As the gateway to White Island, New Zealand's only active marine volcano, Whakatane is a proud host to domestic and international visitors alike. The Eastern Bay of Plenty’s main town frequently records the highest sunshine hours annually and that golden glow is evident in the wide smiles and relaxed attitude of the locals you will come across during your stay.
Whakatane is the cultural hub of the coastal Bay of Plenty and is home to Ngati Awa (the dominant Maori tribe in this area). You can experience New Zealand’s indigenous culture first-hand when you visit Mataatua Wharenui – the most well-travelled Maori meeting house in the country.
Learn why this grand building spent more than 130 years away in Australia and the UK before returning home to Whakatane. Admire its intricate wooden carvings and feel the spiritual presence of Maori ancestors. A digital lightshow combined with cultural songs and stories will leave your spine tingling.
Fishing is a favourite pastime in Whakatane and there are numerous places to cast your rod into the ocean – either straight off the beach, from the town’s wharf, or charter a boat to take you further out to sea. Troll for marlin, yellowfin tuna, swordfish, kingfish and more.
With such a ready supply of fresh seafood right on Whakatane’s doorstep, don’t miss trying a Kiwi favorite ‘fish and chips’ for either lunch or dinner. Dangle your legs over the side of the wharf and eat them straight out of their paper wrapping.
The town’s main street features plenty of shops, local services, cafes and restaurants. On the outskirts of town you will find The Hub Whakatane – a large-format shopping centre with many national retail chains. Over 24,000sqm of retail space and 900 free carparks are available.
Most days you will see steam billowing from Whakaari (White Island) which sits 49km offshore. This active marine volcano can be reached by helicopter or boat. Most of the volcano sits underwater but you can explore the inner crater on foot and learn about its geological history as part of a guided tour. Be amazed by the vivid colours, roaring vents and the lake of steaming acid. Gas masks and hard hats are provided!
Closer to shore sits Moutohora (Whale Island). Join a small tour group and explore the island looking for native birds and seals. Dig your own hot pool at Sulphur Bay beach and watch geothermal hot water rise up through the sand.
Whakatane is known as the ‘kiwi capital of the world’ and is home to many of these rare flightless birds. Listen for their calls at night as they scuttle through nearby bush and reserves.
The fertile land that surrounds Whakatane is a wonderful place to sample fresh produce – especially summer berries. Visit Julian’s Berry Farm on the outskirts of town to pick fresh strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and more. Or try one of their enormous berry ice-creams, made right in front of your eyes.
Whakatane is a great place to chill out with family or embark on many exciting adventures. So come and bask in the sunshine.