Okay, if you’ve seen my Instagram anytime in the last 6 months, you’ll know that I love getting out and about for a run. I’ve been absolutely missing getting out on the tracks in my sweet little town of Whakatane, and I am just itching for New Zealand to move into level 2 (and get a weekend off!) to get back out on the trail runs!
One of my favourite things to do is exploring the trails in whatever place I find myself in; some of a place’s best hidden gems are the ones we find when we’re out for a run, or a hike, and can see all sorts of different views! We are spoiled here in Whakatane with gorgeous rural and ocean views, no matter where we go! All of my favourite tracks around Whakatane show just how gorgeous our small area of New Zealand is, and is the greatest inspiration to get out and about!
No matter what your exercise level; whether you’re just starting out, a running machine, or somewhere in between (like me) these trails can cater to your abilities They have all been designed to give you a challenge, but still suitable for a number of fitness levels. The best part, the views you get along the way! During these crazy times, it is best to just get out and about nearest to where you are – so if you aren’t from Whakatane definitely take a note of these trails for another day when we can travel, but to all of my locals here in Whakatane, here are some of our small town’s best views and trails that we are blessed to have!
Lathams Track Trig – Awakeri
The first track takes us just out of Whakatane, to the gorgeous rural landscape of Awakeri. Lathams track is a short 10 minute drive out of town, with two starting points: either at the Awakeri Hot Springs, or just up the down State Highway 30, parked up by a farm! (it’s roughly 500m after the train tracks, and there’s usually some flags flying and cars parked up on the side).
I always start parked up on SH30 and do Lathams in a clockwise direction to the top. The track takes you through farmland, up through native bush, right up to Te Tiringa trig station – this is the highest point at 240m above sea level. It’s around 2.4km to get to the top, and is a bit of a challenge being mostly uphill to get your heart racing and the legs burning – but it’s totally worth it!
Te Tiringa station is the highest point of the Awakeri mountain range – and has special local significance to Maori, as it is the landing place of Ngati Awa chief Tamaru. You’ll get a beautiful view over the rural landscape we have just outside of Whakatane, being able to see all the way out towards Whale Island, towards Matata and Kawerau from this point! From the top – you can choose to go down the same way you came for a tidy 4.8km adventure, or you can venture down the other side towards the Awakeri Hot Springs. This side is a little steeper than the SH30 side, but it provides an awesome fitness challenge, and you get fully immersed in the gorgeous forestry New Zealand is known for. The entire Lathams Track Trig Loop is around 5.8km, and trust me, you will be feeling absolutely amazing afterwards! Even better, you can bring your dog with you on this track – but make sure they are kept on a lead!
Nga Tapuwae o Toi Walkway:
Nga Tapuwae o Toi Walkway, otherwise known as “the Footprints of Toi”, is the track that Whakatane is best known for. This track is made up of 4 separate tracks, all put together to make one 18km loop. Once a year this entire loop is used in a fun run/walk, known to locals and visitors alike as the “Toi’s Challenge”. Nga Tapuwae o Toi puts your fitness levels to the test – with a variety of uphills and downhills, sand, gravel, and dirt tracks to make up the entire loop. The best part about this track being made up of a number of different tracks – is you can choose how far you want to go, and you have so many variations of walks and tracks that you can go on! I’ll break these down into the 4 main tracks, and some variations to make these trails easier or harder to suit your fitness capabilities.
We’ll start from the carpark at the bottom of the Whakatane famous ‘Bird Walk’ as the most popular (and easiest) place to start this loop.
Mokorua Gorge to Toi Pa
Starting from the Birdwalk carpark, you’ll head down Commerce Street and up the Rock Pit stairs onto Hilcrest Road, left onto Seaview Road, and “Tois Track” Starts around 150m up that road on the left. Once you’re in the track, you’ll go passed the head of Wairere Falls and up into the bush. You’ll start off with about a 1km climb into the track, then head left from there following along with the heads down below. As you walk, you have gorgeous bush all around you – with a number of lookouts and pa sites that you can look out over the heads. There’s a gorgeous spot halfway into the track that is known to locals as “the Instagram spot” – simply because the views are so amazing that everyone takes a photo in this exact spot! As you can see in this photo, it really is stunning!
The rest of the track is nice and windy, with plenty of uphills, downhills and stairs to get your blood pumping, and emerges near the end onto some flax and low scrub to the tip of Kohi Point. It takes around an hour and a half to get to this point from where we started in the carpark – but once you reach the Kohi Point lookout on this track, it’s all worth it. On a good day, you get nothing but a sea to sky horizon that’s bright and blue, and just beautiful. You’ll be blessed with views of Whale and White Island – and you can check out the charter boats going in and out of the harbour! This is probably one of the more challenging parts of the track, but is definitely the most rewarding with the views we are blessed with along the way!
Toi Pa to West End Ohope
The next part of Nga Tapuwae o Toi will take you from the tip of Kohi Point, past Otarawairere Bay and through to Ohope Beach West End. Going this way, the walk is quite cruisy; it’s mostly downhill and you get some fantastic opportunities for some amazing views, and even the chance for a swim in Otarawairere Bay. This part of the track starts off in bush and dirt track, and as you descend down into the bay, you get the challenge of crossing the rocks to the beach. It’s pretty important to check the tide times if you’re heading into the bay; it’s almost impossible to get across the bay at high tide (definitely impossible without getting wet!) but at low tide it is doable and just beautiful.
