Cruise a little further along the coast from the very pleasant town that is Whakatāne, and you’ll hit Ōhope Beach.
To be voted New Zealand’s Best Beach in a country with 14,000km of coastline says a lot, and there is a lot that’s great about this stretch of paradise. Around 11km of sand, for a start, from the Ōhiwa harbour entrance all the way to the West End, the main part of the beach. Here you can indulge in pretty much any beach-related activity you care to think of: swimming (doh!), surfing, windsurfing, sailing, kayaking up the harbour inlet, body surfing, beach volleyball, Frisbee... OK, you get it.
A major bonus is that it’s a super-safe beach, so it’s ideal for kids. Extra bonus is that at low tide you can wade out for miles (OK, hundreds of metres) and be up to only your waist, making it one of the gentlest ocean rides around.
There are shops and cafés a latte’s throw from West End beach and, once you’ve had your Trumpet, you can walk it off on one of the numerous tracks that branch off the beach proper.
There are sacred Māori sites, and along what the locals call ‘Toi’s Track’ you can make your way to secluded Ōtarawairere Bay and the Ōhope Scenic Reserve, both of which are worth a look.
Despite Ōhope Beach’s immense popularity, there always seems to be room for everyone – though it pays to book accommodation well in advance. But that just adds to the great Bay of Plenty vibe, especially at the height of summer – and summer gets high here, the region often a winner in the ‘most sunshine hours in New Zealand’ stakes. And if you’re a bird lover, the place teems with species galore – the Ōhiwa end attracts an annual migration of godwits from Alaska. And you thought you’d done some miles...