The small towns and settlements of New Zealand are the backbone of our country and those in the Western Bay of Plenty are no exception.
Te Puke is the kiwifruit capital of New Zealand and the horticultural hub of the region. If you’re into posing for photos with roadside Kiwi kitsch – think Paeroa’s L&P bottle and Ohakune’s big carrot – there is an enormous fibreglass kiwifruit slice on SH2 that you can add to your collection.
And if that’s not enough kiwifruit, you can visit a working kiwifruit orchard and learn about the story of kiwifruit at Kiwifruit Country in nearby Paengaroa.
Sticking with the produce theme, if you’re a fan of Manuka honey you can step inside a virtual beehive and see the world through the eyes of a honeybee at Experience Comvita in Paengaroa.
There is also an on-site retail shop where you can buy anything and everything to do with bees, including honey, supplements, lozenzes, and skincare products.
If you’re a history buff you can take a stroll along the Te Puke Heritage Walkway or, for a more challenging walk, head up Mount Otanewainuku.
The Papamoa to Paengaroa Cycle Trail next to the TEL is a good ride, and suitable for children also. To get there head towards the Kaituna River on Bell Rd.
And you can’t go through this part of the country without hitting more of the beautiful beaches that we are blessed with in the Bay.
Maketu is where Maori first came ashore on their waka voyage from Polynesia to the Bay of Plenty and is a popular place to fish, kayak, wind/kite surf and bird watch.
Gathering shellfish is usually on the list too, however there is currently a biotoxin warning in place along the coast from Waihi Beach to Opape, east of Opotiki which means shellfish is off the menu for now.
It’s a great place to grab a pie though, as it is home to the iconic Maketu Pies. The Maketu Beachside Café also offers some impressive fare by all accounts.
If you’re heading to Maketu you might also want to check out Newdicks Beach, a place so secluded many people don’t even know it’s there.
You can only get to it via a private road, which you pay a small fee to gain vehicle access to, or you can walk in for free. The road is open from 6am-6.30pm in summer.
Little Waihi is also a popular summer spot and is renowned for the jandal fence at the Bledisloe Holiday Park.
Across the estuary and 25km by road is Pukehina Beach. With property prices climbing in Tauranga, the seaside settlement is now attracting permanent residents as well as holidaymakers.
It offers a rolling surf beach, glittering sands and an estuary harbour and boat ramp allowing access over the bar to the open sea.
And at the southernmost point of The Weekend Sun circulation area is Otamarakau, another seaside settlement which is a popular low-cost camping spot for self-contained vehicles.
The slogan for Te Puke is ‘Goodness Grows Here’ but goodness can also be found in this neck of the woods in the warm welcome and friendly smiles of the locals. Venture south and check it out for yourself this summer.