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When it comes to sunshine, Whakatane people are passionate. In fact they have even gone into battle to protect their place in the sun and are now proud holders of New Zealand’s sunniest town title.
But getting there has not been easy. While locals were always confident of their golden status they were thwarted in their quest for official recognition by the fact that the weather experts (NIWA, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research) stopped collecting data in the town. Undeterred they banded together and bought their own equipment to collect the statistics. Their results were deemed to be too high to be believable so NIWA set up its own equipment beside the town’s. In 2010 the experts agreed and with 2,561 hours of officially recorded sunshine hours Whakatane took the crown.
With rivals like Blenheim and Tekapo constantly challenging the title, Whakatane people know they might have to occasionally share the accolade. But, title or not, the sunshine will always be there and provides a glorious backdrop for our 10 favourite attractions in the Whakatane area:
- White Island – 51 km north of Whakatane, off the Bay of Plenty coast this smouldering volcano is a constant reminder of the thermal activity of the region. Tours offer boat trips, helicopter flights and scenic flights to the island.
- Dolphin Tours – spot these fun loving mammals over the summer months
- Observatory – the Whakatane Astronomical Society gives visitors the chance to view the southern skies
- Golf – six golf courses in a region for only 36,000 people, need we say more!
- Beaches – 54 kilometres of coastline to explore
- Te Urewera National Park – this national treasure covers some 41 percent of the district and is home to an amazing array of flora and fauna
- Lake Waikaremoana – noted as a trout fishery and also for one of New Zealand's great walks around its edge
- Fishing – one of the best fishing spots in the country
- Kiwi – have the rare experience of hearing these unusual flightless birds in the bush at the edge of the CBD. The Whakatane region is home to the North Island Brown Kiwi and the Whakatane Kiwi Project works to protect and foster the local population. Guided kiwi listening walks are available at certain times of the year.
- Sunshine to take home – with an abundance of sunshine the town has plenty to share and has been caning it for 40 years for visitors to take home. Look out for this unique keepsake .
- And a sneaky 11th - Kayaking at Whale Island seeing birdlife, seals, fish, stunning scenery.
Air New Zealand flies between Whakatane and Auckland connecting it with 25destinations on the domestic network. For information and bookings www.airnewzealand.co.nz