Visiting friends in Whaktane
Whilst travelling through Eastern Europe last year we met Paul and Marie, an awesome Kiwi couple from Whakatane. Given that Whakatane is just a few kilometres down the road from Tauranga, we decided to go visit them today. We had lunch with Paul and Marie and their family, then spent a great afternoon catching up and shooting the breeze. Spending quality time with friends and family – that’s what the festive season is supposed to be all about really, isn’t it?
Not wanting to waste the opportunity to explore a bit more of NZ we got up early and headed out to Whakatane in the wee hours of the morning, thinking we could fit in some sightseeing before lunch. The 90km drive from Tauranga to Whakatane was lovely – long stretches of white beaches down one side and lush green hills down the other.
Whakatane itself was sooooo cute. The town is built around the Whakatane River and the estuary where the river meets the aquamarine waters of the Bay of Plenty.
Whakatane has an urban population of about 20,000, with another 15,000 people living in the outlying areas around the town. Basically its big enough to have all the “mod cons” but small enough to retain its sense of community and soul. We had a morning coffee in a cafe on the main street and watched people going about their Saturday morning shopping. It was lovely seeing people stop in the street to have a chat and wish each other a Merry Christmas. There were even a couple of carollers regaling us with Christmas songs while we enjoyed our lattes (all slightly nauseating really, but very cute).
Some of Whakatane’s key attractions are its beaches – especially Ohope Beach and Otarawairere Beach. Ohope Beach is an 11km-long stretch of white sand that, we were informed, has been repeatedly voted NZ’s Most Loved Beach.
We also did the short (but STEEP) hike that goes down to Otarawairere Beach.This secluded bay is framed by ancient pohutukawa trees coverd in bright red flowers, just in time for Christmas.
We were lucky enough to have some sunshine during our morning exploration of Whakatane. This came as no surprise however as Whakatane holds the record for being New Zealand’s sunniest town – it gets an average of 7.5 hours of sunshine a day and enjoys a temperate climate with day-time temperatures of 15-20C all year round. Sounds perfect – especially compared to Brisbane’s hot and steamy summer temperatures!
Today was our last in the Bay of Plenty region and it was lovely to spend it with friends. Tomorrow we leave this wonderful corner of New Zealand behind and head across to our FAVOURITE part of the North island: Hawke’s Bay. So hei kona ra from Bay of Plenty!