Whangamata is a local secret summer destination for Kiwis. The town’s white-sand beaches, forests, and lagoon meld into the classic summer holiday spot for family and friends. Whangamata’s estuary encourages visitors to throw a line; go fishing or bird watching.
Soak in Whangamata’s holiday ambience. Discover an off-the-beaten-path holiday or a great escape from urban bustle. Summer showers, shake off the raindrops there are shops, cafes and galleries offering indoor comfort.
Best Time to Visit Whangamata
The best to visit the town is in the summer between December to mid-March.
Things to do in Whangamata
- A surfing mecca with one of the best breaks, the world-class Whangamata Bar. The legendary left-hand break attracts surfers internationally.
- Beach holiday, a family favorite with 6 kilometers of white sandy beach patrolled by lifeguards (summer)
- Voted the best beach in New Zealand by Bookabach customers.
- Kayaking, SUP, and water sports, especially to Whenuakura Donut Island.
- Coromandel Forest Park & Wentworth Falls walk.
Romance, a weekend getaway for couples – Whangamata
If you’re looking for a romantic weekend getaway, Whangamata will not disappoint. Pack the holiday geer and spend your days walking along the sandy beaches, kayaking through the estuary, or exploring Whenuakura, Donut Island. End your day with dinner at one of the town’s many waterfront cafes, where you can enjoy locally caught seafood and stunning sunset views across the bar.
Foodie Guide: Whangamata offers plenty of food options to choose from for your inner foodie. There are many restaurants, cafes, and fish and chips shops that offer delicious seafood options. Popular picks include the SixfortySix, Soul Burger, Nero’s Restaurant, Onemana Boatshed Cafe, and Blackies Cafe.
Free Things to do in Whangamata
Visit Whangamata Beach
The beach’s proximity to town creates a seamless flow between the local cafes, groceries, and shops. With its extensive beach and wide-open spaces, the beach does not feel crowded, with plenty of room for walking or surfing.
Endangered birdlife – dotterels
Care must be taken in the dunes and fenced-off areas to protect the endangered Dotterel bird species. There are clearly marked beach access points to support the dune regeneration programs and wildlife conservation.
Access for mobility-impaired visitors is best at Access Points 8 and 9 on the Esplanade by the Surf Club, where there is parking and a boardwalk.
SUP boards and kayaks can all be hired in town. The tidal estuaries at either end of the surfing beach are favorite spots.
Visit Whenuakura Donut Island
Visiting Donut Island is one of the best things to do in Whangamata. Whenuakura Donut Island, is a sunken volcano with a glorious lagoon at its center. It lies one kilometer east of Whangamata Beach.
The best way to visit the island is on tour with one of the local kayak or SUP businesses. Paddle out to the island, and enjoy the sight of the lush bush clad lagoon. The marine reserve does not allow people to land on the island.
Find your inner explorer and kayak through the rocky cave entrance into quiet bright blue lagoon. Due to erosion the crater filled up with water, making it look like a donut from above and giving it the nickname Donut Island. Erosion led to the volcanic crater filling with water.
The best time to go is 2 hours either side of high tide. Care is needed at low tide due to exposed rocks.
Things to do Near Whangamata
Coromandel Forest Park
Nearby is Coromandel Forest Park. Broken Hills short walking tracks explore old gold mining sites and tramp through regenerating forest. The mountain bike trails where you’ll find short walks, mountain bike trails and old gold mining sites offer shade and forest quiet in the busy summer holiday season.
Check out our Coromandel Forest Park guide to learn more about the area
Wentworth Falls Walk
If you’re looking for an easy way to spend the day, take a short walk to Wentworth Falls. There’s also a swimming hole at the base of the waterfalls to cool off on hot days.
The path is well maintained and has two bridge crossings over the river where you can enjoy some refreshing air while walking. Bring some snacks, though, because this place doesn’t have much in terms of food options nearby.
