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Ohiwa Harbour and Ohope Beach are separated by a giant sandspit that supports the beach town of Ohope. While this area has immediate appeal for anybody who loves beaches, it's also a popular destination for those who are into "birding".
In spring, migrations bring large numbers of wading birds to New Zealand from their arctic breeding grounds. Others migrate between the North and South Islands. Ohiwa Harbour is a birdwatching mecca, but you'll need a good pair of binoculars and a bird book to assist with identification.
Depending on the time of year, you can hope to see bar-tailed godwits, bitterns, banded rails, spotless crakes, pied stilts, oystercatchers, curlews, plovers, herons, terns, shags and gulls. There's also a chance you might spot a spoonbill or two. An inspired way to explore the harbour and watch the birds is in a hired kayak.
Ohope Beach is an 11 kilometre stretch of white sand that's often blessed with great surf. The beach looks out to Whale Island, the active volcano White Island and the sweeping coast of East Cape. In late December, Ohope is a place to see pohutukawa trees blooming in all their crimson glory. From a comfortable towel on the sand, you can watch the ocean for seabird activity. Gannets perform spectacular diving feats and groups of petrels, terns and gulls can often be seen working the fish.
West End, a long favourite with surfers, is also one of the access points to Otarawairere Beach, one of the most picturesque beaches in the Bay of Plenty. It's only accessible by walkway from Whakatane or Ohope using the cliff-top coastal walkway Nga Tapuwae o Toi.