I’ve been visiting Whangamata on and off every summer since before I can remember and the small town holds a very special place in my heart. The town is only made up of about 3500 people who actually live there but in summer this number usually climbs to about 25,000. My parents have always moaned and groaned about the influx of people in summer but I personally think it’s the people that make it so much more interesting. Whangamata is located in the Coromandel Peninsula in the north island of New Zealand and is surrounded by other small beach towns but this is the town I like to call my second home for a number of reasons:
The town has two main beaches, I don’t know if they’re named anything in particular but my family has drilled the thought process into me that one of the beaches is called the ‘main beach’ and the other beach is called the ‘family beach’. My parents always used to take us to the ‘family beach’ simply because the majority of the time the waves here are a lot smaller and it was a safer place to take 3 toddlers. Nowadays my siblings and I will almost always be found at the main beach, the waves are bigger and a lot more fun to catch on a boogie board, there’s a cafe located nearby and most importantly the surf life saving club is at this beach and we all know what that means; hot lifeguards.
Another thing you’ll find along the beaches of Whangamata are quite a few surf breaks, now for those of you that are like me and specialise in falling off a surfboard, this might not mean much to you but never fear, you can still amble on down to the beach and watch the cute surfers show you how it’s done. On any given day there will be multiple surf breaks along the main beach and sometimes even the family beach, although the waves will be a LOT smaller. My family, who are keen surfers and boogie boarders have also introduced me to a surf break called ‘the bar’ which is right down the end of the main beach and is almost always crowded with surfers.
Let’s be serious is there anything more important than food after you’ve spent hours sunbathing on the beach?
Here are a few places I would recommend going to:
- Blackies – The beachfront cafe with a large menu and killer iced chocolates.
- Vibes – A cafe in town which my family and I have gone to for years without fail, unfortunately they’ve changed ownership recently and no longer serve pancakes (gasp) or milkshakes (shock horror). Their big breakfast is to die for though so I would still highly recommend it.
- Food Express – This is hands down the best bakery in Whangamata. They’re always stocked well, with a huge selection of hot food, cold food, cakes and slices. You have to try the peppermint slice!
- New World – I can’t give you a food list without giving you the one supermarket in the town. My favourite things to get from here are a cookies and cream chocolate brownie slice (found in the bakery section) and a packet of rainbow paddlepop ice creams (found in the freezer section).
For directions to each place on google maps just click on the title of the food outlet.
Situated on the main road in town nestled amongst all of the surf shops is a small mini golf park. Every single year my family will have our annual mini golf tournament and it gets serious, well at least it does for me until about the tenth hole into the course when I realise I’m much too far behind everybody else to win. This course is quite run down in total honesty, I think they used to have water running through it but now there are just little wooden planks running across dried up mini ‘lakes’ to get you from hole to hole. For mini golf though, it’s very cheap, $4 an adult, which is a fair price for what it is. A mistake a lot of people make is going to this on a sunny day… DON’T DO IT. Unless you’re absolutely drenched in sunscreen and can handle feeling like you’re in the middle of a desert, just wait for a cloudy day. Disclaimer: During off peak times it’s only open on weekends.
Kayak To Donut Island
On a calm day when the waves are barely breaking (I’m talking a flat ocean people), one of the best things you can do is rent a kayak and paddle out to a place called Donut Island. I have never been although I did try to go one year, unfortunately this was on a day where the sea was not calm enough and I couldn’t safely get there. My parents however have been and they’ve told me that you go through a huge opening in the rock and emerge into a beautiful little cove. The island itself is an old dormant volcano so you’re actually paddling into the crater of it. The opening to it is on the south side of the island and there’s a small beach inside too. There are multiple places to rent a kayak from in Whangamata but the closest one to the beach is at a small hostel called Whangamata Backpackers Hostel.
Day Trip To Onemana
About a 5 minute drive from Whangamata is a smaller town called Onemana. I absolutely love this town. The water at the beach seems brighter, the sand whiter, and the sun hotter. The main attraction here is the beach but there are also a number of bush walks which lead to a few small coves that nobody knows about. Another attraction in Onemana is the pirate ship themed playground, no matter what your age you can climb up to the front of the ship and re-enact the famous scene from titanic. “I’m flying Jack!” A hidden gem in Onemana can be found by walking along the beach, a nice walk on its own and at one point you’ll find a few small rope swings. It’s such a simple pleasure to swing on them and makes you feel just like a kid again, plus it also provides you with a beautiful view of the ocean.
On Your Bike
Whangamata has to be one of the best places in the world to ride a bike, the majority of the town is flat and the traffic is minimal, especially if you take the backroads. It’s really a town where you don’t need a car so if you’re down for it there are many places that rent out bikes, including tandem bikes if that’s your thing. Most of the places to rent a bike are along Port Road and your hardest decision will be whether to go for the classic blue vintage bike with a basket or the one with high handlebars and flames on the sides.
Things For Your Inner Child
- There’s a playground that is actually new to Whangamata which I wish had been there when I was a kid because this thing is awesome! It even has a speedy old style flying fox, you know the ones that smash into the tyres at the end? That kind. You don’t have to be a child to enjoy this one. Disclaimer: This is a flying fox built for children primarily so if you think it can’t hold your weight comfortably, maybe give it a miss.
Located at Island View Reserve (right by the family beach).
- Sunny’s is like heaven for those of us who can easily spend our money on things like inflatable dolphins or buckets and spades for those awesome sandcastles you’re going to build on the beach later. I barely ever see anyone in Sunny’s who isn’t smiling, which is fitting because their logo is a big smiling sunshine.
If you’re looking for a small beach town in New Zealand to visit in the summer that will hold a very special place in your own heart then I couldn’t suggest anywhere else.
I call Whangamata my second home and I wouldn’t have it any other way.