Just over an hour’s drive from Tauranga, there’s a launch spot that makes me so excited about the prospect of a paddle. And the epic right-hand break, thrown up by the beach and swell, is a hit with local and international surfers alike. I’m talking, of course, about Whangamata.
BEFORE YOU BLAST OUT THROUGH THE SURF to check out Whangamata’s island gems, it’s good to get schooled up on the area.
ALTHOUGH IT MAY BE RELATIVELY CALM AT YOUR LAUNCH SPOT, IT CAN BECOME QUITE TREACHEROUS NEAR THE OPENING TO THE ‘TUNNEL’ at the entrance to the harbour, with strong winds and ever changing currents that batter the rocks. I would recommend taking one of the guided kayak trips that are on offer from local tour companies, for your own safety.
OFF THE COAST OF THE SMALL TOWN LIES WHENUAKURA, ALSO KNOWN AS DONUT ISLAND. It’s a wildlife sanctuary. You can paddle round it, but don’t land on it, and take nothing but photos. The flora and fauna have been threatened in the past by tourism, so it’s important we all stay on the water.
DONUT ISLAND IS A COLLAPSED BLOWHOLE AND IS AN INCREDIBLE SIGHT. It was also once a stronghold for one of New Zealand’s oldest living ‘dinosaurs’, the tuatara, but they haven’t been on the island since 1984. However, organisations and locals are trying to protect Donut and the other local islands, secretly hopeful of a return of the reptilian kind.
THE COLOUR OF THE WATER INSIDE DONUT ISLAND CHANGES CONSTANTLY, AS BEAMS POUR THROUGH THE LARGE HOLE OVERHEAD. Sitting inside the cave, I am reminded that our country is special. There is nowhere else like this on Earth.
FROM HERE, THE SCENERY ONLY GETS BETTER, AS YOU PADDLE FURTHER UP THE COAST TOWARD ONEMANA. With a combination of sandy beaches and rocky outcrops, this is by far my favourite close- to-home paddle. And to add to the beauty, I have seen some awesome marine life on every trip. Along the paddle you will find stunning beaches, where you can stop and enjoy a swim in the crystal clear water, or you can tuck yourself away in Octopus Bay for a stretch and get some great photo opportunities. If weather conditions are not favourable for kayaking, you can always opt to walk to some of these beautiful locations, with exceptional views from the Onemana end.
FOR A BITE TO EAT, I usually pack my own lunch. But it’s great to support local businesses, too, by stopping in town and eating at one of the many locally owned cafés.
WE LIVE IN A MAGICAL PLACE, so get outside and enjoy the ever changing landscape on this fun day trip. But please remember to respect the environment. There are some good people doing great things to keep the islands pristine and thriving with life. With your support, the future will always look bright for these Whangamata island jewels.