There's never a dull moment in Whangamata. After all, Whangamata is not one of the most popular beach resorts in New Zealand for nothing. Come summer Whangamata's local population of 4000 residents soars to 50,000. But even if you'd prefer to avoid the crowds, there are lots of reasons why Whangamata should be on your "must visit" list normally; surf, sand, sea and endless fun.
Let's start with the famous Ocean Beach that runs from Whangamata's harbor mouth in the north to the Otahu Estuary at the southern end of town.
Here you'll find 4 kilometers of white sand beach that offers not only some of the safest swimming in New Zealand but also some of the best surf breaks. This is possible because the beach slopes down to an undersea sandbar. The best spot to surf is the Whangamata Bar at the northern end of the beach, known for its long peeling breaks in north easterly swells.
This is also the place to come if you want to rub shoulders with some of the best surfers on the planet and check out the action at the many international surfing events held at Ocean Beach.
Every year in March, Whangamata closes off its main street for the Whangamata Beach Hop. The whole town pumps to the sounds of rock n roll and classic cars from the 50s and 60s. 4 days (and nights) of partying; markets, family events, live bands, classic car swap makes this one of the "must attend" summer events in the Coromandel.
For something more restful, visit Whangamata's tranquil harbor and shallow calm estuary. Here you'll find a safe seaside playground for swimming, fishing, diving, waterskiing, windsurfing, kayaking and all the usual Coromandel outdoor activities.
You can try your hand at fishing with any one of Whangamata's many fishing charter companies. Geoff Royguard of Waikiwi Charters has been fishing and diving around Whangamata since Adam was a schoolboy and knows all the good spots. If you're new to fishing, he'll help you bait your hook, show you how to fish and clean and fillet your catch for you, ready to throw on the barbeque when you get back to shore.
Mountain biking is an incredibly popular sport in New Zealand and Whangamata is blessed with excellent trails and riding all-year-round. There's a wide range of cycles for hire locally and the local bike shops and information center can advise on where to go. The Forestry on the north side of town has an extensive network of trails and single tracks as does the nearby areas of Opoutere and Ohui.
Whangamata is famous for its many gifted local artists, painters and craftspeople who love to share their talents with locals and visitors alike. This is a place where there is a club for just about every form of art you can imagine – pottery, jewelery, clothing, weaving, spinning, felting, painting and sculpture. During summer, most of the clubs offer holiday classes where you can try your hand at something creative. There's also the Whangamata Craft Trail (a map is available from the Information Center) where you can visit the artists in their studios and see their latest works.
Holidays are a great time to enjoy a great meal with friends and family and Whangamata has some exceptional cafés and restaurants. Locals rate the coffee at Vibes Cafe as the best in town. Just behind Vibes Cafe is Whanga Bar. Popular for breakfast, lunch and evening meals, Whanga Bar serves a wicked steak but is also known for its great vegetarian meals. When you're by the sea, it's hard to go past seafood for dinner. Cafe Rossinis is a small, casual yet intimate cafe with an Italian flavor. Their seafood platter is a "must" but heed the warning; come with an empty stomach as you'll need all that room to do this platter justice.
Fish and chips are a popular takeaway in Whangamata and around lunch and dinner time, you'll see lots of people tucking into their fish and chips down at the beach or around the harbor. Whangamata has many fish and chip shops most of which serve this quintessential NZ takeaway wrapped in paper. However now commonly spotted around town are hot chips from KB Chips served in paper cones; a neat idea that is gaining in popularity.
For a total change of pace, visit the Prana Retreat at Oputere, near Whangamata. Prana Retreat is based close to Oputere beach which is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the area, yet is the most under-developed. Access to the beach is via walking tracks through trees to this amazing, secluded white sand beach. Most days you'll be the only person on the beach.
Prana Retreat is an eco retreat for rejuvenating body and soul, through relaxation, healing and meditation. Based in a beautiful setting of rock and pohutukawa trees and surrounded by untouched native bush, Prana Retreat has been designed to blend with and compliment its natural surroundings. Every year, Prana Retreat holds its New Year Festival. A unique event of music, movement, mediation and spiritual and healing workshops, Prana contracts some of NZ's top musicians and bands and was sold out in 2009.
The list of things to do in Whangamata does not stop here. There's 2 golf courses, outdoor bowls, croquet, walking tracks and tennis and squash courts. There's never a dull moment in Whangamata; the real question is what will you do next?