Otarawairere Bay is definitely one of Whakatane’s hidden gems, and is one of the best spots during summer. Crystal clear water, rock pools and the green bushy surrounds sets this bay apart, and highlights just how beautiful our country is.
From Otarawairere Bay, you’ll head back into the bush and cross over to Ohope Beach West End. It’s a bit of a tough climb, but it’s not too long (and after a break in the Bay you’ll be good to go)! Once you get to the top of the track there’s a rest stop and beautiful lookout that looks over West End and out along Ohope Beach – on a good day it is just beach and coastline as far as your eyes can see! This entire walk from Toi Pa (the tip of Kohi Point) to Ohope West End is 4.2km, it’s roughly an hour and a half walk on average depending on your fitness level.
Fairbrother Loop Walk
I absolutely love this loop walk – it’s great after a day at the beach, when you’re in need of a quick walk-out. This is the first track on your way back over the hill to town. Once you’ve got to West End, the start of the Fairbrother Loop walk is along the road, at the bottom of the hill on the left. My favourite part of this track is the entrance; there’s a beautiful Maori carving at the entrance, similar to the kind you would see at the entrance to a Marae. The Fairbrother Loop is another bush track and is mostly uphill, with a couple of steeper sections, but overall is a relatively gentle climb.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a classic Whakatane track without a gorgeous view! Roughly halfway up the track you can get beautiful views over Ohope beach and the forestry around you. This track can be done as a loop on its own which is around a 2km loop, or as part of Nga Tapuwae o Toi you would take a left at the signpost at the top towards Burma Road. Going towards Burma road, the track follows along the side of a ridge and comes out at the end of Burma road, just off the Ohope hill. From the bottom of Fairbrother Loop to Burma road is 2.6km of mostly gentle climbing, with a few steep parts here and there.
Burma Road to White Horse Drive Junction
From Burma Road to the White Horse Drive Junction, basically to the Bird Walk, is one of my favourite tracks in Whakatane to walk. This is mostly because it incorporates so many different aspects of Whakatane into one walk. From Burma Road you’ll head uphill into the bush, that comes out onto a racetrack. You then cut back into the bush to the other side of the racetrack and up through a farm, then finally into a steady downhill bush track until you reach the Bird Walk. The main track that makes up this section is known by locals as the Board Walk; simply because this track is the only one to have wooden board foot bridges along the track.
Once you get past the tough uphill, the track is nice and peaceful, and a great way to make the most of the native flora and fauna around you. There are often Tui singing in the trees, and silver ferns all around the track – to name a couple! The downhill can get a bit rough and steep for the last kilometre, so definitely take it easy. This track is great for a bit of a challenge, but still suitable for any fitness level.
White Horse Drive Junction to Mokoroa Gorge Carpark
Onto the last track as part of Nga Tapuwae o Toi – this track is most commonly known as the Bird Walk. This is possibly one of the most popular tracks in Whakatane; whether heading out for a quick run or a weekend walk, it’s perfect for all fitness types of (almost) any age. Once you come out of the Board Walk, you can take a left to get into the Bird Walk track. It starts of with a nice downhill that heads into a relatively steep uphill for around a Kilometre, and from then on it’s all downhill. This is another great track to appreciate the flora and fauna that we are so lucky to have in Whakatane, and this track is a great stepping stone into your fitness journey! The Bird walk is roughly 2.75km long and is a great way to finish off the Nga Tapuwae o Toi track.
All of these tracks put together are an awesome challenge, and will definitely take the better part of the day! There are a number of entrances and exits along the way, and all of the different tracks are great to do on their own! If you find that doing half of the track is all you can do – head for a walk up and over the Ohope Hill for a quick shortcut to either the Fairbrother Loop, or to head over to Otarawairere for a shorter challenge. Whether you do one of the tracks individually, or all together, they will definitely help you to improve your fitness levels!
Warren Cole Walkway
If you haven’t been for a stroll down the Warren Cole Walkway, you really are missing out. This track follows along the Whakatane River, starting from the Whakatane bridge coming into town, right the way down to the furthest carpark at the Heads. At approximately 4km long, this is the perfect walkway to experience what Whakatane has to offer. While following along the river, you’ll walk past a number of local highlights; the Japanese Garden, the Miniature Railway, the Wharf Whakatane, and of course the Heads.
My favourite time to walk down Warren Cole is after work; at this time of year it’s great to walk and see Whakatane’s beautiful sunsets along the walkway. Warren Cole is the perfect walkway to go for a stroll with your friends or family, or challenge yourself to a jog along the river. Whatever your fitness level, this walk is a must do when you’re in Whakatane.
Whether you’re an old town local, new in town, or just visiting – these walkways are a must do when in Whakatane. I absolutely love getting out and about on these tracks, and just making the most of the beautiful views that our small town has to offer. Plus, you can get out and about for a nice stroll, or get your sweat on and push your fitness levels on the tracks. Challenge yourself next time you’re in our corner of the country, and see if you can do all of them before you go!
See you in the next post,