Opunake, Manaia and Hawera
Located at the halfway point along Surf Highway 45, Opunake and its beaches feature many world-renowned surf breaks and great opportunities for water sports, including fishing. The town’s vibrant centre caters to all visitors with distinct murals for inspection, heritage walks and antique stores for history enthusiasts and cafés to satisfy a variety of palettes.
Opunake has bred a great many New Zealand athletes including Olympic medal winner Sir Peter Snell. Snell’s gold achievements are now permanently emblazoned in bronze with a statue of the famed runner caught in motion on Opunake’s main road.
Manaia is a quaint town steeped in historical ambience located just 14km north-west of Hawera. The town is named after the former Maori chief of the district, Hukunui Manaia. One of the largest bakeries in the country, the Yarrow’s family bakery, was established in Manaia in 1912, which sprouted the town’s nickname the ‘bread capital’ and continues to employ a large proportion of Manaia’s population today.
The small township gained international news coverage in 2009 when a local Jack Russell named George died protecting five local children from an attack by two pit bulls. George was awarded the PDSA Gold Medal (the animal version of the George Cross) and the town erected a statue in his honour, located in the town centre.
As South Taranaki’s main hub, this bustling town services the wider farming region of over 11,000 people. In Ma-ori, Hawera means ‘the burnt place’ or ‘breath of fire’, a seemingly suitable name after the town had a triple dose of devastating blazes in 1884, 1888 and 1912. To make the fire-fighting easier, a large water tower was built in 1914, which watches over the town to this day and remains one of Taranaki’s best-known heritage landmarks. Hawera has grown in recent years to support the surrounding farms and now boasts the largest dairy factory complex in the world called Whareroa.
Must-do experiences include
- The Great Opunake Yarn bomb. Not only do we have the Taranaki Art Awards, we also have the Opunake Lakeside Lions Yarn Bomb Project! Wander through the main street of Opunake and see the community’s creativity! Open to view all hours from Friday 27 Oct-Sunday 5 November. Free event
- Open only during the festival, the Kingfisher Cafe and garden is a hidden gem. Tables are set up on both the outside decking overlooking the garden and inside the cottage for you to enjoy a freshly brewed coffee, pot of tea and freshly made homemade treats served on English bone china. Address 483 Skeet Rd, Matapu
- Tawhiti Museum is widely acclaimed as one the most innovative museums in New Zealand. www.tawhitimuseum.co.nz
- The famed Yarrows Bakery in Manaia has a factory shop. It is the perfect place to stop and grab some freshly baked goods to take away with you for your travels. Address: Manaia’s Main Rd.