Whakatane & Ohiwa Harbour
About Whakatane & Ohiwa Harbour
Whakatane and Ohiwa Harbour Virtually on Track Gem is a sparkling landscape of ocean and harbour, dense with sporting opportunity from foot to cycling and paddling, cradled by the headlands of Whakatane to the west and Onekawa to the east. Heading east from the lazy Whakatane River, a bird flying over the gem first encounters the bush clad hills of the headlands which tower over the town and then yield to Ohope Beach. These were among the earliest places inhabited by Maori and today, thanks to community efforts, hold a significant population of North Island Kiwi. Following an inland path around the harbour edge the next terrain is pines and farmland, fringed at the water’s edge by mangroves and saltmarsh. As the flight arcs further east the harbour line runs out to the coast at Onekawa, a commanding highpoint once prized as a natural citadel, but now a regional park. The loop back to the start is completed along the magnificent Ohope Beach, or via the meandering channels which ply their way back across the harbour.
Tois Track / Whakatane
Nga Tapuwae o Toi Walkways - Nga Tapuwae o Toi, or the "Footprints of Toi", is a 16km looped coastal and bush walkway named after one of Whakatane’s earliest settlers – a chief whose descendants settled over much of the North Island’s east coast. The walkway features spectacular ocean views, superb pohutukawa forest, white sand beach and even open farmland in places. A highlight along the way is Toi’s stronghold of Kapu-te-rangi which is one of the oldest pa sites in NZ, while along the majority of its route the track passes through areas in which kiwi flourish under the care of the Whakatane Kiwi Trust. The walkway is accessible to most people, regardless of fitness level because it can be undertaken in sections. Of these, the most popular is the “Bird Walk” which goes from the bottom of Mokorua Gorge to White Horse Drive, or the West End to Otarawairere Bay section from the western end of Ohope Beach. Every section of the track has stairs at some point. The total trip can be completed in 5 to 7 hours with better runners managing under 2 hours. Information boards placed in strategic locations tell much more of the district's natural and historic heritage. For those wanting to explore the area at a more leisurely pace with younger children, a self-directed discovery booklet – Whakatane Footsteps of Toi Kiwi Ranger – is available at White Island Tours. The free booklet comes with a collector’s badge for those completing a number of activities.
Ohiwa harbour covers an area of approximately 26.4 km2 formed by a semi-circular bay protected from the open ocean by the long sandspit on the eastern end of Ohope Beach. The harbour is relatively shallow with around 80% exposed at low tide, so out-going summer tides are usually warm enough for swimming. The 10 small islands in the harbour, most either reserves or privately-owned, provide interesting places to explore for those on paddle craft. There are numerous access points to the water with boat ramps at both Ohope on the western side and Ohiwa on the eastern. Closer to the Ohope side, Burma Rd runs inland for a short distance to the Rawhiti Mountainbike Park, the higher parts of which offer stunning harbour views. Closer to the midpoint around the harbour, the Nukuhou Saltmarsh provides a short walk into the bird-rich marshes, or a slightly longer one along the whitebait walk beside the Nukuhou Stream. For those wanting to explore the area at a more leisurely pace with younger children, a self-directed discovery booklet – Whakatane Footsteps of Toi Kiwi Ranger – is available at Cheddar Valley Pottery. The free booklet comes with a collector’s badge for those completing a number of activities.
Ohope Beach, just 6 kilometres over the hill from Whakatane, is 11 kilometres of golden sand and safe swimming waters on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. West End is one of the access points to Nga Tapuwae o Toi walkway with Ohope Beach itself forming part of the walk as far as Mahy Reserve at the foot of the Ohope Rd hill. Mahy Reserve is also home to the Whakatane Surf Livesaving Club which looks after a patrolled swimming area. About half way along the beach, Maraetotara Reserve has an adventure playground with flying fox, and is also a good point to set off from on a mountainbike. Directly opposite the reserve Maraetotara Rd leads on to Burma Rd where turning right takles you uphill towards Whakatane or going left takes you across Ngati Awa farm to the Rawhiti Mountainbike Park. Please respect that you are on a working farm and be aware of hazards such as farm machinery and animals. Gates are usually locked so riders will have to lift bikes over. The eastern end of Ohope Beach is a sandspit which is home to dotterels and other endangered birds. Walking tracks are provided on the harbour side. Both Harbour and Ocean Rds provide a picturesque setting for a gentle cycle ride. Carparking and toilets are available at numerous places where beach access is provided.
Onekawa Te Mawhai Recreational Park
The Onekawa Te Mawhai Regional Park, on the spectacular headland between the Ohiwa Harbour and Bryans Beach, and the adjacent Ohiwa Domain are managed as a regional park covering around 50ha. With a rich Maori cultural history, significant archaeological features - many of which are clearly visible in the landscape, and views to Kohi Point in the west, across the Ohiwa Harbour, and east to towards East Cape. The property can be accessed on the western side from the walking track in the Ohiwa Domain. This track leads from the car park on Ohiwa Harbour Road. On the eastern side, access is from the small carpark at the entrance to the property on Bryan Road at the end of Bryan's Beach. Both routes are steep in places. A glow-worm grotto in the Ohiwa Domain is worth a visit after dark. Recent plantings at Onekawa Te Mawhai and track and restoration work at Ohiwa Domain have been undertaken by community groups.
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