Boun­ti­ful BAY OF PLENTY

Stretch­ing from Waihi Beach to Ohope along the Pa­cific Coast High­way, SARAH WEEKS dis­cov­ers the beaches and har­bour, the thriv­ing ki­wifruit in­dus­try and Maori cul­ture of the Bay of Plenty. Of­fi­cially the sun­ni­est place in New Zealand with 125km of coastli

Travel Digest - - FRONT PAGE -

Con­sid­ered the gate­way to the Bay of Plenty, Katikati is two hours drive south- east from Auck­land and has many attractions. Visit the only Haiku path­way in the South­ern Hemi­sphere, which fea­tures the largest col­lec­tion of Haiku stones out­side Ja­pan, with over 40 short po­ems writ­ten by po­ets from around the world. The town is also known for it’s many mu­rals painted around in pub­lic places de­pict­ing events and peo­ple who have in­flu­enced the area – it’s like an out­door art gallery. Drive the Katikati Cui­sine Trail and meet Ar­ti­san pro­duc­ers who take you from plant to plate, with fresh sea­sonal pro­duce, cheese, salami, breads and good­ies to take away. With its white sandy surf beach on the ocean side and a safe shel­tered in­ner har­bour beach, Mount Maun­ganui is a favourite sum­mer hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion. Dis­cover a dy­namic dis­play of clas­sic air­craft at the Clas­sic Fly­ers Mu­seum and café, sight­see by bike or tee off on one of the mount’s su­perb golf cour­ses. For the best views in the bay, walk up or around Mauao, Mount Maun­ganui’s dor­mant vol­cano. After a day’s ac­tiv­i­ties, you can re­lax and un­wind in the warm salt wa­ter hot pools un­der the shadow of Mauao. Lo­cated about 15 min­utes from Te Puke is the sea­side vil­lage of Maketu Beach, known for its stun­ning es­tu­ary and ocean beach. Take a stroll along the sands, play a round of golf, go surf­ing or horse rid­ing. But make sure you sam­ple one of the fa­mous Maketu pies made from an old fam­ily recipe, try fresh fish take­away or dine in a lo­cal sea­side café. There are short guided walks avail­able where you can learn about the peo­ple and land­ing of the Te Arawa Waka, then drive on to Okurei Point for sweep­ing coastal views and ex­plore the rugged Newdicks Beach. From Te Puke, en­joy the scenic drive to the beau­ti­ful Puke­hina Beach, a small, friendly beach town on the east coast sur­rounded by ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties. Bor­dered by a crys­tal clear rolling surf beach, glit­ter­ing sands, with an es­tu­ary har­bour and boat ramp, it’s one of New Zealand’s few un­spoilt beaches with an un­beat­able, re­laxed life­style.

Visit Waio­tahi Beach to view two carved poles, which de­pict the ar­rival of Maori to Opotiki and you, can also learn about the rich his­tory of the area at Opotiki Mu­seum. Ride the spec­tac­u­lar Motu trails, one of New Zealand’s “great rides” on the New Zealand Cy­cle Trail and ex­plore the Waioeka Gorge Scenic Re­serve where you can go hunt­ing, tramp­ing, swimming, ca­noe­ing, raft­ing and fish­ing or just en­joy a pic­nic. Waihi Beach is a 9km stretch of ocean beach with plenty of places to eat, drink and shop. The north­ern end of the beach has a walk that you can en­joy along a track that tra­verses the head­land to Orakawa Bay and se­cluded Ho­maunga Bay. This scenic spot fringed by po­hutukawa trees pro­vides spec­tac­u­lar views and is per­fect for a pic­nic or swim. At the south­ern end is ANZAC Bay with great views across to Matakana Is­land and south to­wards Mount Maun­ganui. The Wilson Road shops are an eclec­tic mix for both lo­cals and vis­i­tors and there are some nice eater­ies dot­ted around the area. You can also visit the lo­cal Ar­ti­san art stu­dios and gal­leries.

View of the Bay of Plenty, from Mauao Sum­mit.

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