A guide to Ohope Beach: Explore my City With Anita Burgess
When most people think New Zealand, the big cities like Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch come to mind. I was delighted when Anita contacted me to talk about her home town of Ohope Beach – sounds like a mustn’t miss on your New Zealand agenda in this final installment of Explore My City for 2017.
Nestled among the Pohutukawa trees at the bottom of the Bay of Plenty, beautiful Ohope Beach is New Zealand’s worst kept secret – legendary throughout the country for being the ultimate family holiday destination.
Where time slows down and the sun seemingly never stops shining, Ohope Beach is one of those places that instantly makes you feel like you’re on vacation. With a generous 11km of warm sandy beach, a glistening ocean horizon and family-friendly activities galore, it’s no surprise this small community was voted “NZ’s Most Loved Beach” (we have the road-signs to prove it!).
While a little too far from most of the main city centres for a day trip, Ohope Beach is perfect for a long weekend getaway from Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch.
How to get there
Air Chathams are a small independent airline who fly direct from Auckland to Whakatane Airport – a short 15-minute drive from Ohope Beach. Flights start from NZD $69pp one-way and only take 45 minutes. Air New Zealand fly domestically into Tauranga and Rotorua – both just over an hour’s drive away.
If you’re driving, it’s an easy 5-hour drive from Auckland either by hire car, bus or airport shuttle. You can choose inland (via Hamilton & tourism mecca Rotorua) or take the scenic route along the coastline of the beautiful Bay of Plenty via Waihi and Tauranga.
Where to stay
There are several great camping grounds in the area, but my favorite by far is the Ohope Beach Top 10 Holiday Park. With everything from tent sites to 2-bedroom beach villas it’s the perfect option for families on any budget, and in summer they even have a kids’ club program. Plus, they’re right on the beach. If camp grounds aren’t your thing there are a few small motels and plenty of holiday rentals around. Book well in advance especially over summer and the NZ school holiday periods.
9 ways to holiday like a local at Ohope Beach
1. Get creative at the beach
Because of where Ohope Beach is situated along the coast it tends to accumulate a LOT of driftwood, which is perfect for building forts, bridges, dams – pretty much anything you can come up with. Walking along the beach at any time you’ll come across a number of teepee huts, but the best I’ve seen so far is a full pirate ship, complete with crow’s nest!
2. Make the most of the waves
Ohope Beach is a really safe beach and the perfect place to learn to surf. The best breaks are at the west end of the beach and cater from beginners to experienced surfers. Salt Spray Surf School is run by a local mum and is popular with locals and tourists alike. Boogie boarding is also a really fun way to make the most of our waves, and easy for kids to learn from the moment they can walk.
3. Go bush (watch out for kiwis!)
Ohope is blessed with an abundance of easily accessible hiking trails from under 3km to over 10km long. Discover hidden beaches, or head into the lush native bush and learn about New Zealand’s flora and fauna. The Whakatane district (including Ohope Beach) is renowned as the Kiwi capital of New Zealand, and the local Trust runs kiwi night walks from April through to June. In January the Trust host a public kiwi chick release in Ohope, which is a fantastic chance to be a part of the preservation of this rare bird!
4. Get out on the water
We Ohope Beach locals love any type of water sport so you’re as likely to find us sailing or on a SUP as you are surfing. Fishing is also hugely popular here, whether off the Port Ohope wharf in the harbour, with a longline on the beach or game fishing out on boats. There are fishing tournaments throughout the year open to adults and kids and plenty of options for charters.
5. Dig for Tuatuas
One of our favorite beach activities is digging for Tuatuas. A type of clam, tuatuas are abundant at Ohope and this is one of the only spots along the East Coast where they are not affected by toxic algae blooms. Grab a bucket, head to the shallows and dig with your toes until you find them! My kids eat them raw right there on the beach, but if you’re like me and prefer your shellfish cooked, fry them up in butter and garlic or turn them into fritters.
6. Chill on the Porch
Summer Sunday afternoons in Ohope mean pitchers of Sangria and live local music on the sun-drenched back porch at Cadera. Our local Mexican restaurant is a firm family favourite with a great kids menu and fabulous atmosphere. Cheap meals on Taco Tuesday!
7. Wander the market
The Ohope Craft Market is a local institution and has grown to become one of the biggest markets in the region. Held roughly every second Saturday during summer and monthly for the rest of the year, head along to check out a wide range of local arts and crafts, as well as stock up on organic produce and sample the delicious artisan food on offer.
8. Make like a pirate
Maraetotara Reserve (otherwise known as the “the pirate park”) is a must-do for anyone with kids. Arguably the best playground in town, it has a range of play equipment for all ages including a wooden pirate ship, skate bowl and – everyone’s favorite – the flying fox. Grab an ice cream from the Four Square (an NZ icon) on your way!
9. Explore the volcano
This is one you WILL find in all the guide books, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it! White Island (Whakaari) is an active volcano and private scenic reserve located a mere 48km off the coast of the Bay of Plenty. The main crater is just above sea level, so provides an excellent opportunity to walk right inside without too much risk (or climbing!). You can access White Island via boat or helicopter, or opt to do a flyover on a small plane from Whakatane Airport. Kids are welcome, but only from 8 years and older – all safety equipment is provided as part of the tour cost.
About the Blogger
Based in the beautiful Ohope Beach, New Zealand, Anita Burgess is in the business of helping families make precious memories. Soccer mum, travel broker & writer, she’s happiest with a camera in her hand and the sand between her toes. Find insider travel tips and inspiration for your memorable moments on her blog, or get in touch if you’re ready to make your holiday happen.
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