The sun was filtering through the Pohutukawa trees above us when we rose. With one of the best swimming spots on the East Cape, we had a morning dip in the lagoon at the end of Maraehako’s beach. We then cooked up breakfast and a brew out of the back of the van before heading round the coast to nearby Whanarua Bay.
We spent the morning exploring the rock pools at Whanarua bay and relaxing on the beach. This part of New Zealand is just stunning, with turquoise water and native trees shrouding the beaches. Furthermore, it is relatively untouched by tourists, and many of the beaches are quiet and empty.
Just above Whanarua bay, the renowned Pacific Coast Macadamia farm provides a fantastic spot for a coffee, lunch or an ice-cream stop. The cafe (which is open over the summer months only) also has an outdoor space with a view over the beautiful bay below. We couldn’t go past their delicious macadamia and chocolate ice cream before we headed west on the road.
On our way along the coast to Opotiki, we crossed the mighty Motu River. Motu is ‘isolated’ in Maori, which is fitting for a river which passes through mostly uninhabited country clad in dense forest. The best way to get a taste of the area and enjoy the scenery is to take to the river itself. Local adventure tourism pursuits for the adrenaline junkie include jet boating or white water rafting. Jet boating on the Motu River combines exhilaration with a guided tour on the historical, cultural and ecological aspects of the area. White water rafting trips over grade 3-4 rapids through the Raukumara Range run over a few days with overnight stays at river bank campsites. The fly-fishing along the river is also very good here, with plenty of trout to be scored!
Following along the coast, there were countless spots to stop for a photo opportunity. We stopped a few times for panoramic views of the twinkling Pacific Ocean, and even got to witness smoke rising from New Zealand’s most active volcano, White Island, which sits just out from the Bay of Plenty. The towns along the coast all have a high Maori population and we saw many Marae, and meeting houses with ornately carved gateways and architecture. For the avid movie-watcher, this is where scenes from Boy come to life. In many ways, this part of the country is the true New Zealand.
Heading westwards to Opotiki, there are many opportunities for fishing, diving, hiking, cycling, and of course spending time on the beach. The Dunes Trail and the Motu Trails are popular for cyclists, and if you’re with family or children, these trails can make a great half-day activity. There are many places with access to the beaches and picnic spots too.
We reached Opotiki in the afternoon and had a choice of campgrounds and motor camps to stay at. Opting for a place to stay on the beach, we booked in to the Tirohanga Beach Motor Camp, and then headed into the township to stock up on supplies. From Opotiki, there is easy access on the roads to Whakatane, Rotorua or south to Gisbourne - so who knows where our next adventure will take us!
You have to be 21 years old or over to rent a car. Feel free to contact us, if you have any questions.