Toilets are located at the Wentworth Valley campground, which is a 7 km drive from Whangamata on SH25. The campground is the start of the walk.
Waiomu Kauri Grove
Waiomu Kauri Grove is a stunning natural attraction near Whangamata, New Zealand. This peaceful grove is home to hundreds of towering kauri trees, some of which are hundreds of years old. These majestic giants not only look beautiful, but they also play an important role in maintaining local biodiversity.
There are several campsites in the woods, so check ahead for availability and conditions. Dogs on a leash are allowed into some areas of the forest.
The Whangamata Ridges Mountain Bike Park is an excellent destination for biking, with tracks suitable for beginners and experienced riders alike. The park is open to the public year-round, so you can enjoy some adrenaline-pumping thrills in any season.
The bike park is located in the Matariki Forest. You can hire bikes from the Pedal and Paddle shop for a small fee. There’s also a membership fee for the park that gets you access to all of their trails.
Things to do in Whangamata When it’s Raining
Visit Whangamata Cinema
The town has an adorable cinema known as the Whangamata Cinema that is unmissable as it has a vibrant pink exterior. Popcorn at the cinema is a perfect rainy day activity.
Art Gallery Trail
There is plenty to view and linger over, from edgy contemporary art to landscapes from multi-media to textiles, such as Little Gallery Whangamata, Topadahil Art Studios, and the Kauri Cliff Art Gallery. If you’re looking for more traditional galleries, head over to Whitianga, Kuaotunu, and Tairua.
Visit Wentworth Waterfall
It’s fun getting deliberately wet and then wetter as you swim in the rain at the Wentworth Waterfall.
Explore Local Shops
Whangamata is a small town, and it doesn’t take long to explore its main street. You’ll find Surf shops, swimwear shops, summer clothing, and branded stores along the city’s main is strip.
Don’t forget to check Harry and Her Whangamata for NZ labels.
The town has a resort vibe with clothing stores ensuring you have swimming gear, cafes catering to the beach traffic, and various art and craft galleries.
In summer, there is a pop-up craft trail marketing unique handmade treasures. Cafes and restaurants with open-sided windows and cozy chairs offer chill-out locations for rainy days.
Things to do in Whangamata With Kids
- Wentworth Falls walk to explore the swimming hole
- Double kayak to Whenuakura Island
- Enjoy lazy days exploring Otahu Estuary tidal pools
Where to Take Best Selfies in Whangamata
- A video of the lapping water
- The tree canopy
- The echo of swell outside the lagoon
- Whenuakura Island (Donut Island)
- At the base of Wentworth Falls
The town motto is “Whangamata – it’s all here for you.”
“Whanga Week” (December) is a time to celebrate the local surf club and its fundraising efforts. You can expect fun runs, swimming races such as the SLSC Club Classic Harbour Swim, or other events that are part of this year’s festival schedule.
The beauty and entertainment of the beach are on full display at the festival. Beach babe events like the Miss Whangamata beauty pageant were also hosted during the festival. However, the event is no longer on the calendar of events.
For more details, check Whanga Week & Summer Events.
Beach Hop (March) is a nostalgic event about rock n roll in the 1960s, classic cars, and bikes. The event has become a magnet for visitors from around the country. The festival has been known to attract up to 75,000 devoted fans. This event takes place at a beautiful seaside resort of Whangamata on the Coromandel Peninsula.
Click here to check out the Beach Hop Facebook page.
Who Turned Up and Named the Place ‘Whangamata’?
Maori have occupied the area for over 700 years. The area opened up for traffic with the advent of a gravel road in 1923 from Waihi.
What Keeps the Town of Whangamata Ticking?
Tourism is the primary industry in the town, with surfing, fishing, and swimming as the most popular activities. The summer holidaymakers keep the town ticking.
The weather in Whangamata is mild, subtropical, and humid.
The summer season lasts three months, from December to March. The town enjoys an average temperature of 22 to 23 degrees Celsius year-round. The summer months are the best time to visit, with temperatures typically reaching a high of 25 degrees and lows around 20 degrees.
