A Travel Guide to Whakatane
The gateway to the North Island’s less-visited eastern side in the sunny region of the Bay of Plenty, Whakatane is a place you’ll likely love to discover. The small town on the harbourfront typically includes the neighbouring settlement of Ohope, home to an 11km (9-mile) undisrupted sandy beach and nature reserves that have some of the closest wild kiwis to a New Zealand town. While most know Whakatane for its ever-present view of the billowing White Island volcano, a gem of the region is the extinct Moutohora Island volcano, now a sacred wildlife sanctuary.
So, whether you’re looking for a family or couple’s getaway and you plan to either splurge on activities or enjoy a trip on the cheap, we provide a gateway to all of our travel guides on Whakatane and Ohope in this complete guide to Whakatane.
Fast Facts About Whakatane
Location: In the eastern Bay of Plenty region of the North Island.
Climate: Daily average temperature – 14.5 °C/58.1°F, yearly average rainfall – 1,426mm/56.1″
Find out more in What is the Weather Like in New Zealand?
Time zone: NZST / GMT+12/+13
How to get to Whakatane: Whakatane is well connected to the rest of New Zealand by road, located on Pacific Coast Highway and within an hour’s drive from Tauranga and Rotorua. The closest international airport is Auckland Airport (3h30mins drive) with plenty of car rental options available. Whakatane is also on the main national bus route, which you can find more information about in Bus Networks in New Zealand.
Whakatane for Budget Travellers
With only a handful of expensive activities and the rest being either free or affordable, finding something amazing to do in Whakatane certainly won’t blow your budget. There are endless possibilities when it comes to walks and bike trails, while the town’s free museum and inexpensive berry farms make for more ultra-cheap attractions. Enjoy days at some of New Zealand’s most renowned beaches and be on the lookout for kiwi birds on the bushwalks when enjoying a budget trip to Whakatane. Start planning with The Guide to Whakatane on a Budget.
Things to Do in Whakatane on a Budget
- See the sights on the Nga Tapu o Toi walk
- Learn about the local history and culture at the Whakatane Library and Exhibition Centre
- Spend the day at Ohope Beach
- Do the Fairbrother Loop Walk and look out for kiwi birds
- Relax in the mineral waters of the Awakeri Hot Springs.
For more ideas, check out the 18 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Whakatane.
Budget Stays in Whakatane
Whakatane has a small but quality collection of budget holiday parks and motels. You’ll also find the odd backpacker hostel, while the town centre hotel also offers cheap rooms. Find out more in the 10 Best Budget Accommodation in Whakatane.
Whakatane for Luxury Travellers
In this Bay of Plenty town, there are plenty of premium experiences to be had, from flying over New Zealand’s most active volcano to teeing off on scenic coastal golf courses. One of the treasures of Whakatane is the offshore island of Moutohora, also known as Whale Island. It is a highly-protected wildlife sanctuary that only a few operators get to take you to on their yacht, boat or kayaks. As for accommodation, Whakatane is home to some of the most upmarket motels in the country, so even if you’re not usually a fan of motels, it’s still worth giving some of these a try. Find out more in The Luxury Guide to Whakatane.
Luxury Activities in Whakatane
- Sail to the wildlife sanctuary, Moutohora Island
- Fly over White Island, Mt Tarawera and more in a scenic flight
- Play on scenic coastal golf courses
- Dive top scuba sites around White Island and Moutohora Island
- Take a private guided walk through the Whirinaki Forest.
For elaboration on these experiences and more, see the 8 Luxury Activities in Whakatane.
Luxury Accommodation in Whakatane
Although you won’t find five-star hotels or luxury lodges in Whakatane, the upmarket motels and glamping experiences more than make up for it. Find out more in the 8 Best Luxury Accommodation in Whakatane.
Whakatane for Families
Local families don’t want you to know about their favourite holiday hotspot, Ohope Beach, right next door to Whakatane. The holiday parks here are an attraction in themself, while the beach and the nearby Ohiwa Harbour are a great base for family-friendly kayak tours, surf schools or simply building sandcastles. Surrounding Whakatane, however, you’ll find more to do with the little ones with lots of family-friendly walks, cultural tours and the list goes on. Dive into The Guide to Whakatane for Families to start planning the ultimate family getaway.
Things to Do in Whakatane with Kids
- Paddle on the Ohiwa Harbour with KG Kayaks
- Venture down the historic Awakeri Railway in a rail-cart
- Enjoy a short walk in the forest at the White Pine Bush Scenic Reserve
- Learn about the Maori culture at Mataatua Wharenui
- Spend some time at River Edge Park.
For more details on each activity, head to the 10 Things to Do in Whakatane with Kids.
Child-friendly Accommodation in Whakatane
With facilities like swimming pools and playgrounds, the motels and holiday parks of Whakatane make a family stay not just easy but fun. Some of the country’s top family holiday parks are here, but many are booked out through the summer so get in there quick. Check out some of the highlights in the 10 Best Family Accommodation in Whakatane.
Whakatane for Couples
The white-sand beaches, glistening Pacific Ocean and small-town vibe certainly set the right tone for a romantic getaway to Whakatane. Couples looking for a more off-the-beaten-track addition to a honeymoon itinerary should certainly include the charming harbourfront town. Whakatane is a good destination for couples who prefer laid-back romance than something over the top, such as a simple SUP trip to a picturesque bay, scenic walks or even tackling an escape room together if the weather is bad. Learn more in The Honeymoon Guide to Whakatane.
Romantic Activities in Whakatane
- Discover Whakatane’s most romantic beach, Otarawairere Bay
- Hit the cycle trails together
- Have a picnic and enjoy the views from the Kohi Point Lookout
- Enjoy a romantic meal together at Whakatane’s restaurants
- Challenge yourselves to an escape room.
For more information on each experience, check out the 8 Romantic Activities in Whakatane for Couples.
Romantic Accommodation in Whakatane
A motel unit with a spa pool, anyone? That’s pretty much the gist of romantic accommodation in Whakatane. There are also quaint villas and a glamping experience, should you be looking for a special alternative. Find out more in the 9 Best Romantic Accommodation in Whakatane.
Whakatane for Foodies
Plenty of orchards, plenty of organic produce, plenty of fishing and plenty of dining opportunities, this Bay of Plenty town has plenty of reasons for foodies to visit. Berry farm experiences are among some of the most popular things to do here, while the annual Local Wild Food Challenge is a highlight on the region’s calendar. We won’t even get started on the restaurants, which you can learn more about in The Foodie Guide to Whakatane.
Foodie Activities in Whakatane
- Pick your own berries at one of the berry farms
- Try craft beers at the Mata Brewery & Tasting Room
- Try authentic Maori food at Mataatua or with NATIVConnectioNZ
- Do a fudge tasting at Tui Aotearoa
- Mingle with the locals at the Whakatane Sunday Market.
For more information on each experience, take a look at the 9 Things to Do in Whakatane for Foodies.
Foodie Accommodation in Whakatane
Admittedly, you’ll only find around three accommodations with on-site eateries. The rest, however, almost all have self-catering facilities so you can prepare your own meals with local produce. Check out some of our top picks in the 10 Best Accommodation in Whakatane for Foodies.