Exploring from Athenree to Aongatete
The shores of the Tauranga Harbour are home to a number of quiet spots where it is possible to get away from the hustle and bustle of the Western Bay of Plenty’s more popular beaches over the summer.
Athenree Beach is a sheltered estuary beach 50km north of Tauranga. It sits on the edge of Shelly Bay and at low tide you can walk across the estuary to Waihi Beach and Bowentown.
It’s a great spot for a barbecue, with a children’s playground and plenty of space to kick a ball around or play cricket. Pohutakawa and Norfolk pine trees line the edges of the picturesque shoreline.
Across the road is the Athenree Hot Springs & Holiday Park which was a finalist in the Holiday Parks of New Zealand Spirit of Hospitality Award for 2017.
It includes two natural mineral pools which are available to guests staying at the holiday park and open to the public for a fee.
Athenree is also home to the historic Athenree Homestead. It was built, owned and lived in by Irish settlers, Adela and Hugh Stewart from 1878 to 1906, and this property played an important role in the developing community.
The derelict remains of the house have been restored since the formation of the Athenree Homestead Trust.
Tours of the homestead are available and the station cafe is open every Sunday from January to March from 12-3pm for ‘Athenree Tea’ – scones and jam, tea and coffee.
Heading up State Highway 2 towards Katikati you can turn off to Tanner’s Point, Tuapiro Point, Ongare Point and Kauri Point.
Tanner’s Point has a small wharf and a boat ramp with good access to the harbour. There’s also a great walk around the inner estuary.
Kauri Point is a popular spot to take the kids fishing off the jetty, which juts out into the deep water of the harbour. If you’re lucky you might also see a pod of orca swimming past.
There are several walks in these areas, both in the bush and along the foreshore, and they are popular for safe swimming and family picnics. Many people also depart from these spots to kayak across to Matakana Island.
The history of Katikati is depicted on the town’s walls in more than 40 murals.
Katikati is New Zealand’s mural town with its history featured in more than 40 murals painted on the walls. It also has a growing collection of other outdoor art, including sculptures.
The Haiku Pathway – one of New Zealand’s Millennium Projects – is the largest collection of haiku stones outside Japan. Officially opened in June 2000 it has 30 poetry boulders and is located along both sides of the Uretara Stream just behind the town’s main street.
Bird lovers will be in their element in the Uretara Estuary and Yeoman Walkway. You can park your car at the north end of town where the river meets the road and follow the river through fields and wetlands.
And if that’s not enough birds for you, the Katikati Bird Gardens are just a few kilometres up the road.
The gardens are set on the edge of the harbour and feature water lily ponds, mature trees from around the world, flower gardens and natural wetlands.
They are home to little shags, royal spoonbill, white-faced herons, paradise shelducks, black swans, black teal, kereru and kakariki.
There is a cafe on-site with outdoor picnic tables and a children’s play area.
Just up the road from the bird gardens is the Aongatete Forest, located in the Kaimai Mamaku Forest Park.
There are a number of walks ranging from 15 minutes in duration to the longer loop walk which covers a distance of 6.4km.
The Aongatete tracks start at the Aongatete Outdoor Education Lodge at the end of Wright Rd off State Highway 2.
The Aongatete Forest Project, set up in 2006 by Tauranga Forest & Bird and the Katikati Rotary Club, has restored much of the wildlife and plant life in the area through its pest control efforts so expect to see some native birds on your travels.
Just 20 minutes before you hit Tauranga is the settlement of Omokoroa. Residents and holidaymakers fish and launch from the jetty, kayak, swim and enjoy sporting facilities such as the golf club, boat club, tennis club and playing fields.
The Omokoroa Bird Trail Walk is a feast for bird lovers and the Omokoroa to Tauranga Cycleway is a great way to see the coast by bike.
And if you’re a kid or a big kid at heart, Omokoroa has New Zealand’s first fully custom skate path, suitable for both skaters and riders. The skate path picked up a merit award in the Outstanding Project category of the 2016 New Zealand Recreation Association Awards.
Fishing is a popular pastime at the Kauri Point jetty. Photo: Western Bay of Plenty District Council.