Opotiki & Motu
With tranquil water in Opotiki harbour and lower reaches of the Waioeka and Otara rivers, whitewater in the Waioeka Gorge and the Pacific Ocean often being glassy flat, the Opotiki and Motu Virtually on Track gem has paddling opportunities for all tastes.
The Waioeka river twists down a bush-clad valley south of Opotiki with SH2 running parallel to it for most of the way. Between the entrance to the Waioeka Gorge and Oponae, the river is a mix of grade 1 and 2 rapids with stretches of flat water. For Grade 2 paddlers, the start point is 1km below the Oponae bridge. Plentiful car parking is provided on the roadside opposite the river access. The first 11km of paddling to Graham’s Bridge (the ‘gravel pit’) has some tricky rapids. This stretch is divided roughly into thirds by BOP Regional Council’s Cableway water level monitor and the historic Tauranga bridge. Further down, the valley opens out. If the water levels are low, paddling can be slow. You need to be fit to tackle the full 27km. Starting at Graham’s Bridge 25km from Opotiki and using the angler access 19km from Opotiki as pull out or starting point for the Waioeka gorge mouth, 11km from Opotiki as a final exit are other options. There is no cellphone coverage in the Waioeka Gorge and no toilets or shops, so ensure you are well prepared before setting out. The cableway monitor reports live data on-line and is a great way to check the river conditions before you leave home – the range from 1.6m-1.9m provides great paddling.
With easy launching at all tides, Opotiki Wharf is a great starting point for flat water kayaking. Paddle 20 minutes up the Otara river and back, or/and up to 45 minutes up the Waioeka and back, or/and into the small estuary. Alternatively, launch from the riverbank below the Opotiki side of the Waioeka Bridge.
The Pacific Ocean flanks the Opotiki and Motu gem and, on a calm day, offers spectacular paddling. Launching spots can be found at Hukuwai, Tirohanga, and Kelly’s beaches. As with all outdoor sport, check the weather forecast first and tell a friend when you expect to be back. Eastwards Hukuwai to Waiaua is approximately 10km.