Looking outside you could be mistaken that it was still summer, not nearing winter. A step outside and the crisp air reminded you that, yes, it was still autumn after all, but still a beautiful day for a Sunday hike. The kids and I arranged to hike Nga Tapuwae o Toi (The Footsteps of Toi) to Kohi Point with some friends of mine. We couldn’t have picked a better day. Plus, we were going rain or shine. I had new hiking boots to try out.
Time 2-3 hours return to Kohi Point. However, you can carry on and make a loop. We didn’t have that much time though and Amelia was tired of hiking by the time we reached the point. Well, if we are being honest, she was tired of hiking a few steps into our hike. To do the whole loop it will take you the best part of a day.
Difficulty The track is well maintained and easy to follow. The inclines are never too long or steep which makes this an ideal hike for families or beginner hikers. Beyond Kohi Point the track gets a bit more difficult with tide times affecting part of the walk and steep inclines.
Access You can start in the centre of Whakatane or park up at the lookout on Seaview Road and head along the road until you find the Nga Tapuwae o Toi entrance. It is all clearly signposted. While you are there, pop up the short hill to the lookout to see stunning views over Whakatane out to Whale Island and White Island (an active volcano). If you are doing the loop I would suggest parking at the bottom of the bird walk (Mokorua Gorge) and walk along the road to the steps below Hillcrest Road.
Fitness You don’t need to be terribly fit to tackle this walk. There are a few inclines but they are short-lived. If you are doing the whole loop you will need to be a bit fitter.
We started at the bottom of the hill in the centre of Whakatane town, located in the Eastern Bay of Plenty. A short trip up the stairs to Hillcrest Road was made longer due to the pictures on the steps. Each step progresses from under the sea to the sky, making up an entire picture. Each tile has a creature or bird on it. The kids enjoyed spotting their favourite animal which kept their minds off the fact that they were climbing steep steps. That was nice.
Make sure you stop and admire the waterfall cascading parallel to the stairs.
A short walk along Hillcrest Road led us to Seaview Road. There are magnificent views of the town and out to the Pacific Ocean from here. Whale Island is a prominent feature throughout this walk.
From the lookout, carry along the road for a wee bit before heading down into the bush from the signpost. Walk past the head of Wairere Falls over the bridge. Don’t worry, there are no trolls. We checked. It’s a short hike, mostly uphill, to Kapu-te-Rangi, a clearing to the right of the track that offers a stunning perspective of Whakatane and beyond out to Mt Edgecumbe and along the coast stretching towards Tauranga.
This clearing makes for a perfect picnic spot. It seems we weren’t the only people with the same idea. Kapu-te-Rangi is accessible from the road if you are heading between Whakatane and Ohope. With the views that are on offer, it makes for a fantastic stop.
The kids and I used to bring fish and chips and a blanket up here every so often in the evening. We would sit and enjoy our dinner while watching the sun go to sleep and the stars start peaking out. Fantails are common here as well as rabbits so if you sit long enough you will see plenty of locals.
A wee bit o’ history
Kapu-te-Rangi (Pa of Gentle Breezes), is one of the oldest known Pa sites in the country. A Pa is a Maori village or defensive settlement but often refers to hill forts and also to fortified villages.
Whakatane is rich in culture. The first inhabitant, more than 1,000 years ago, was Tiwakawaka, a grandson of Maui, the legendary voyageur and discoverer of Aotearoa (New Zealand). Later came the waka (canoe) Mataatua.
Captain Toroa, his brothers Puhi and Taneatua, sister Muriwai, son Ruaihona, daughter Wairaka and other members of his family sailed to Kakahoroa, mooring in the river estuary near the town’s current commercial centre. The men then climbed the hillside to Kapu-te-Rangi, leaving Mataatua in the care of the small group consisting mainly of women. The outgoing tide was threatening to carry away the waka when Wairaka exclaimed: “E! Kia whakatane au i ahau” (let me act the part of a man). In breach of tradition, the women paddled the canoe back to safety and thus, Whakatane received its name.
If you walk along Whakatane River to the Heads you can see ‘the lady on the rock’, a statue commemorating Wairaka and her heroic actions.
The walk to Kohi Point is dotted with viewpoints and mini detours offering picturesque scenes of Whakatane, Coastlands, Mt Edgecumbe, Whale Island and White Island. There are a few more stairs and inclines in this part of the track but none so steep that you want to sit down and refuse to go on.
