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Kiwi Towns

What’s so great about Tolaga Bay best things to see

  • 3 minutes

Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

Where to go and what to do

Tolaga Bay there are plenty of things to do. Tolaga Bay is the largest village on the East Cape with one of the original historic hotels continuing to operate. The town has a nine hole golf course, bowling club and skate park. Cooks Cove walkway has information plaques along the trail describing the significance of various locations. There is a picturesque cove and hole in the wall rock feature at the end of the walk. The wharf is fun, it is a long, very long beautiful elegant structure in the middle of nowhere. What a statement to human endeavour. Photographers will enjoy waiting for sunset as the visually stunning Beacon of Light sculpture.


  • Tolaga Bay wharf walk, allow an hour (660 metres one way)
  • Tolaga Bay wharf fishing
  • Tolaga Bay wharf water bombing
  • Lunch at the historic pub
Tolaga Bay closed general store, New Zealand
Tolaga Bay closed general store

TOLAGA BAY – must visit destination

The wharf that was saved as a historic landmark. Over $5 million was raised by volunteers to restore the wharf to its former glory. The story of Tolaga Bay is told with a series of plaques. Walk the length of the wharf to get a sense of what an achievement a local community has pulled off. The current wharf was completed in 1929 and is one of New Zealand’s longest wharves and a very good place to go fishing or water bombing.

Very near to Tolaga Bay wharf is Cook’s Cove walking trail to the Hole in the Wall. The walking trail is through farmland. There are information panels along the way describing the people who lived in the vicinity and Captain James Cook 1769 interactions. The cove, at the end of the walk, is a safe swimming area.

  • 5.8 km
  • Grade easy

St Andrews Memorial Church (1913)

The church has a unique Art Nouveau leadlight window and an original wooden interior. The church has an active congregation and its pamphlet provides a detailed background for the heritage listed category II church.


  • Tolaga Bay Inn, Hospitality plus guaranteed, the community owned hotel is part of the Tolaga Bay Inn Charitable Trust


  • Tolaga Wharf
  • Fish n chips on the beach
Tolaga Bay wharf, New Zealand
Tolaga Bay wharf


  • Naturally Tolaga Bay wharf, where else
  • Te Pourewa (Carved Beacon of Light) Tolaga Bay. Te Pourewa (Beacon of Light) is truly gorgeous at night. The stunning carving is visually dominating, it is bold and big at 12 metres high. The sculpture commemorates Tahitian ancestor, navigator and priest Tupaia and his arrival at Opoutama (Cook’s Cove) on the Endeavour in 1769. Check out Tolaga Bay school Facebook post


  • Annual summer horse race day on the beach (January)
KAIAUA BEACH Annual summer beach horse racing event Tolaga Bay, New Zealand KAIAUA BEACH Annual summer beach horse racing event Tolaga Bay


The marine reserve has been awarded kiwi guardian status (Department of Conservation programme) and is a very special place. This is an ideal place for families and kids with the tidal flats, river flow and rock pools creating safe places for water play. The main beach is primarily an ocean surf. There are no lifeguards. There are toilets and a picnic area.

The marine habitats are an inshore reef, rocky intertidal platforms and sediment flats.

Diving and snorkelling is permitted at low tide in channels and pools. Look for

anemones, small fish and the large crayfish. Do not remove any marine life as it is protected.

Rongokako Marine Reserve picnic area, New Zealand
Rongokako Marine Reserve picnic area

Underwater visibility can be low, but if you strike a calm day the deep channel running through the reef is a good place for scuba divers or snorkelers to see species such as blue moki and crayfish. During the incoming and outgoing tide, there can sometimes be a current in the channel draining the reef platform. If you plan to snorkel or scuba dive in the channel, check the tide times beforehand and plan your dive accordingly.

The reef system is accessed via Pouawa Beach which is adjacent to the well known tourist attraction Dive Tatapouri. At Rongokako Marine Reserve the marine life does not compete with tourists walking the reef system several times a day. Look for signage indicating the Marine Reserve and beach, Pouawa. The road is narrow, sandy and rutted. There is off road parking on SH35 however care is needed in the popular summer season.


Approximately 16 km from Gisborne and the bay before DIVE TATAPOURI.


  • Tolaga Bay beach continues to be covered in ‘slash’ logs from forestry operations. Every time it rains, it rains logs on the beach and blocks the estuary. More than a year since a huge storm hit the district on Queen’s Birthday weekend 2018, washing over 40,000 cubic metres of wood onto beaches, rain is still sending forestry waste down the district’s rivers to Tolaga Bay beach. The beach is patrolled during the summer months by the Tolaga Bay Surf Life Saving Club / Uawa Tiaki Ta, between the flags. A freedom campground is located at the north end of the beach.

Tolaga Bay farmers ‘horrified’ by forest slash after heavy rain

Tolaga Bay restored wharf, New Zealand
Tolaga Bay restored wharf
Captain James Cook FRS 1728 1779 British explorer, navigator, cartographer, Captain Royal Navy. Fortified town Tolaga New Zealand Hippaii coast
Captain James Cook FRS 1728 1779 British explorer. Fortified town Tolaga New Zealand Hippaii coast


  • Cook named Ūawa Tolaga Bay, possibly misinterpreting a word (te raki) referring to a north wind blowing into the bay. Described as “an obvious corruption of a Maori name”, the exact derivation of the name is unclear. It may have been a misunderstanding of “teraki” or “tarakaka”, referring to the local south-westerly wind rather than the place. The original Māori name is Uawa Nui A Ruamatua (shortened to Uawa) Wikipedia


  • Flax, timber and meat was exported over the bar of the Uawa River. The township was established in 1875 on the Ūawa River. Shipping goods over the Ūawa River bar became increasingly difficult as vessels got larger and the river silted owing to forest clearance in the headwaters. Hence the wharf construction. Today the forestry and dairy industry is the main employer. There are obvious signs of depopulation with abandoned buildings and closed shops yet the area continues to be welcoming towards visitors.


  • 810 (2018)


  • A must stop location for wharf fans and everyone else once you’ve had a look you will be seriously impressed. It is magnificent stretching out into the bay

Every town adds to the richness of things to do and see. For more details about the region check Napier & Hawkes Bay Region nearby attractions and events.

Tolaga Bay wharf walkway, New Zealand
Tolaga Bay wharf walkway


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