Ask a local – Whakatane

If you’re looking for the true taste of a town you need to talk to the locals. Where do they get their coffee? Where do they love to eat out?
So we asked a few Whakatāne locals to give us the inside scoop on this piece of paradise in the Eastern Bay of Plenty.

Bring on Brunch

Oliver Dobbin from Salt Spray Surf School says his go-to brunch has to be Cafe Awa. Noting it’s a great spot with great food and people, Oliver says, “Being able to stroll along the riverside after a filling brunch is a favourite Sunday activity of mine.”

Maria Grant, Community Engagement Advisor at Whakatāne District Council and owner of A:M Clothes agrees: My go-to spot is Cafe Awa. It has yummy coffee and kai; the staff are always very friendly. It’s a lovely light space with lots of sunshine. Plus being able to sit outside and see the awa is always good for the wairua/soul!”

If location is what you are after, Glenn Smith from One Double X says you can’t beat Fisherman’s Wharf.  Glenn says, “Fisherman’s Wharf has a beautiful outlook, yummy food such as the smoked fishcakes and excellent Bloody Marys.”

Colin Stobbie from The Good Tonic Design studio and store is a fan of the Smoking Goose, which is a 10-minute drive inland from Whakatāne. Mouthwatering barbecue meats infused with a Kiwi twist are on the menu. Colin says it’s a great place to catch up with friends, with too many great options on the menu to choose from.

Whakatāne Mayor Dr Victor Luca notes Moxi’s in Ōhope is always busy so has to be on the list.

Caffeine Fix

Moxi Cafe in Ōhope is not only popular for brunch, they do a great brew according to Maria.  And she says they get “bonus points for being close to a papa tākaro/playground so you can get your caffeine fix takeaway and the kids get to burn their energy and have fun too!”

Megan Taylor, owner of Moxi’s, would agree with Maria but admits on her day off when she is in need of a caffeine hit, she’ll head to Jord Espresso based at The Hub.

Oliver says Dream Bean Coffee at West End, Ōhope Beach is his go to. “This is a no brainer!” says Oliver. “The coffee is as good as it gets and their cute coffee cart is parked right at my favourite part of Whakatāne/ Ōhope, West End Beach.”

Natasha Manuel from Tio Ohiwa Oysters agrees with Oliver, not just on the coffee from Dream Bean but that they are parked at the best beach in New Zealand.

In town Volk & Co Coffee Brew Bar on Boon Street came up again and again, with the mayor noting its popularity among council staffers.

Beersies

If you’re after a beer in Whakatāne a local brew from Mata is a must says Megan. Oliver adds that over the summer months the Mata team set up at Wharfside at Port Ōhope Wharf. “This is still a bit of a secret spot and the best place for an arvo beverage. Sipping on locally brewed beer or cider and looking out over the harbour for sunset – unreal!” comments Oliver

Maria says her “favourite spot over summer has been the General Store Ōhope – again, bonus points for having wine and beer for the adults, and ice-creams for the kids! Those million-dollar views are a pretty sweet extra too.”

For Glen it’s upstairs at the Whakatāne Sportfishing Club where he says you will find great river views and friendly staff.  And for Colin it’s The Comm for great beer and a menu that is spot on.  Mayor Luca says, “The Comm has had many ‘lives’ since 1894 – it was certainly a pretty lively public house when I was growing up in Whakatāne. It’s been refurbished into a gastropub and accommodation in recent times and has fast become ‘the local’ for many.”

Dining Out

Glenn loves The Comm for a great dinner out while for Oliver his go to is Cadera Mexican Bar and Restaurant in Ōhope where he says, “the fish tacos are incredible!”
Maria loves Double Zero, saying “their pasta and pizza flash me back to my days of travelling around Italy!”

While Megan from Moxi Cafe agrees with both Oliver and Maria saying “Double Zero Italian on The Strand’s freshly made pasta is to die for. And Cadera Mexican restaurant in Ōhope, where the food is amazing, as is their frozen cocktails”, she adds a third recommendation into the mix with Popsies Indian. “Hands down the freshest, tastiest Indian food I have ever had.”

Natasha’s pick is Cigol, saying the service is excellent and the flavours will blow your mind.  Colin agrees. “Their modern fusion menu of Korean-based cuisine with a Pacific twist offer great dishes to share with friends making Cigol a hidden gem in Whakatāne.”

Hidden Gems

Speaking of hidden gems, where do the locals take visitors for a unique slice of Whakatāne?

Oliver asks, “Have you ever heard of Ōtarawairere Beach? No? That’s because it’s the best kept secret Whakatāne has to offer. If you manage to discover the few walking tracks to get to the beach you will be blown away. If Ōtarawairere was located anywhere else in the world it would be packed with tourists and yet you can still get the beach totally to yourself all year round. Absolutely stunning.”

And if the beach is the drawcard for you, Oliver says, “Ōhope and surfing go hand in hand.  And if you’re hanging out with me over the warmer months, we are hitting Salt Spray Surf School and hiring a board or getting a surf lesson! If we are looking to be a bit more cruisey, a stand-up paddleboard Hire at VMAC Rides is a great option too.”

Colin says, “We enjoy walking along the Ngā Tapuwae o Toi trail. You can access this from Whakatāne or Ōhope, stunning views over the ocean and trails in deep native forests, Ōtarawairere Beach is a great spot to relax and enjoy the afternoon sun shaded in the pōhutukawa trees.”

Megan recommends heading up Kohi Point for a 360-degree views over Whakatāne, Ōhope and beyond. Or enjoy the Awakeri Rail Adventures and the rich rail history and beautiful scenery.

A stroll along the Wharfside Ōhope is Maria’s pick, where you can enjoy live music, kai, drinks, and bombs off the wharf!

If you are staying in Ōhope, Natasha recommends Ōhope Beach Top 10 with its variety of accommodation offerings and, she says, “amazing spa and views of Whale and White Island.”

Two minutes from Ōhope is Tio Ohiwa Oyster Farm, Takeaways and Tours. Megan says, “Book one of their harbour tours and discover Ōhiwa’s rich history, oyster farming, cultural significance and stunning harbour. Experience the ocean’s bounty first hand, learn the art of shucking oysters before getting to taste them. Or you can simply order fresh oysters or fish and chips from their takeaways.”

Colin sums it up when he says “Whakatāne and the Eastern Bay is a hidden gem, with so many amazing spots to explore and enjoy, we are never short of places to go, walks to enjoy, and great food stops along the way. There is too much to see in a day, so well worth a weekend or longer to truly appreciate what the area has to offer.” While you are in town pop in to Colin’s store The Good Tonic, 36 Boon Street.

First published by Nourish Magazine

About the Author

Vicki Ravlich-Horan

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