Opotiki panoramas

Riders on Tirohanga beach section of the Dunes Trail. Picture by Neil Robert Hutton
Riders pass the Dunes Trail/Motu Trails sign at Hukuwai Beach. Picture by Neil Robert Hutton
Tirohanga section of Dunes Trail looking east. Picture by Jim Robinson
A recent Dunes Trail planting day. Picture by Jim Robinson
Near Ohiwa harbour mouth. Picture by Jim Robinson
Eastern end of the Dunes Trail. Picture by Jim Robinson
Walking the beach looking up to the park near Ohiwa Beach Holiday Park.
Picture by Jim Robinson
View from the Onekawa pa site. Picture by Jim Robinson
One of many big puriri trees in the park. Picture by Jim Robinson
Dunes Trail pouwhenua at Tirohanga. Picture by Neil Robert Hutton

The Dunes Trail and Onekawa Te Mawhai Regional Park trails explore spectacular beach and coastal environments. Jim Robinson takes us for a ride and a walk . . .

Since opening seven years ago, Opotiki’s Dunes Trail has become one of the eastern Bay of Plenty’s most popular attractions. The wide, easy trail twists through coastal dunes for 9km, with many panoramic Pacific Ocean views.

The Dunes Trail is the busiest section of the Motu Trails, with about 20,000 users per year, and often has more walkers than cyclists.

As well as offering opportunity to get active, the trail is linked to the restoration of the surrounding environment, under a biodiversity management plan. Since 2014, over 17,000 trees and plants have been dug in by volunteers. Pest species like pampas have been largely controlled.

“Twenty or so years ago, parts of the Opotiki dunes were grazed. The coastal eco-system was in a poor state,” says Tim Senior of Bay of Plenty Regional Council.
“Now the community comes and helps the planting each winter. There has been a huge shift in how people think about the coastal environment.
“There’s still a long way to go, but right along the trail regeneration is progressing really well. The more species get established, the easier it gets.”

The Dunes Trail is free-access for all cyclists (including ebikers), walkers and runners. Most trail users start from Memorial Park, at the north end of Opotiki, just past Motu Trails Ltd, where bikes can be hired.

You immediately cross the Otara river on the 80-metre-long Pakowhai ki Otutaopuku bridge and, after a short section of river stopbank, you’re into the dunes. Much of the sand is blanketed by muehlenbeckia complexa (scrambling pohuehue), a dense, small-leaved shrub; interrupted by species like cabbage trees and flaxes.

A kilometre along the trail, you strike the first ocean view, dotted by Moutohora (Whale Island) and Whakaari (White Island). This area of the dunes has had many community planting days, most recently early-August 2019 when 1000 trees, shrubs and flaxes were planted.

After 3km, you’re at Hukuwai Beach, where there’s car parking, toilets and picnic tables. Oral stories, korero tukuiho, of Whakatohea iwi recall how the splashing of waters here would signal the arrival of a large school of fish — often tamure, snapper. A net would be set and the catch would feed everyone.

Hukuwai makes a handy rest stop or turn-around point if you’re doing a shorter walk or ride. If you prefer to continue eastwards, the next couple of kilometres offer bench seats, a picnic table and a shelter.

Approaching the 6km mark of the Dunes Trail, you cross briefly onto the beach itself, with two sections of wooden decking. Spinifex sericeus (kowhangatara), was planted here around five years ago and has spread prolifically, helping to stabilise the sand. Nonetheless, in storms, this area is vulnerable to waves so expect some driftwood debris or sand on the trail.

Spectacular view on trails

At 7km you pass by Tirohanga Beach Motor Camp, an ideal place to stay if you’re looking for a relaxed beachside destination. The camp is one of around 25 Motu Trails official partner businesses, ranged from Gisborne to Whakatane.

For the final two kilometres, muehlenbeckia again dominates the trail-side. Look closely for little flitting wings of copper butterflies, which live on the plant. This area also has perhaps the world’s largest proliferation of euphorbia glauca, waiu-atua (loosely translating to ‘milk of the gods’) an endemic species that can be spotted thriving at many points on the trail. Until recently, at a nationwide level, this plant was at risk.

