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Kiwi towns

What’s so great about Opunake

  • 4 minutes

Taranaki, North Island

Opunake there are plenty of things to do. Opunake is a classic summer beach destination located on the surf highway. Murals welcome visitors creating a sense of colour and the glorious art deco community owned cinema is a study in cuteness with classic movie stars, Charlie Chaplin and Marilyn Monroe front row pinups. The town encourages visitors to explore clifftop secret gardens, mosaic outdoor sofas and is full of personality. As with many Taranaki towns the area is rich in archeological history and stories of past happenings.

Historic Cape Egmont Lighthouse, New Zealand, and Mount Taranaki
Historic Cape Egmont Lighthouse and Mount Taranaki


  • Cape Egmont Lighthouse is a spectacular sight on the coastline. Open by appointment only
  • Opunake Loop Trail and locate the secret garden
  • Fish n chips on the local black sand beach
  • Local beach is a favourite with kids for swimming as the headland protects swimmers from ocean currents. There is a lifeguard in the peak season
  • Surfing naturally, it is located on surf highway 45


  • New Zealand former prime minister Jim (James) Bolger
  • Opera singer Dame Malvina Major
  • Nineteenth century Maori military tactician Wiremu Kīngi Moki Matakātea
  • Peter Snell (Olympic champion) has a statute


  • Nineneenth century murder of Mary Dobie took place near Te Namu Pa. A local Maori, Tuhiata, was tried, convicted and hanged for murdering Dobie. Mary Dobie, an artist, had walked to Te Namu Bay to sketch Mt Egmont/Taranaki.  The murder took place during heightened tensions leading up to leading up to the invasion of Parihaka in 1881. There are conflicting narratives for the murder and the aftermath events.

David Hastings, author / journalist has published, “Many lives of Mary Dobie.’ for those interested in further investigation. For details NZHistory check Tuhiata hanged for murder of Mary Dobie.


  • Opunake loop trail find a mosaic sofa and pose
  • Opunake Mural Trail, 23 murals depicting historical images and contemporary work throughout the town
  • Your favourite town mural or perhaps the statute of Peter Snell, Olympic runner
  • Your fish n chips, complete with wrapping and tomato sauce at an iconic Surf Highway beach
  • The town is on Surf Highway 45, New Zealand’s only dedicated surf touring route.
Opunake beach at low tide, Surf Highway 45, Taranaki, New Zealand
Opunake beach at low tide, Surf Highway 45, Taranaki

While on the loop trail look out to sea to check for orcas or humpback whales, especially in the migration season. You might strike it lucky. On the northern end of the beach, walk past the cenotaph and through the trees. A garden trail carefully maintained by residents complete with doggie water trough, garden ‘lending’ books and painted letterboxes give Opunake visitors a special welcome. The historic walkway ends at Te Namu Pa site. And if you are staying a bit longer check out the restored Everybody’s Theatre. The theatre hosts a variety of events and even is a cinema in the summer season.


Opunake Mural Trail & Art Studios

The library has a guide to the mural trail. Mural plaques were donated by Dennis Lattimer, who is one of the artists responsible for most of the murals. Ōpunakē Open Studio & Gallery is a collective of local artists.


  • The Opunake beach carnival complete with Miss Opunake contest is part of the summer highlights. The town boosts surf life saving champions.
  • October wool festival. The place is festooned with pompoms, crochet, knitted tree covers, colourful wool products are a decorator’s vision of knitted nirvana.


  • Opunake beach has a children’s playground and paddling pool for the little ones, coin operated gas BBQs and picnic tables beside the surf life saving club premises
  • The beach has two massive headlands which provide shelter and protection from winter storms
  • Get the kids to find a mosaic sofa
  • Promise fish n chips on the beach


  • A continuously occupied region for over eight hundred years. On the coast just north of the town is the Te Namu pā site. In 1833 local chief Wiremu Kīngi Moki Matakātea (nickname Moke) was undefeated by a Waikato war party with the aid of a single musket. Nothing like location, a jutting rocky point palisaded to form a position of great strength and sufficient provisions to support the eventual triumph. There is little physical trace of the pa today.

OPUNAKE meaning of: Ō: place of; punake: bow of a canoe.

  • It was because of his accurate aim with the musket that the name “Matakatea” (meaning “clear-eyed”) was conferred upon Wiremu Kingi after this battle.


  • Opunake is a service town surrounded by dairy farms as well as the summer season provides a boost in income for local businesses


  • 1,440 (June 2020).


Getting there

Nearby Manaia is 29 km to the southeast. State Highway 45 passes through the town.


Every town adds to the richness of things to do and see. For more details about the region check New Plymouth & Taranaki Region nearby attractions and events.

Opunake 7km (loop) heritage walk is suitable for walkers with low-medium fitness. The terrain is grass, footpaths, gravel paths and is hilly in parts. The round trip is approximately 7 kilometres and will take 21/4-3 hours. Popular starting points are Lion’s Lookout, at the Secret Garden, or at the lake. The walk is a shared pathway with cyclists, grade 2 – 3 bike trail.


  • Opunake Lake – The lake was created to create hydroelectricity. The original valley floor was once an Armed Constabulary vegetable garden. There are public toilets at this stop for your use.
  • Armed Constabulary Cemetery – The cemetery is located on the headland that juts into the lake. It has four historic headstones. The perimeters of the cemetery are unknown but some cairns help estimate the cemetery boundaries.
  • Orimupiko Cemetery – This cemetery is adjacent to the entrance to the Armed Constabulary Cemetery. It is located on a former pa site and is well worth while reading the inscriptions of locals buried there.
Lake Opunake @Opunake
Lake Opunake @Opunake
Opunake, kiwi town on Surf Highway 45 launches boats using a tractor, Taranaki, New Zealand
Opunake, Taranaki
  • Waiaua River Mouth – A great photo moment of Taranaki’s dynamic coastline.
  • The Cottage Hospital was the local birthing unit, including runner Peter Snell.
  • Opunake Beach – The Riviera of South Taranaki is an outstanding, natural surf attraction that draws visitors and surfers from all over the world. A holiday park and playground are available.
  • The Lion’s Lookout is another photo opportunity with views of the Taranaki Bight.
  • Middleton Bay has a boat ramp for easy launching. Fish from the jetty or sand. This beach has no surf life saving patrol. There is a fee to use the tractor to launch your boat.
  • Te Namu Pa The pa is visible from the northern end of the walkway and is an extremely important site in Taranaki. It was the location of a famous battle where Wiremu Kingi Matakatea repelled 800 Waikato Maori and successfully withstood a month-long siege armed with a single rifle. The best access to the site is via Opunake Cemetery and then over the Otahi Stream. Te Namu Pa is on private property and the owners and the Historic Places Trust ask that the area be treated with care and respect. There are open food storage pits and tunnels on the site and these can be dangerous.



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