Where to go and what to see
Well known summer beach destination with white sandy beaches, forests, lagoon and estuary and resort village vibe means Kiwi holidaymakers flock to the ocean beaches and saltwater estuaries of Whangamata in their thousands. Even if it is raining, the hospitality of Whangamata ensures visitors have plenty to keep the holiday spirit alive.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Summer between December to mid March
WHAT TO DO, HIGHLIGHTS
- A surfing mecca with one of the best breaks, the world-class Whangamata Bar. The legendary left-hand break attracts surfers internationally
- Beach holiday family favourite with 6km of white sandy beach patrolled by lifeguards.
- Voted the best beach in New Zealand by Bookabach customers
- Kayaking, SUP, water sports especially to Donut Island. Whenuakura, Donut Island is a sunken volcano with a glorious lagoon at its centre.
- Coromandel Forest Park & Wentworth Falls walks
The beach’s proximity to town creates a seamless flow between the local cafes, convenience stores and tour operators. The beach with its wide open spaces does not feel crowded with plenty of room for walkers and runners. 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 programmes 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 favourite spots. There are guided tours to Donut Island on either kayaks or SUP.
WHAT TO DO NEARBY
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.
WENTWORTH FALLS WALK
Easy short walks include Wentworth Falls and old mining shafts. There is a swimming hole at the base of the waterfalls. The path is an easy grade walking track with two bridge crossings over the river. Allow up to half a day with kids and bring snacks. Toilets are located at the Wentworth Valley campground, which is a 7km drive from Whangamata on SH25. The campground is the start for the walk
Waiomu Kauri Grove
There are campsites in the forest, check beforehand for availability and conditions. Dogs on a leash are allowed into some areas of the forest.
The Whangamata Ridges Mountain Bike Park is a great destination for biking with tracks suitable from eight upwards. Located in the Matariki Forest hire bikes from the Pedal and Paddle shop, in Whangamata. There is a membership fee for the park. For details contact The
FOUR IDEAS – WHAT TO DO IF IT RAINS IN SUMMER?
- Whangamata 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 occupation.
ART GALLERY TRAIL
VISIT A WATERFALL
- It’s fun getting deliberately wet and then wetter as you swim, in the rain in the Wentworth Waterfall
EXPLORE THE LOCAL SHOPS
- Surf shops, swimwear shops, summer clothing and branded stores. Check Harry and Her Whangamata, for NZ labels. Whangamata is has a resort vibe with clothing stores ensuring you have swimming gear, cafes catering to the beach traffic and several art and craft galleries. In summer there is a pop up a craft trail marketing unique handmade treasures. Cafes and restaurants with their open sided windows and cosy chairs offer chill out locations for rainy days.
“Whangamata – it’s all here for you
WHAT TO DO WITH THE 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 THE BEST SELFIES
- A video of the lapping water, the tre canopy and the echo of swell outside the lagoon. Whenuakura Island (or Donut Island) in Whangamata formed when a blowhole collapsed, paddlers enter through an opening in the rocky cliffside and float into an open cavern in the middle of the island.
- Yourself at the base of Wentworth Falls, an instagramable favourite to add to the colleciton
- “Whanga Week” (December) fundraising initiative to raise money for the local surf club. Expect to see fun runs, swimming races such as Whangamata SLSC Club Classic Harbour Swim, and the the festival formerly hosted a beach babe event, the Miss Whangamata beauty pageant which is now off the calendar of events. For details check Whanga Week & Summer Events
- Beach Hop (March) nostalgic about rock n roll 1960’s, classic cars and bikes then this is the place for you to be. Has been known to attract up to 75,000 devoted fans, check Beach Hop – Home
WHO TURNED UP AND NAMED THE PLACE?
- 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 PLACE TICKING?
- Summer holiday makers
- Winter 4,090 (2020)
- Summer 60,000
- Classic kiwi summer beach holiday destination
TRAVEL PACK INFORMATION
Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 25, November 1981 describes
With no roads in the area Waihi people travelling to Whangamata in the 1880s followed a bridle track through thick scrub as far as Whiritoa, then passed through orchards and maize plantation owned by the Maoris before taking to the Otahu River bed for the last few kilometres 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 a number of 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 mis-named “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 wharf 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. To-day 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 kilometres 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. It says much for Whangamata’s development in recent years that a prime section to-day 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 opened up in recent years.
Whangamata has a permanent population of 1,900 swelling to an estimated 30,000 in the summer months when holiday-makers from all over the country converge on the town. Fishing, good surf, and five kilometres of sandy beach, are only a few of the attractions of this resort. The harbour 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.