At 9km you’ve reached a new shelter with a magnificent outlook. Take a breather, enjoy the view, then head back for Opotiki, unless you’re cycling on up the Motu Road.

Fifteen kilometres west of Opotiki, overlooking Ohiwa Harbour and Ohope spit, there’s another spectacular walk (no bikes allowed) in Onekawa Te Mawhai Regional Park. This 36ha park is owned by Bay of Plenty Regional Council and adjoins the 17ha Ohiwa Domain, owned by Opotiki District Council.

“Both organisations manage their reserves in a way that provides a seamless experience for visitors,” says Mr Senior. “Because of the cultural and historic significance of the five pa sites and many other archaeological features, Te Upokorehe are also involved in the management.”
“In the 1860s an Armed Constabulary redoubt was also built there.”

Two tracks rise from Ohiwa Harbour to the hilltop, with one track rising from Bryans Beach. That means you can do a shorter loop walk on the Ohiwa side, or a longer loop by walking back along the beach.

The dominant highpoint — site of Onekawa pa — gives a magnificent view of harbour, ocean and Raukumara range. At the track start, Ohiwa Beach Holiday Park offers an excellent stay.

The park contains a significant remnant of coastal forest that is dominated by mature pohutukawa and puriri trees. There’s also regenerating forest as well as 10ha of pasture.
“The ongoing revegetation efforts began in 2012. The aim is to gradually convert areas of gorse and other weeds back into indigenous vegetation. The archaeological features are best protected by careful grazing, so these areas of the park will remain as a working farm,” Mr Senior says.
“A colony of grey faced petrels nests on the cliffs and at night you can see a spectacular colony of glow worms.”

Animal pests are controlled using about 100 bait stations around the park. On adjacent properties and roads, the Ohiwa Headland Trust carries out pest control with the aim of creating a large predator-free area spanning the entire headland.

Interpretation panels and further tracks will be developed over the next couple of years.
“The vision for Onekawa Te Mawhai Regional Park is to enable visitors to experience now-uncommon coastal forest, replete with flourishing bird populations — and to provide an opportunity to learn more about the early and colonial history of this significant place.”


• For information, Opotiki iSITE can be contacted on 07 315 3031, infocentre@odc.govt.nz

The Dunes Trail and Onekawa Te Mawhai Regional Park trails explore spectacular beach and coastal environments. Jim Robinson takes us for a ride and a walk . . .

Since opening seven years ago, Opotiki’s Dunes Trail has become one of the eastern Bay of Plenty’s most popular attractions. The wide, easy trail twists through coastal dunes for 9km, with many panoramic Pacific Ocean views.

The Dunes Trail is the busiest section of the Motu Trails, with about 20,000 users per year, and often has more walkers than cyclists.

As well as offering opportunity to get active, the trail is linked to the restoration of the surrounding environment, under a biodiversity management plan. Since 2014, over 17,000 trees and plants have been dug in by volunteers. Pest species like pampas have been largely controlled.

“Twenty or so years ago, parts of the Opotiki dunes were grazed. The coastal eco-system was in a poor state,” says Tim Senior of Bay of Plenty Regional Council.
“Now the community comes and helps the planting each winter. There has been a huge shift in how people think about the coastal environment.
“There’s still a long way to go, but right along the trail regeneration is progressing really well. The more species get established, the easier it gets.”

The Dunes Trail is free-access for all cyclists (including ebikers), walkers and runners. Most trail users start from Memorial Park, at the north end of Opotiki, just past Motu Trails Ltd, where bikes can be hired.

You immediately cross the Otara river on the 80-metre-long Pakowhai ki Otutaopuku bridge and, after a short section of river stopbank, you’re into the dunes. Much of the sand is blanketed by muehlenbeckia complexa (scrambling pohuehue), a dense, small-leaved shrub; interrupted by species like cabbage trees and flaxes.

