We spent two nights in Whakatane and it was a great place to stay. The campsite we chose was clean and quiet and full of cute, fluffy bunny rabbits!! It was also bordered by a glorious walkway/cycleway that led along the sea front to the small harbour town.
Whakatane, one of New Zealand's ‘Sunshine Capitals’, has a lot to see and do. Close to the coast line is Moutohorà Island (Whale Island), a wildlife sanctuary protected by DOC (Department of Conservation), the only access being privately run tours including kayaking out to the island. A little bit further out to sea is Whakaari (White Island), New Zealand’s most active cone volcano. No tours go on to the island anymore, however you can still take a scenic flight over the volcano itself to marvel at its steaming crater and remains of old sulphur mines from above. This was a highlight for us!
In and around Whakatane there is no shortage of things to do, including the coastal walkway and harbour, a museum, many historical Māori sites, and a number of walks to viewpoints over the city. Right in the centre of the town is Mataatua – “the house that came home”. This is a fully carved Māori ancestral house of the Ngàti Awa people that was displayed around the world for over a century, before finally being brought back to Whakatane permanently. It makes for a particularly stunning photo, and provides a fascinating story inside about the legend and magic that is one of Whakatane’s most sacred treasures.