The Eastern Bay’s Eclectic Eateries
With one of the most enviable stretches of coastline in the country, the Eastern Bay of Plenty is justifiably proud of its seafood. But there’s so much more. From coffee to croissants, from beer to bagels — bakers, chefs, brewers and baristas are keen to impress with innovative new flavours. So we’ve gone on a roadtrip along the Pacific Coast Highway from Matatā to Port Ōhope to find our favourite cafés, bars and restaurants.
We begin our 40-kilometre drive across from the lagoon in Matatā. Drift Matatā started life as an old shipping container and was turned into a cool shack style café by owners Nikita and Vin who wanted to bring great coffee to the township. With a great view of the lagoon, it’s a nice place to pause and enjoy the authentic southland cheese rolls inspired by Nikita’s childhood.
43/53 Arawa Street, Matatā
Julians Berry Farm
On the outskirts of Whakatāne, Julians Berry Farm is open spring through summer and is a firm local favourite. Pick your own, or stock up with frozen berries – this is great quality and amazing value. There’s usually a line for the berry ice cream, but it’s totally worth it. Owners Monica and Paul have made it very family-friendly with games to occupy the kids outside while the adults take their time over the selection of cabinet food or the blackboard menu.
12 Huna Road, Coastlands, Whakatāne
Whakatāne’s boutique local Mata Brewery has been brewing innovative award-winning beer for 16 years. Order a tasting paddle to try four of the 12 beers and ciders on tap and then grab some tasty pizzas or wedges to enjoy alongside. Sales rep Jared Smith says if beer’s not your taste, cool off with an adult slushy – right now, it’s mojito or vodka cranberry. Sit inside to watch the brewers work their magic or outside in the sunshine to enjoy the Bay’s best beer.
17 Gateway Crescent, Coastlands, Whakatāne
Follow your nose to L'Épicerie Larder in downtown Whakatāne. The French bakery is renowned for its delicious almond croissants and its ham and cheese baguettes. Owner Guilhem is proud to bake sourdough bread, pastries, bagels and brioche fresh every weekday and also to roast organic coffee onsite.
128 Commerce Street, Whakatāne
The owners of the gourmet burger bar The Wagon are self-confessed foodies. Alex and Quinn’s eatery is known for its massive American-style burgers and friendly staff who refuse to divulge the ingredients of the secret sauce. Vege and vegan options use jackfruit, mushroom and falafel. For meat eaters, their most popular is ‘The Flying Beast’ - a chicken and bacon cheeseburger … but you can’t go past the ‘@%#!ing good’ made with a New Zealand beef patty, smoky cheese, secret sauce, pickles and lettuce.
128 The Strand, Whakatāne
For a modern fusion Korean restaurant with a pacific twist head to Cigol. The rack of lamb and Korean fried chicken are top sellers but for a really great experience (and because sometimes it’s just impossible to choose), we recommend ordering a sharing menu. Korean BBQ plate, stone sizzling Bi Bim Bap, Chinese pork ribs, Korean braised pork, Japanese yakitori and much more. Business director Ryan says the sharing menu is the key to enjoying all different layers of Asian flavour at the table. Save room for dessert. The Mango Bing-Su is a super sweet treat.
14 Richardson Street, Whakatāne
Gibbo's on the Wharf
Head out to Whakatāne River for the catch of the day. Gibbo’s on the Wharf is your go-to local fish and chip spot right on the wharf. A great selection of fresh fish and seafood including shrimp salads, fresh mussels, oysters, kina and raw fish. Try Gibbo’s unique crumbed fish which cleverly seals the fish and steams it from the inside.
2 The Strand, Whakatāne
Back in town, The Comm is inside one of Whakatāne’s most iconic historic buildings that dates back to 1896 and is home to Good George beer and cider. Consider this your go-to for hearty soul food and if you don’t have time to sit down, you can even buy bottles of beer and cider to take away. The garden bar has a view up to the waterfall and there’s footpath seating out front. Take advantage of the daily deals, known as ‘rituals’, like ‘ribs and a pint’ and ‘$1 wings’.
45 The Strand, Whakatāne
Over the hill, Moxi Café is a stylish, upbeat café in the heart of Ōhope. Owner Megan Taylor is serious about supporting local producers with seasonal, healthier options that deliver the wow factor with bags of flavour. Whakatāne-brewed Mata beer is used for its battered fish and chips dish and check out its ridiculously decadent brioche French toast that’s served with fairy floss and pistachio crunch.
23 Pohutukawa Avenue, Ōhope
A few doors down, Cadera is the Eastern Bay's only Mexican restaurant. Owner Kathy says whether you pop in from the beach for a quick bite to eat or settle in with a group of friends and round after round margaritas, everyone is welcome at this casual, family friendly restaurant. Corn chips are fried onsite, and customers rave about the nachos, fish tacos and jalapeno poppers.
19 Pohutukawa Avenue, Ōhope
Enjoy steaks and seafood at Fisherman’s Wharf watching the sun set over Ōhiwa Harbour. For a romantic date night, book dinner to coincide with sunset and request a table on the deck. Their catch of the day is literally fresh from the ocean and the menu alters to take advantage of the locally grown goods. Owner Tom says it’s the perfect spot to simply stop and hit pause, have a ‘be here now’ moment.
340 Harbour Road, Ōhope
Ōhiwa Oyster Farm
On your way out to the East Coast, look for the iconic white shed on the main road just a kilometre south of Ōhope. Ōhiwa Oyster Farm is popular with locals as well as visitors since it opened in 1968. Sit outside and enjoy a freshly cooked oyster burger right on the shore of Ōhiwa Harbour. Besides growing all its own oysters, the farm also serves smoked mussels, fresh fish, seafood, burgers and meals.
11 Wainui Road, Ohakana Island