A kilometre along the trail, you strike the first ocean view, dotted by Moutohora (Whale Island) and Whakaari (White Island). This area of the dunes has had many community planting days, most recently early-August 2019 when 1000 trees, shrubs and flaxes were planted.

After 3km, you’re at Hukuwai Beach, where there’s car parking, toilets and picnic tables. Oral stories, korero tukuiho, of Whakatohea iwi recall how the splashing of waters here would signal the arrival of a large school of fish — often tamure, snapper. A net would be set and the catch would feed everyone.

Hukuwai makes a handy rest stop or turn-around point if you’re doing a shorter walk or ride. If you prefer to continue eastwards, the next couple of kilometres offer bench seats, a picnic table and a shelter.

Approaching the 6km mark of the Dunes Trail, you cross briefly onto the beach itself, with two sections of wooden decking. Spinifex sericeus (kowhangatara), was planted here around five years ago and has spread prolifically, helping to stabilise the sand. Nonetheless, in storms, this area is vulnerable to waves so expect some driftwood debris or sand on the trail.

Spectacular view on trails

At 7km you pass by Tirohanga Beach Motor Camp, an ideal place to stay if you’re looking for a relaxed beachside destination. The camp is one of around 25 Motu Trails official partner businesses, ranged from Gisborne to Whakatane.

For the final two kilometres, muehlenbeckia again dominates the trail-side. Look closely for little flitting wings of copper butterflies, which live on the plant. This area also has perhaps the world’s largest proliferation of euphorbia glauca, waiu-atua (loosely translating to ‘milk of the gods’) an endemic species that can be spotted thriving at many points on the trail. Until recently, at a nationwide level, this plant was at risk.

At 9km you’ve reached a new shelter with a magnificent outlook. Take a breather, enjoy the view, then head back for Opotiki, unless you’re cycling on up the Motu Road.

Fifteen kilometres west of Opotiki, overlooking Ohiwa Harbour and Ohope spit, there’s another spectacular walk (no bikes allowed) in Onekawa Te Mawhai Regional Park. This 36ha park is owned by Bay of Plenty Regional Council and adjoins the 17ha Ohiwa Domain, owned by Opotiki District Council.

“Both organisations manage their reserves in a way that provides a seamless experience for visitors,” says Mr Senior. “Because of the cultural and historic significance of the five pa sites and many other archaeological features, Te Upokorehe are also involved in the management.”
“In the 1860s an Armed Constabulary redoubt was also built there.”

Two tracks rise from Ohiwa Harbour to the hilltop, with one track rising from Bryans Beach. That means you can do a shorter loop walk on the Ohiwa side, or a longer loop by walking back along the beach.

The dominant highpoint — site of Onekawa pa — gives a magnificent view of harbour, ocean and Raukumara range. At the track start, Ohiwa Beach Holiday Park offers an excellent stay.

The park contains a significant remnant of coastal forest that is dominated by mature pohutukawa and puriri trees. There’s also regenerating forest as well as 10ha of pasture.
“The ongoing revegetation efforts began in 2012. The aim is to gradually convert areas of gorse and other weeds back into indigenous vegetation. The archaeological features are best protected by careful grazing, so these areas of the park will remain as a working farm,” Mr Senior says.
“A colony of grey faced petrels nests on the cliffs and at night you can see a spectacular colony of glow worms.”

Animal pests are controlled using about 100 bait stations around the park. On adjacent properties and roads, the Ohiwa Headland Trust carries out pest control with the aim of creating a large predator-free area spanning the entire headland.

Interpretation panels and further tracks will be developed over the next couple of years.
“The vision for Onekawa Te Mawhai Regional Park is to enable visitors to experience now-uncommon coastal forest, replete with flourishing bird populations — and to provide an opportunity to learn more about the early and colonial history of this significant place.”


• For information, Opotiki iSITE can be contacted on 07 315 3031, infocentre@odc.govt.nz

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