Our Top Things to Do in Whangamata: A Visual Art Guide

  • 1 November 2017
  • Sarah Holden

Located on the Peninsula's south-east coast, Whangamata is one of the Coromandel's most popular Summer holiday destinations, and rightly so! Offering stunning coastal scenery, plenty of exciting outdoor activities, and a family-friendly, laid back Kiwi atmosphere, Whangamata is cherished by locals, bach owners and tourists alike. 

No wonder many of our artists including Bernie Ross, Mardi O'Shea and Lynne Robinson have chosen to settle in this beautiful resort town! While it has seen plenty of development over the last few decades, Joanne Mahoney notes that Whangamata still retains its 'small coastal town feeling' that makes it such an attractive and charming destination. An easy two hour drive from Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga, Whangamata is the perfect place for a weekend getaway or extended holiday. To celebrate the opening of The Little Gallery Whangamata, we've put together a visual art guide of our top things to do in the area! 

'Splash Whangamata' by Grant Simpson

Wentworth Valley Campground and Walks

Perfect for the whole family, Wentworth Valley Campground is just a short drive (approximately ten minutes) from Whangamata town centre. The site was originally a gold mining settlement, home to around 300 miners and their families. Experience a slice of this turn-of-the-century historic site on the Mines Walk, a thirty minute walk easy enough for children, where you can view two mine shafts along the track before leading towards a gorgeous little picnic area. 

'Tranquil Rivermouth' by Liz Hart

The longer alternative Wentworth Falls Walk includes two bridge crossings, and follows the Wentworth River to take you up to a beautiful view of the 40-metre high falls. It takes approximately two and a half hours, but is suitable for most ages and fitness levels. The campground offers all of the essential facilities for a classic Kiwi camping experience, as well as some sweet swimming spots in the waterhole and Wentworth River. Best of all, with the town centre so close by it won't matter if you forget to pack something or need to top up the groceries!


Whangamata Beach

This iconic beach is famous for its surf, attracting surfers throughout New Zealand and around the world. The long left-hander Whangamata Bar is known for being one of the best waves in the country, and there are good breaks all across the beach. Depending on the conditions, Whangamata Beach is usually suitable for surfers of all abilities, from beginners to advanced. If you're new to surfing, never fear! The local surf school offers equipment rentals and lessons for kids and adults by qualified instructors, who will have you on your first break in no time. Just remember to watch out for swimmers as the beach can get very crowded over Summer!  

'Waves' by Julie Whyman

If surfing's not your thing, you can try kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding, and this gorgeous white sand beach is perfect for swimming also. The local surf life saving club is on full-time duty over the peak Summer period, helping to make the beach as safe as possible.

Whangamata Beach is usually packed during the Summer season, so if you're after a quieter, more secluded space to relax, try Onemana Beach. Only a short drive from the town centre, you'll enjoy stretches of golden sand, stunning views, shade under blooming Pohutukawa trees and the company of the local native wildlife. It's also a beautiful little spot for swimming, surfing, fishing and diving! 


Whenuakura Island (Donut Island)

Affectionately known by locals as 'Donut Island' due to the collapsed blowhole at the island's centre, Whenuakura Island is less than a kilometre east from Whangamata Beach. You can kayak or paddle board over, and make your way into the cove through a 40-feet high cave entrance. Enjoy the sights of some incredible caves and rock formations, before emerging out into a stunning little turquoise lagoon.  

'New Pohutukawa, Whangamata' by Jane Galloway

Often described as feeling like a 'deserted paradise', some of our favourite sights at this protected wildlife sanctuary are the native fauna and Pohutukawa trees that adorn the towering volcanic cliff rock faces. We recommend going with a guided tour company, who can share with you the island's rich history and cultural significance, as well as ensure your safety and protect delicate parts of the island. 


The Little Gallery Whangamata 

We are thrilled to have opened our second branch in Whangamata this month, adding an exciting cultural dimension to the seaside town. Located at the central Port Road strip, The Little Gallery Whangamata is operated on a co-operative basis with a team of local artists managing the gallery, similar to The Little Gallery Tairua. Visitors are afforded the unique opportunity to not only experience a slice of the vibrant local arts culture through the huge variety of artwork on display, but to meet the artists and learn about the works from a first-hand perspective. A few of our team members include Joanne Mahoney, Kate Jones Madill and Sue Jamieson.

'Collected One Saturday in September' by Joanne Mahoney

Showcasing the work of over 50 Coromandel and New Zealand artists, The Little Gallery offers a diverse range of modern and contemporary art, including paintings, prints, sculpture, pottery and jewellery. The exhibitions are continually refreshed, meaning that there are always new artworks to enjoy. Many of our artists draw their inspiration from the beautiful local surroundings, so you can take a piece of Whangamata back home with you! 


It's time to start planning your trip to the Coromandel! Whangamata is a beautiful place to visit, and Summer is the time when the town truly comes alive. Whether you're looking to have a relaxed, easy-going holiday, or enjoy some fantastic outdoor activities, Whangamata delivers for all! We hope to see you at our new Port Road gallery soon - keep an eye out for our official opening event, to be held at the gallery on Saturday 16 December! 


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