Ride the Dunes Trail section of Motu TrailsSix years after it was opened, the Motu Trails (motutrails.co.nz) has become one of the highlight visitor attractions of the eastern Bay of Plenty/Tairāwhiti regions. There is a range of levels to choose from, with Ōpōtiki’s Dunes Trail at the easy end. Even so, the popular 9km coastal trail rises and falls almost all the way, so by the time you’ve biked out and back, or even just halfway, you’ve earned that coffee or ice cream. What I enjoy most about the Dunes Trail is the resurgence of nature. Since the trail went in, upwards of 15,000 plants have been planted by the community, with species carefully selected to match what would originally have been there. The main starting point is Memorial Park in Ōpōtiki and you can ride, walk or run. Hire bikes are available from Motu Trails Limited (motucycletrails.com) and Motu Trails Hire & Shuttle (0800motutrails.nz). A recommended option is Mighty Motu Bike Tours (mightymotu.co.nz), offering a three-hour guided ride.
Walk or run Ngā Tapuwae o Toi track, including Kapu-Te-Rangi Pā site
Ngā Tapuwae o Toi – the footprints of Toi – must rate as one of the most spectacular coastal hiking tracks in New Zealand. The 17km trail loops around the hills and along beaches between Whakatāne and Ōhope, taking you into the heart of wild kiwi country. If you’re a keen hiker or trail runner, 17km may not sound massive, but be sure, ‘Toi’s Track’ is worth travelling to. The full loop takes most walkers five to seven hours; you can easily add a second or third day with other trails described here. Conversely, if 17km sounds too much of a good thing, the loop is easily split into shorter chunks. Ōhope’s West End over to Otarawairere Bay (coastal magic), Whakatāne town centre to Kapu-Te-Rangi Pā site (a solid forested climb rewarded with magnificent views at the top) and Ōhope’s Fairbrother loop (huge pōhutukawa forest) are three personal ‘quick hits’.
Go bird watching around Ōhiwa
Ōhiwa Harbour is a bird haven of international significance. Ōhope spit, Ōhiwa spit, Nukuhou saltmarsh and Kutarere wharf are key spots, but you can spot and photograph all around the harbour. There are large populations of variable and pied oystercatchers. Shags, pied stilts and white-faced herons are easily seen. Kōtare – grumpy-sounding but pretty New Zealand kingfishers – perch on power lines all over the place. The harbour margins are home to less common North Island fernbirds and banded rails, and godwits in summer. If you’re eagle-eyed, sharp-eared, patient and lucky, there are bitterns, banded- and northern dotterels – all very rare. Around Ōhiwa, there are many active care groups putting in major effort to restore environments and remove predators. Please always remember, many birds are species at risk. Respect them, stay well away from nesting areas, and don’t take dogs into their terrain.