forest is a haven for native birds and a great opportunity to see kahikatea trees (white pines), which are the tallest tree species in New Zealand, as well as nikau palm trees. See more family-friendly walks like this in the 10 Things to Do in Whakatane with Kids.
Location: White Pine Bush, Awakeri, approximately 14km (9 miles) from Whakatane town centre.
4. Kayak to Moutohora Island or on the Ohiwa Harbour
Next on our list of things to do in Whakatane is kayaking! Whakatane is one of our top places to sea kayak in New Zealand with our favourite spots including a voyage over to the wildlife sanctuary of Moutohora (Whale Island) or in the Ohiwa Harbour to kayak among the mangroves and pohutukawa trees. Tours are available with KG Kayaks. See more experiences like this in the 8 Romantic Activities in Whakatane for Couples.
Location: Tours depart from Ohope, approximately 7km (4 miles) from Whakatane town centre.
5. Take a Boat Trip to Moutohora
Speaking of Moutohora, it’s also worth mentioning the boat trips available to visit one of New Zealand’s most restricted wildlife sanctuaries. Moutohora is home to endangered species like the saddleback, kakariki, little brown kiwi and tuatara. Boat tours, such as White Island Tours and Diveworks include guided walks around the island. You’ll even get to experience the island’s hot water beach and bathe in your own personal hot pool.
Location: Tours depart from The Strand in Whakatane town centre.
6. Relax in the Awakeri Hot Springs
If you are still wondering what to do in Whakatane on a rainy day, the Awakeri Hot Springs are a great option. Unwind in natural geothermal mineral pools feeding into a large thermal swimming pool, two kids’ pools and a smaller hot pool shaded by sails. It’s the perfect place to relax if the weather is not playing ball or you need to soothe your muscles after a long time on the road. Check out more affordable activities like this in the 18 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Whakatane.
Location: 1363 State Highway 30, Awakeri, approximately 16km (10 miles) from Whakatane town centre.
6. Feel Your Toes in the Sand at Ohope Beach
One of the most popular Whakatane attractions is actually out of town in Ohope. Find out why Ohope Beach is one of New Zealand’s top holiday getaways for locals by visiting this 11km (7 miles) stretch of stunning beach. At the eastern end of the beach, follow the walkways to the secluded Otarawairere Bay for a stunning picture opportunity. The eastern end is also a good place for paddle boarding and surfing with equipment hire available in the warmer months.
Location: Ohope Beach, approximately 7km (4 miles) from Whakatane town centre.
7. Walk or Cycle the Warren Cole Walkway
For a free thing to do right in the heart of Whakatane, check out the Warren Cole Walkway. The 4.3km (2.7-mile) walkway and cycleway follow the Whakatane River passing several large pouwhenua (Maori carvings) ranging from 2m to 4m (6.6ft to 13ft) tall.
Location: Entry from the car park beside the Landing Road Bridge or from the Whakatane Rose Gardens on McGarvey Road, Whakatane town centre.
8. Try Your Luck with Sea Fishing
If you’re only going to go sea fishing once in New Zealand then Whakatane is definitely a place you want to consider! Year-round you can catch snapper, kingfish and more, while from December to late April, catch yellowfin, skipjack, albacore tuna and marlin. There are plenty of charter boat operators to give you a memorable experience, otherwise, Matata and Thornton beaches are the best beaches for land-based ocean fishing. Learn more in What You Need to Know About Fishing in New Zealand, as well as more activities like this in the 8 Luxury Activities in Whakatane.
Location: Fishing charters depart from The Strand, Whakatane Harbour, as well as Port Ohope.
9. Visit the Mataatua Wharenui
Experience the Maori culture at one of New Zealand’s most significant meeting houses, Mataatua Wharenui. See the stunning carvings and experience the rituals of visiting a Maori meeting house in this significant wharenui (meeting house). The carved wharenui has been displayed all over the world for over 100 years before being returned to its ancestral home. Now, it is used to host unforgettable cultural experience with cultural shows, digital shows and guided tours. For more Maori experiences in New Zealand, check out 13 Places to Experience Maori Culture in New Zealand.
Location: 105 Muriwai Drive/1 Mataatua Street, Whakatane town centre.
10. Walk the Nga Tapuwae o Toi Track
See some of the most stunning beaches, coastal headlands, historic Maori pa sites and bush in Whakatane along the Nga Tapuwae o Toi Track. This 18km (11 miles) round trip combines several walks into one, so you can take all day to enjoy the walk or take on one of the shorter options. Head over to 10 Must-Do Walks in Whakatane for more details.
Location: See the above links for specific locations to access the walk.
11. Experience the Maori Culture Through the Museum or a Guided Tour
There are several ways to immerse yourself in the Maori culture of Whakatane. See local Maori art in Te Koputu a Te Whanga a Toi (The Whakatane Library) or join a Maori guided tour with NATIVConnectioNZ taking you to key cultural sites around the Whakatane area where you’ll hear local Maori legends and experience traditional Maori food in the form of a hangi.
Location: Whakatane Library – Esplanade Mall Kakahoroa Drive, Whakatane town centre. NATIVConnectioNZ meeting points are organised individually.
12. Play Some Golf in Paradise
As the top participation sport in the country, New Zealand’s golf courses are world-class and the offerings in Whakatane definitely follow suit. You have the choice of the Whakatane Golf Club, with its Par 70 6009m (6571 yards) course of fast-running greens, and Ohope International Golf Club, with spectacular views of the Ohiwa Harbour. Don’t miss these amazing golf courses, and add to the golf club bucket list with our 21 Best Golf Courses in New Zealand.
Location: Whakatane Golf Club – 181 Golf Link Road, Paroa. Ohope International Golf Club – 541 Harbour Road, Ohope Beach.
13. Admire the Views From the Puketapu Lookout
The final Whakatane must-do is a short and simple activity, but if you’re a sucker for a good photo spot then you will not want to miss this. Make your way to the sensational Puketapu Lookout. Puketapu (sacred hill) has been a lookout site for the local Maori, the Ngati Awa iwi, for more than 600 years. The site is now a reserve where you can park up and enjoy the views.
Location: Intersection at Hillcrest and Seaview Roads, Whakatane town centre.
[CLOSED] Walk on an Active Marine Volcano
[Update: Following a major eruption, tours on White Island have been suspended until further notice.]
Probably the most popular of all Whakatane attractions, White Island is spectacular. Off the shores of Whakatane is New Zealand’s only active marine volcano, White Island. Tours to White Island, either by boat or by helicopter, take you onto the volcano itself to walk the lively landscape that you won’t believe exists on planet Earth! See the steaming crater, streams of vibrant colours and the eerie remains of machinery on the island.
Location: Tours depart from The Strand and 216 Aerodrome Road.