Wairoa: Best Kept Secret on New Zealand’s East Coast

If you look on your typical travel website or travel guide about New Zealand you would probably end up deciding to drive right through Wairoa. This is one of the reasons why it is the best kept secret on New Zealand’s East Coast.


Wairoa Riverside walkway/cycleway

5 facts about Wairoa District

  1. 59% of the district’s population are Māori
  2. Wairoa is home to The Limery – one of the biggest lime orchards in New Zealand
  3. It is home to one of New Zealand’s 9 Great WalksLake Waikaremoana (fun fact calling it Lake Waikaremoana is like calling Lake Ontario – Lake Lake Ontario as in the Maori language the word ‘moana’ translates to ‘large lake’ in this instance)
  4. Wairoa means ‘long water’ in Te Reo Māori and the river runs through the middle of the township of Wairoa – there is a lovely walkway/cycleway along the river
  5. In January 2015 Wairoa became the newest Motorhome Friendly Town in New Zealand

Now you know 5 things about the district read on to find out the secrets from different parts of the district…



Wharf at the end of the Sir James Carroll memorial walkway along the Wairoa River

If visiting beautiful gardens are your thing then Coast Park Gardens should be on your to-visit list during your trip to Wairoa. You will need to give your delightful hosts Keith and Kay a call to arrange a time to visit – but the garden is well worth spending a few minutes on the phone.

If you’re a movie buff then look up the movies on at The Gaiety Theatre and stop in to experience the recently installed 9.3 sound system (one of the most advanced in the country) and take advantage of the $10 tickets – and the popcorn is pretty good too!

If you’re interested in history then don’t miss the Wairoa Museum which has a great long-term display as well as some fascinating short-term displays, such as Indelible lines. If you’re interested in what exhibitions are currently showing give the museum a call and the staff will be delighted to let you know what it is on display. Entry is by koha (donation).



The view over Whakamahi from the end of the Wairoa Riverside walkway/cycleway

When you reach the end of the Wairoa Riverside walkway/cycleway you will be at the top of Rangi-houa/Pilot Hill looking out over Whakamahi Beach. The road is now sealed down to this tranquil black pebble beach that hosts an interesting collection of driftwood. The beach is a perfect picnic spot where you can bring along a rug to sit on, break out your sandwiches and watch the waves crash down onto the black pebbles. Along the road you will see some old pillboxes leftover from WWII.


An old pillbox on a hill at Whakamahi


Cycle all the way to the beach from town for a picnic

Near the beach is the DOC Whakamahi Lagoon reserve which has a variety of wildlife and native plants. It is a lovely place to try your hand at bird watching, you may even see a banded dotterel.


Sit on a large log weathered by the sea on Whakamahi beach

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Few people would know that during WWII the US Marines used Mokotahi Beach out at Mahia as a training ground to practice their beach landings. Marines @ Mahia is a local group who run events to raise awareness of the role Mahia played in the training of US Marines in WWII, check out their Facebook page or website to see if there are any upcoming events.

Mahia is New Zealand’s gateway to the galaxy with a rocket launch facility being built by Rocket Lab. They will start testing their Electron rockets in 2016 so have a look online to see if a rocket is due to be launched when you’re in the area.

Mahia is a great place to surf, swim, dive, fish and collect kaimoana (seafood). If you’re a keen surfcaster or enjoy collecting kaimoana then in Mahia you will be in 7th heaven! The Mahia Boating and Fising Club have tournaments which are often open to non-members. If you’re a keen surfer then you are spoilt for choice with different spots to catch a wave.


Waikaremoana is home to one of New Zealand’s 9 great walks. It is a beautiful track with spectacular views but it is important to note that it is not a circular track so you will end at a different place from where you started. DOC advises that the track takes 4 days to walk and there are guided options available as well. The DOC website has really good information about the track, what to bring, how to find the track etc.

On your way  out to see Waikaremoana drop into Lake Rd Lavender to stock up on lovely aromatic hand crafted soaps, lip balms, massage oils, heel balms, essential oils, and other health enhancing products. If you suffer from dry, cracked heels their heel balm is superb! They also make great gifts to take home for your friends and family.

If you are a chocolate lover then you should definitely give Margot a call and visit Margot’s Chocolate Truffles and purchase some of the delicious truffles that are made out at Poko Poko Station. These also are a great gift to take home to your chocoholic friends and family members.

Where to stay?

There are a couple of motels and a camping ground in the town of Wairoa but there are also some lovely bed & breakfast operators scattered throughout the district. There are farm stays available as well if you would like to experience life on a New Zealand farm. If you search for properties in Wairoa on regular accommodation sites you will come across some of the many accommodation options that Wairoa has on offer. Try AirBnb and Bookabach if you’re looking for something a bit different either in the town itself or somewhere in the district.

If you have a motorhome then there are some lovely freedom camping spots throughout the district to enjoy.

So what are you waiting for? Nau mai haere mai ki te Wairoa


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