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Travel Guide

Things to do in Whakatane: Attractions, Activities & Places to Visit

  • 3 minutes

Bay of Plenty, North Island

In this Article

Discover the sunshine capital of Bay of Plenty. Take in an authentic Maori cultural experience. Grab a local Mata beer, while listening to stories about Mataatua, the meeting house that came home. Explore Whakatane heads and Moutohora (Whale Island). Celebrate kiwi bird conservation success in the kiwi capital of the world, Whakatane.



Street entertainment, local musicians and touring bands through the summer months. The town is the artistic and cultural hub of the eastern Bay of Plenty. Te Kōputu a te whanga a Toi – the Whakatāne Exhibition Centre hosts a revolving range of exhibitions. Key festivals are:

  • Wild Food Challenge
  • Sports, Annual Touch Challenge
  • Birds Aplenty Festival
  • Summer Arts Festival
  • Sunshine and Plate food Festival





Whakatane’s major visitor attractions are free from walks exploring heritage / nature to museums. These activities are free.

  • Marvel at Whakatane Heads where the ocean swells challenge the river … imagine paddling a waka (hint you would use the outgoing tide to your advantage).
  • Notice the headlands and landmarks for pa (fortified villages) on the walking trails. You need to spot who is coming up behind you and having a great view is definitely an advantage.
  • The visitor site was a traditional area for fishing and net making, it is interesting thinking about changes in land use and how the resources around the visitor centre are being used today (tourist boats, fishing boats and recreational boats)
Whakatane childrens playground, foreshore boardwalk, Bay of Plenty, NZ
Whakatane children's playground, foreshore boardwalk, Bay of Plenty
  • Enjoy the museum and the changing story of human occupation and how that relates to land guardianship, land ownership and what this meant in the 16th century, 19th century and today. Read POHATUROA – THE STORY OF A HILL and how important it was to own this hill. It interesting that the hill was once surrounded by the sea however land reclamation has meant changes in the landscape.
  • Discover the kiwi sculptures dotted throughout the town and think about the important role of volunteers ensuring the kiwi has safe sanctuary
  • Recommend your family spend the day at Ohope beach and time climbing Ohope Scenic Reserve for the spectacular views. The information plaques are very interesting and tell the story of the people who lived at the top of the reserve.


As you enter Whakatane you have plenty of motel accommodation lining the main road. Forward bookings in the peak summer season is recommended. The pick for many travellers is Ohope beach with its beachside holiday atmosphere. Ohope beach is approximately 15 minutes from Whakatane. Whakatane has a number of apartment style motels offering great family space. Tuscany Villas is at the luxury end with hints of Italy from wrought iron balconies and a pizza oven. The budget backpacker has the choice of a former funeral parlour with dormitory accommodation and interior courtyard to socialise with new acquaintances.

Read more Bay of Plenty camping and holiday parks


Tauranga is approximately 1 hour away with plenty of opportunities to take a day trip. Check the Tauranga travel guide, Tauranga things to do for free, Bay of Plenty art, craft and culture trail for inspiration.




Exploring the Eastern Bay of Plenty by bike is easy. It is a flat easy bike ride along the Ohope Harbourside Trail alongside one of New Zealand’s most unspoiled estuaries, Ōhiwa Harbour. This trail is suitable for all ages so it’s a great option for families. Further down the coast is one of New Zealand’s Great Rides, the Motu Trails. Choose from three trails depending on your level of experience, or combine all three for the ultimate cycling adventure.

Guided bike rides

Mighty Motu Bike Tours offers a superb guided tour along the Dunes Trail. The coastal trail history and environment stories are told accompanied by morning or afternoon tea.

For the experienced mountain biker head inland to Whirinaki Te Pua-a-Tāne Conservation Park which has beginner, intermediate and experienced trails available. Trail thread through a glorious primeval forest.


  • From Tauranga: 1 hour and 10 minutes
  • From Auckland: 3 hours and 45 minutes
  • From Hamilton: 2 hours and 30 minutes
  • From Gisborne: 2 hours and 45 minutes
  • From Napier: 3 hours and 40 minutes
  • From Wellington: 6 hours and 30 minutes
Wairaka, daughter of Toroa, The Lady on the Rock, Capt of Mataatua Waka (canoe) sculpture, Whakatane, Bay of Plenty
Wairaka, daughter of Toroa, Whakatane, Bay of Plenty
  • AIR: Whakatane domestic airport with Air Chathams
  • BUS: BayBus has frequent daily services to Ohope Beach. Papamoa and Tauranga have regular services. Check BayBus for route maps and up to date traveling information. BayHopper has Whakatane town routes checked beforehand for up to date information.
  • INTERCITY has regular service stopping outside the Visitor Information Centre. The Intercity bus network stops in Rotorua, Auckland, Gisborne, Hamilton. Check Intercity for routes, length of time travelled and fare prices


To be connected to the stars and the universe. Before the arrival of the Mataatua Waka, this land was home to Toi-te-Huatahi. Toi made landfall hundreds of years ago at Kākāhoroa (Whakatāne) and through his son Awanuiārangi descend the Ngāti Awa, whose descendants occupy Whakatāne and surrounding areas today.

Toi named the area surrounding Pōhaturoa ‘Wharaurangi’, to acknowledge the role of the constellations in guiding navigators across the Pacific Ocean to Aotearoa. Prior to harbour reclamation, the waters of Ōhinemataroa (Whakatāne River) rose to the base of Pōhaturoa, where the toka (rock) Wharerangi stood.

On this site, matters of war and peace were discussed and debated. Rituals such as karakia, tā moko, kōiwi cleansing and, later, christenings would also occur here. Wharaurangi was occupied until it was sacked by Te Kooti Rikirangi in March 1869, and then briefly occupied again in the early-1870s.

Acknowledged is the excellent source for information Whakatane local government online resource which is quoted above. Visitors have the opportunity to listen to an audio describing key sites, check Historic Places.



Bronze sculpture artist – Liz Grant

Whakatāne’s kiwi sculptures were brought to life by the hard work, skill, and aroha of artist Dr. Liz Grant. Liz has degrees in both zoology and fine arts which meant when the Kiwi Wandering project was looking for someone to create life-like, life-sized bronze kiwi, all the stars aligned with Liz’s proposal. “Bronze is a fantastic medium because it is durable, weatherproof and tactile. Different textures can be felt, size and shapes can be understood and anatomical form can be discovered. I am very proud of my kiwi sculptures and hope that the community of Whakatāne takes pride in them, while also acting as kaitiaki.”

For more information on the artist visit her website:

Kiwi Wandering Trail
Kiwi Wandering Trail

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