Travel Story | The Beautiful Bay of Plenty in New Zealand

by Flip Flop Wanderers

Hi everyone!

It is time for another update! We are going to tell you all about our trip through the Bay of Plenty area in New Zealand. We had some great times at this coastal area, there was so much to see! Also, our plans changed a fair bit while traveling here, and you can read all about it below. In our previous update you could read all about our travels through the volcanic area of New Zealand, but now it was time for some beaches and the most amazing waterfalls again!

Read our travel story about The Smelly Volcanic Plateau in New Zealand!

Green Rolling Fields

It was the beginning of March when we headed for the coast again. We woke up at a beautiful free campsite along a river in Arapuni. Via Putaruru, where you can find the ‘Over the Moon Cheese Factory‘ and where we had to stop for some cheese tastings, we drove to Tirau. In Tirau you can find 2 buildings with a bit of an unusual sheep shape: A sheep and a dog building. Since it was on our way we had to stop to check it out ourselves.

We continued to Matamata, a world famous town where you can find the Hobbiton Movie Set. The I-site (visitor center) is completely built in Hobbiton style. The movie set itself is a bit out of town, at a farm surrounded by many green rolling fields. It is a very popular attraction where busloads of tourists drive off and on. We really couldn’t imagine that like 20 years ago this town was just your regular quiet New Zealand town! Visiting the movie set itself will cost you 80! dollar per person. We thought that was a bit deer, so we only visited the shop, and had a drive around the green fields, which looked so typically New Zealand!

Amazing Waterfalls

After this brief visit, we left the Waikato area and drove into Bay of Plenty towards Tauranga where we visited the McLaren Falls Park. As you might guess, there are a few waterfalls there. One waterfall was in between big rocks, and Bram had to climb around. After a short walk through beautiful forests, we came to a second waterfall in a lush green surrounding.

It was getting late so we drove further towards Tauranga, but first, we stopped at the Minden Lookout. From here you have a great view over Tauranga.

Not far from Tauranga you can find another stunning waterfall, the Omanawa Falls. We read about this one and just had to check it out. So that’s what we were going to do the next day! We also read that this waterfall was officially closed though since the tunnel to the fall isn’t safe to go through anymore. There is another way to get there, but it is not the safest way either. There are still a lot of people who visit these falls anyway so we thought: what the heck, we just try it too!

The first bit was easy, just a normal path, although we had to cross a gate, but that was all. The tunnel was indeed closed, and to get to the other side of the tunnel we had to climb all the way around over a hilltop. One tiny thing: there was a closed gate in front of this path too, which was impossible to go past! At least, that’s what we thought… After half an hour trying to climb the rocks to get past the gate, we noticed that the gate wasn’t locked at all! Haha, we are so smart…

So we could continue our path! It was actually quite a difficult path, going steep up on the mountain close to a huge, high cliff, with a lot of mud and nothing to hold onto to… Finally, on top of the mountain, we had to go down again and we figured that this was the dangerous part as it was super steep again and you could easily slip down! 

In the end, there was a super steep cliff which Manon thought was quite scary with her fear of heights. We tried to go around this cliff but that wasn’t possible, so we had to climb a couple of meters down. After this scary part, we only had to climb some ladders and then we finally arrived at the waterfalls! The hike was really though, and we might not have done it if we knew that it was this hard, but WOW! The waterfall was absolutely amazing! And the hard way to get there makes it even a bit more special!

Through the ice cold water, we could go to the cave behind the waterfall for some more spectacular views. Manon even had a little swim in the freezing cold water. There were a few more people, a few guys even opened up some beers when they arrived. Not the smartest thing with the hike to get here haha.

After some time chilling, we made our way back again. We were hungry and thirsty since we didn’t think it would take us this long to get here and to go back. Also, at this point, Manon’s whole body was starting to itch really bad and she was scratching everywhere! So you can imagine we were happy when we saw our van again! It took us almost a full day to explore these falls.

Back in the van, Manon’s body was getting more and more itchy and we noticed that she had a really weird rash on her face and body! Time to go to a doctor. Once there, the doctor told us it was some kind of allergic reaction and she definitely needed medicines for the next few days. Where the reaction was from? We have no idea!

Anyway, after taking the first medicine Manon felt much better and we could go find a campground. We parked our van at the foot of Mount Maunganui, a mountain at the edge of the city surrounded by the ocean.

