Hidden Gems New Zealand

A few weeks ago, in December 2020, I returned from an extended stay (3-months) in New Zealand. Now that I'm back home in Santa Barbara CA, I can't wait to share with you some of the hidden gems I discovered during my stay. This week I'll start by describing the beautiful sheltered Ohiwa Harbour, situated on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island, not far from the town of Whakatane.

Before I start, allow me to share what a joy it was to have visited a country that has not experienced a single case of Covid-19 in their community since May 2020. It's difficult to describe the impact this has on visitors to New Zealand, in fact I was surprised at how long it took me to adapt to the reality that everywhere I went it was safe and secure.. 

When I came across large or small crowds of people relaxing in restaurants or outdoors, none of them wearing masks, for a while my first reaction was to think "Danger!". 

Now I'm back in the USA and looking forward to the day when we too can relax and have this pandemic behind us. My New Zealand experience gave me a taste of just how great this day will be.

Ohiwa Harbour

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Ohiwa Harbour, is a natural inlet on the Bay of Plenty coast. It’s a unique natural environment with a fascinating history of both Māori and European settlement and activity.

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A favorite activity is the two and a half hour guided kayak tour (double and single kayaks are available) that offers an insight into this beautiful harbor and its many islands. 

Its an ideal place for those new to kayaking or for families with young children with opportunities to view wildlife in close proximity. 

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An Orca Whale with calf investigates Ohiwa Harbour

The harbor is home to a large variety of rays and fish with Orca (killer whales) visiting the harbor several times a year. 

Ohiwa’s abundant bird life attracts visitors from all over the world and is home to many species including kingfishers, godwits and herons.

As the harbor water can be a couple of degrees warmer than the ocean, a swim at a secluded beach is always tempting during this tour.

The Bay of Plenty Region

In this region there are many other attractions to explore and enjoy. 

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One of our favorite examples is the Whirinaki Loop Walk, without doubt one of the finest natural forest walks in New Zealand. 

It takes less than an hour to get there by car from Ohiwa Harbour (or depending on your final routing, it's also accessible from Rotorua to the north). 

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The Whirinaki Falls

It's an easy loop trail, following the Whirinaki River and takes around 3-hours to complete. A highlight is the turnaround point, the Whirinaki Waterfalls.

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Whirinaki Forests

On the way, you'll pass through superb podocarp forest with many excellent vantage points for viewing the river. The track includes the magnificent 'dinosaur forest', dominated by towering examples of New Zealand indigenous trees like the kahikatea, tōtara, matai, rimu, miro and tawa.

I've visited the Whirinaki forests several times and it amazes me that its profile with international visitors is so low. That can't last much longer. 

There are many more outstanding features of this region called Bay of Plenty and according to your particular interests we can tailor-make a visit just for you.

Lindsay Barron

Lindsay Barron • Dec 24, 2020