Rainfall is quite consistent throughout the year. The rainy season lasts five months, from May to October. On any given day during the season, there is a greater than 28 percent chance of rain.
The winter season lasts for three months, from May to September. Temperatures during this time of year hover around 16 degrees Celsius.
To find out more about what to expect from the weather, you can check Whangamata Weather & Tides | Whangamata Surf Forecast.
Based on the 2018 New Zealand census, the population of Whangamata is estimated to be 4074. According to the census, there were 1,821 households with 2,019 males and 2,058 females, giving a sex ratio of 0.98 males per female.
The median age of the residents was found to be 57.8 years.
Whangamata is a classic kiwi summer beach holiday destination.
Every town adds to the richness of things to do and see. For more details about the region, check Thames & Coromandel Peninsula nearby attractions and events.
Travel Pack Information
Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 25, November 1981, describes
With no roads in the area, Waihi people traveling to Whangamata in the 1880s followed a bridle track through thick scrub as far as Whiritoa, then passed through orchards and maize plantations owned by the Maoris before taking to the Otahu River bed for the last few kilometers of the journey.
In those days, Whangamata was a sandy flat covered with stunted ti-tree and flanked by rugged bush where kauris flourished, and wild horses roamed. A small community of bushmen, gum diggers, and gold miners built primitive dwellings around the nucleus of Sainsbury’s Hotel and the general store where Maoris bartered gum for pakeha tools and clothing.
There were several small gold mines in the district, but while they provided work for several hundred men, none proved very profitable and were soon abandoned when costs outstripped returns. The misnamed “Luck at Last” at Wharekawa suffered the fate of all of them when it closed down after a few years of operation.
The settlement’s only link with the outside world were Northern Steamship Company vessels which brought in a variety of merchandise, returning with cargoes of gum, sawn timber, and crayfish. With no pier or landing- stage, boats had to nose into the sandy bank at high tide and float off with the next. Stores were unloaded into punts, and passengers had to walk the plank to get ashore.
The isolated townsfolk set up their own telephone link with Hikutaia, following the route of an obsolete telegraph line erected during the Maori wars. The line went through the bush and over the ranges and required regular maintenance by the settlers, their repair parties clearing a track through some of the most picturesque areas of the Peninsula. Today the route followed by the old line is still known as the “Wires Track” and is a popular Walkway for trampers visiting the district.
Other tracks lead to old gold mining sites at Wharekawa and Parakiwai, and rusted machinery from the “Goldwater” and “Wentworth” mines can still be seen in the Wentworth Valley. A road south of the town winds up into the hills giving access to various tracks through the old kauri forest, one of which climbs to the spectacular Wentworth Falls.
Whangamata began to emerge from isolation in 1923 when a clay road was formed through the 31 kilometers of bush-clad hills and valleys which separated the settlement from Waihi. When the road was metalled some years later, sea-front sections were offered at ₤70, and even in 1955, one could still purchase a similar plot for ₤200. In recent years, it says much for Whangamata’s development that a prime section today could cost $18,000.
The Wentworth Causeway, opened in 1976, brings the hotel and airfield within easy reach of the town and gives access to the Tairua State Forest, where a major timber company is felling for its new chipboard mill at Kopu. The causeway cuts out a long drive through narrow country roads and leads into the new Moana Point estate, one of four subdivisions that opened up in recent years.
Whangamata has a permanent population of 1,900, swelling to an estimated 30,000 in the summer months when holidaymakers from all over the country converge on the town. Fishing, good surf, and five kilometers of sandy beach are only a few of the attractions of this resort. The harbor gives safe anchorage for boats, and charter launches are available for deep-sea fishing around Slipper Island and the Aldermans, with frequent cruises to Mayor Island.
First published in 1964, the Journal contains a wealth of wonderful reading. This is an outstanding heritage resource, with firsthand accounts, researched articles, historical information, and more.