The best place to begin to explore Whakatane and its region is to do the walk called ‘The Footsteps of Toi’ which is a long marked trail looping between Whakatane and Ohope Beach. The route is signposted all the way round and has information boards at regular intervals explaining the flora, fauna, geology and history of the area.
White Island isn’t far from there either where you’ll get to experience an island still in the throes of creation. Boats, or more excitingly, a helicopter can get you to the small but growing volcanic island where, despite having to wear a hard hat and a gas mask against the noxious sulphur fumes, you’ll be able to look down into a volcano that is already overdue its next eruption.
Not far from Whakatane is the East Cape, as you’d expect, New Zealand’s most easterly point. There, you’ll find the most isolated parts of the country with wide tracts of uninhabited forest, wild coastlines and tiny villages. The area is where several films have been shot including Whale Rider and Boy.