Whangamata draws crowds with its combination of surf, safe swimming beaches, marina and estuary. Set at the southern end on the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula, it’s a great base for surfing, fishing and boating, with pretty islands offshore.
The Maori name for the harbour,“Whangamata” comes from “whanga” - harbour or bay, and “mata” - obsidian, the hard stone flakes that occurred locally and were used as cutting implements.The three islands off Whangamatā – Hauturu, Whenuakura and Rawengāiti, were gifted as a reserve by their Maori owners in 1957. You can wade out to Hauturu (Clark Island) at low tide, or kayak about 1km to Whenuakura Island, also known as Donut Island due to the shape left by its collapsed blowhole.
The resident population of about 4000 swells dramatically over the summer period, and for Beach Hop, a celebration of ‘50s and 60s culture and classic cars held in March. While tourism is a major source of income now, in the nineteenth century it was gold that fueled development. Historic relics from the mining boom can be seen at Luck at Last Mine, after a scenic one hour walk through forest. Or take a torch and explore underground mine tunnels at Broken Hills.
In 2009 the controversial marina was opened, despite opposition from surfers, environmentalists and local Maori. Whangamata has lots of shops, cafes and restaurants, tennis courts and a swimming pool. The Whangamata Golf Club has an 18 hole course, and a 9 hole course for learners. Many artists and craftspeople live around Whangamata - the information centre has information on studios that can be visited.
Head to the Coromandel Forest Park on the edge of town for hikes through native bush, or follow mountain bike trails through the pines of Tairua Forest. Whiritoa lies about 15kms south of Whangamata - the beach can be rough, but the lagoon at the northern end provides safe swimming for children. There’s a blowhole at the southern end of Whiritoa beach, climb over the rocks to see it. Drive north of Whangamata, about 8kms, and discover the golden sands and pohutukawas of Onemana, a popular spot for surfcasting.
Where to stay
What to do
- Wade out to Hauturu island at low tide
- Mountain bike in Tairua Forest
- Explore historic mining relics at Broken Hills
- Take a forest walk to the Wentworth Falls
- Go bird- watching at Opoutere Beach
www.whangamatanz.com - Whangamata Mountain Biking
Department of Conservation - Wentworth Valley Track
Department of Conservation - Broken Hills Recreation Area Walking Tracks
www.thecoromandel.com - Destination Coromandel, the Regional Tourism Organisation
www.artscoromandel.co.nz - Whangamata artists and craftspeople