A service town that supports the agricultural sector Wairoa is not usually viewed as a tourist destination. The town, similar to many rural communities, has witnessed a decline in the main street retail sector. There has been an issue with gang violence which has marked Wairoa in the country’s newspapers as a place steeped in criminal activities. Yet Wairoa is more than headline news. Wairoa’s main street borders the Wairoa River making it an attractive place to stretch the legs, take a break from the drive from or to Lake Waikarimonana. Wairoa is often a rest stop for drivers. Yet there is more to Wairoa than a coffee break. The Wairoa regional museum is definitely worth a browse through while the Wairoa Riverside Lighthouse is a photo moment. The town of Wairoa got its name from the “Te Wairoa Hōpūpū Hōnengenenge Mātangi Rau” river which in Māori language means “the long water which bubbles, swirls and is uneven”.
Wairoa Gaity Theatre is cheerfulness bottled into a theatre in a town where heritage, history and current economic losses are etched into the town’s streetscape. If you are in town overnight the Gaity Theatre is a definite option. Check out what is at the Gaiety Theatre, grab some popcorn and settle down to enjoy a night at the cinema. The theatre is supported with a cadre of passionate volunteers. Gaiety is home to the longest running Maori Film Festival. Perhaps you will even want to stay a few days in Wairoa. A welcome will be part of the package deal.
Wairoa’s iconic building, the Wairoa Lighthouse. The lighthouse sits on its own created rocky space next to the Wairoa bridge and alongside the river. It’s a good place for photo opportunity as well as a distinctive feature of the Wairoa river walk. It’s best seen at sunset when the light of the lighthouse starts to blink.
The Riverside walk is a meandering walk of approximately 1 ½ hours starting from the Wairoa Lighthouse. The walk follows the southern bank to Pilot Hill. Pilot Hill summit has sweeping views of the estuary and coast. WAIROA river mouth is a classic estuary with currents, eddies and abundant birdlife flourishing in the shallow tidal waters.
Te Reinga Falls, is it worth the journey of 1 hour? The nondescript reserve leads to a 10 minute walk to the Falls. Unfortunately the views are not the best for the truly magnificent flow of water over several escarpments. Safety is a priority and a recently constructed stout wooden fence stops the adventurous visitor from rock climbing for a better peek at the Falls. For avid waterfall buffs definitely worth the detour. For others enjoy the photographs especially of Edwardian ladies perched on a rock with glorious front row seats to the Falls. The reserve plaques provide an insight into the geological formation of the Falls, historic photographs and safety information.
Te Reinga Scenic Reserve Walk: Gisborne area walks and tracks, Located 35 km inland from Wairoa, just off SH36 (Tiniroto Road). Turn onto Ruakituri Road at Te Reinga, cross the bridge over the river. The car park is at the western end of the bridge.
Duration: 1 hour (from Wairoa)
Coffee break destination in Wairoa is the classic small town bakery of check out the photographs of the bakery festooning the walls. It is a snapshot of the town’s history if the museum is closed. The coffee is great, there are kiwi favourites such as sausage rolls, freshly baked goods such as laminations, custard squares and gooey cheesecake slices. Ask for a paperbag and cross the road to the riverside for an impromptu picnic on the river banks with the locals.
TIP: Observe the side streets for street art to liven up commercial buildings. Nothing like a lick of paint and design to add colour to the townscape.
The journey is worth it.