Mount Maunganui sunset

Best Views in Town

We rose very early the next morning to hike up Mount Maunganui. From the top, you can see an amazing sunrise, and that was what we were aiming for. On our way up we saw many people having a workout already, by running up and down the mountain. They didn’t even stay at the top to watch the sunrise. Super weird right?! Good for us since they won’t be in our way while taking some perfect shots from the sunrise! Once the sun rose above the ocean, it was just magical!

Once the sun was up, we walked around the top of the mountain and saw an island with a lot of trees. It looked pretty familiar and we found out this was the other side of the island that we had seen from Waihi Beach a couple weeks ago. We went back down and went to the beach. A bit further down the beach is another island, Moturiki Island, attached to the mainland by a small strip of land. From here you had the best view over the beach and Mount Maunganui.

A bit further south along the coast we visited Papamoa Beach, another gorgeous beach. From this beach, we went a bit land inward again to the Kaiate Falls. Via a pathway down we came to the first waterfall, a three-step waterfall which looked really beautiful. The walk continued down a bit more and we found a second waterfall. It was such an amazing setting: a high waterfall surrounded by cliffs and bush, ending in a little pond.

Change of Plans

That day, we continued our way to Whakatane. While exploring the beautiful area we got a message from the housesit where we were going next week. We already saw on their Facebook that they had a big flooding straight through their orchard and there was a lot of damage. They decided to cancel their big trip because they had to make sure that the orchard would be fine before the season starts. So our housesit was canceled too! We completely understand that this was their only option, so it was time for us to change our plans. We were still welcome to stay with them though if we wanted to. But what now?? What are we going to do the next weeks?

We decided to stay in Whakatane now for a few days. There was a bit of a cheaper campground, which was ideal for us to think about our new plans. Bram’s parents are going to visit us in a few weeks time so it wasn’t ideal to go find a job now, because of course, we want to be free when they visit! Also, we had to change the plans of their visit a bit too. But this is all part of traveling, plans change, and we will work something out!

We had been very busy with traveling lately, and we needed some time to chill. We did that in Whakatane. We recharged ourselves, made some of our plans and we reached 10K followers on Instagram. Quite a milestone for us! We had to do some practical stuff, like a new warranty check for our van and it was good to have some time for that now. Apparently, there was another hurricane, named Hola, passing through New Zealand, but we hardly noticed it.

View over Whakatane

More Waterfalls

After a few days of recharging and doing some practical things we had decided that until at least after Bram’s parents visited us we will continue to travel the rest of the north island, and for after that, as money was running out, we were trying to find a job somewhere on the north island.

But for now, it was time to explore again! On that Wednesday somewhere halfway in March, we went for a nice hike, the Koh Point Walkway from Whakatane to Ohope, along the beautiful coastline. There were some beautiful views during this hike and also some gorgeous beaches to take a rest from walking. That’s the way we like to do hikes!

We also visited the Tarawera Falls, yes even more waterfalls! These falls are close to the lakes of Rotorua, but you have to get a permit in Kawerau to visit them. That’s why it is easier to visit them from Whakatane. It’s about 60km from Whakatane, and from Kawerau, it is mainly unsealed road through the Tarawera forest, where the trees are planted and harvested for logging. It’s a long drive to get to just one waterfall, but it’s so worth it! When we were finally there, we walked alongside a river, with water which is incredibly clear!

And after this short walk, we arrived at the waterfall. Wow so impressive! The water pours out of a couple of holes in a huge cliff forming this amazing waterfall.

Whakatane’s Main Attractions

Via the Kohi Lookout we drove back to Whakatane that day where we did some more sightseeing. There is a little cave here with some nice Maori Carvings in front of it called the Mariwai’s Cave, which is an important site for the Maoris.

Close to there is a statue of The Lady on the Rocks and a beautiful Marae: Te Manuka Tutahi Marae. A Marae is a community place from the Maoris, a bit like a church but different. It has some beautiful woodcarvings, which you see a lot at places that are important in their culture. 

Close to Whakatane’s center is a waterfall, the Wairere falls. So funny that it is in the middle of town.

After this, it was time to finally leave Whakatane behind and continue our travels! We loved that we had some quiet time in between our travels but now it is time to see more of the country again 🙂 Whakatane is close to the east cape, a beautiful part of New Zealand hardly discovered by tourists. Mainly Maori people live here and in the far east corner of New Zealand, you can see the sunrise as the first of the whole world! We want to see everything, so no way that we skip this part!

We will tell you all about our travels in this area in our next update!

Hope to see you then!

Don’t be a tourist, be a traveller


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