The track is well maintained to Kohi Point and easy to follow. There were a couple of spots where the track is starting to erode but not anything to worry about. The track is wide enough that you just skirt around these parts.
The many viewpoints give you a chance to stop and take in the beauty of the area. Some of these are right on the edge of the track and others just take a quick 10-second detour and look out over yonder.
Fantails can be found following hikers along the track, never sitting long enough to take a photo. Believe me, I have tried for years to get a decent photo of the little buggers. Luckily, they are my favourite bird so I can’t hold a grudge.
What to look out for
See if you can spot White Island (or Whakaari) spouting off white puffs. White Island is New Zealand’s most active cone volcano. This marine volcano has been in a nearly continuous stage of releasing volcanic gas for at least as long as it has been discovered in 1769. White Island is visible in the distance to the left of Whale Island. Access is restricted to approved tour parties.
Moutohora or Whale Island is a Wildlife Management Reserve for endangered birds and plants. It is visible pretty much straight ahead from Kohi Point. Whale Island is a remnant volcanic cone which has eroded leaving two peaks in the shape of a whale. Hence the name. There is still volcanic activity on the island and there are a couple of hot springs on the island. Access is restricted to permit holders and approved tour parties.
Also known as Putauaki, can be spotted beyond Whakatane, looming in the distance rising to 820m above sea level. Mt Edgecumbe is another of New Zealand’s volcanoes, this one an extinct dacite volcanic cone. Putuauki is privately owned and access is via a permit from Maori Investments Group, and cost $10 per group (not person). You will need to have at least 3 people in your group due to safety reasons as it is a reasonable climb.
Whakatane lies to the furthermost left of Kohi Point, a small but bustling coastal town that thrives during the summer months. There are numerous beaches within a 30-minute radius, Ohope Beach being the most popular. Plenty of hikes are within the region and the closest large cities are both an hour away, giving it a real small town feel. Plus, Whakatane regularly tops the Highest Sunshine Hours in the country. That’s a statistic to be proud of.
Coastlands is to the right of Whakatane, a little beach suburb of Whakatane. The long sandy white beach is within walking distance from anywhere is Coastlands. You can spot its beach stretching out from Whakatane Heads.
Look to the right of Kohi Point and you will spy Ohope Beach. A 5-minute drive from Whakatane over the hill will get you to Ohope. An up and coming beach town with plenty of funky cafes with views over the beach and out to the ocean. Ohope Beach is regularly voted as New Zealand’s most loved beach with 11km of white sandy beach awaiting swimmers, surfers, fishermen (fisherpeople?), sand castle makers, rock pool explorers, walkers and sunbathers.
Beyond Kohi Point
With Amelia not being the keenest hiker, we were pushing it to get to Kohi Point. Anything further would have been not worth the fight. You can carry on to Otarawairere Bay, a striking horseshoe bay dotted with rock pools where broken shells make up the beach and ageing pohutukawa trees guard the cliffs. Because the bay isn’t accessible via road, there are three entrances, all involving a dirt track and the bush, it is not a busy beach. Otarawairere Bay isn’t accessible during high tide so make sure you check the local tide times before you head down. After Otarawairere Bay you head over the track to Ohope Beach, hailed as one of New Zealand’s most beautiful beaches for an excellent reason. It truly is a stunning beach with postcard-perfect white sand and nestled into the surrounding green cliffs.
From Ohope you can either get the bus back, go up the road or carry on tracing the footsteps of Toi. To keep tracing the footsteps of Toi walk along Ohope beach to the bottom of Ohope Hill and head on into Ohope Scenic Reserve. At the top of the loop track, take the turnoff to Burma Road, unless you want to end up back down at the bottom of the hill again. You will end up at the Mokorua Reserve walkway and end up doing the ‘bird walk’. A beautiful bush walk surprisingly close to town. After you have completed the Bird Walk, simply walk down Commerce St until you find your car again.
The whole of the walk will take you the better part of a day to complete.
Kohi Point is a lovely, family-friendly walk that can easily be adapted for those wanting a bit more of a grunt, just carry on through beyond the point. With children though, just to the point and back again is enough. Kohi Point rewards you with spectacularly stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, Whale Island, White Island, Whakatane and Ohope.
Other Family Friendly Hikes
- Beehive Creek, Pohangina Valley
- Sledge Track, Palmerston North
- Alice Nash Memorial Heritage Hut, Ruahine Range
- Coppermine Creek, Ruahine Range
- Ruakuri Bush Walk, Waitomo
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