Spoken history tells of the first voyages that discovered Whakatane.  After landing upon the beach in Whakatane the men explored the forest leaving the women with the giant Waka Mataatau. Women were not allowed to take control of the Waka however the tide and current kicked in, the Waka began to float away. Wairaka broke tradition, grabbed a paddle and called “E! Kia whakatane au i ahau” (let me act the part of a man). She managed to rescue the Waka. This is how Whakatane received its name, to honour this historic event a statue of Wairaka was erected upon Turuturu rock. She stands guarding the river mouth of Whakatane.
This story was beautifully told to us by master story tellers Les and Hinauri from Mataatua Visitor Centre and Meeting House.
WHAKA (49 of 98)


The Marae that travelled the world: This is a truly amazing story and was one of the most impressive, authentic Maori Marae experiences I have encountered. In the 1875 the people of Ngati Awa built a Marae (Meeting House) fit for the Queen of England.

Whakatane-Ohope (36 of 46)

WHAKA (57 of 98)The English were so impressed by this that they decided, against Maori will, to pull the building apart and ship it around the world. It was put on display in the streets of London, Sydney, Melbourne and Dunedin. Lack of respect was shown for the Marae, it was subjected to harsh weather conditions, sometimes not assembled correctly and pieces were broken or purposefully cut off. Some parts were even lost in transit.

Ngati Awa have fought an incredible battle for many years to have their lost family member, the Marae, returned to them. I feel they are entitled to close the Marae to the public, to be selfish and keep it for themselves. However, after talking with the Maori realise this will never happen. There are purposefully no fences blocking it off as they want everyone to view the Marae and experience how amazing this place is while learning the incredible story behind it. WHAKA (85 of 98)You can just walk around unguided but I highly suggest having the story tellers guide you around. Also you can experience the impressive light show which turns the inside of this meeting house into a theatre. They have painstakingly translated these ancient carvings and use the lights to bring them to life, giving Lord of the Rings a run for its money.


WHAKA (91 of 98)WHAKA (82 of 98)

White Island

WHAKA (1 of 98)White Island is an active volcano, located 48kms offshore from Whakatane, and is the towns main tourist attraction. I have never met a traveler who didn’t enjoy a visit to the Island but it has never been high on my “to do” list. I am not sure why, maybe knowing it’s either a long boat ride there or an expensive helicopter ride, I just never gave this as much attention as it deserves.

Mata, Guide extrodanier showing us how to use our optional gas mask if you wish.

Mata, Guide extrodanier showing us how to use our optional gas mask if you wish.

We went out with Pee Jays and it was AMAZING! I totally rate this whole experience, the crew were everything you could wish in a guide, funny, energetic and their “guide talk” wasn’t some rehearsed encyclopedia of scientific gibberish. Everyone came across very passionate about this unique place. The boat ride was more comfortable than I imagined, taking little over an hour to get there. Once here we were all issued with a hard hat to wear – not sure if this will stop a volcanic explosion! – but at least we all looked the part.

WHAKA (8 of 98)

My first impression of the Island was, “holy crap! This is actually an active volcano and if she blows we are totally screwed. I love this, it’s a real adventure!” We were all issued with a mask and it’s totally optional if you wish to wear these. In some parts the sulphur clouds can be very intense, which is when the masks come in handy. Walking around White Island feels like you’re walking on the moon. It’s a strange place, with bubbling hot mud, sulphur and steam pouring out of holes all around you. The guides lead us along a trail that I assume changes every now and then, depending on the mood of the Island’s underbelly.

WHAKA (28 of 98)

Good times at the main crater.

Good times at the main crater.

Once back on the boat we had time to enjoy the warm waters, doing some good bombs off the boat before the crew handed out an epic lunch. www.whiteisland.co.nz WHAKA (96 of 98)

Cheers Pee Jays, Mataatau and Whakatane love your work! I give this destination a solid 10 out 10.




Oh yeah did I mention we even had a celebratory encounter when the Bare Kiwi pumped into Dino of White Island? Could hardly control the guy. Thanks Dino for letting us take this photo of you, your a star. Keep up the good work. Dino was paced here by GNS Scientists and keeps an eye on White Island daily activity. WHAKA (35 of 98)