McLaren Falls is located a 5 minutes drive from State Highway 29 on McLaren Falls Road in the Kaimai ranges a short distance from Tauranga, I try to make the falls my semi rest stop on the way to Whakatane, to take in the breathtaking scenery which is the surrounding botanics, the never ending supply of fresh water never failing to trail it's way between each and every crevice which has been pathed by the previous flow of h20. It's the place to unwind, relax and turn off from the strict rules of the road to take the skips, jumps and small jogs of your feet to enjoy the view and sound of the rushing water.
McLaren Falls is built up of large flat platforms of rocks which create an almost welcoming vibe to wander through and among the beautiful landscape. A one of a kind water scape which is not common within the towering buildings of Auckland.
McLaren falls is a great rest stop for those who are travelling for a couple of hours via the Kaimais, or whether you want some time to enjoy the outdoors and company in the form of your own. McLaren has a great atmosphere to refresh your mind and photo opportunities for those wanting to document their holiday, trip or serenity.
The water is fresh and bloody freezing, no doubt you will need thick skin to want to take a dip in the McLaren lake, but it's worth while and no doubt after you bring your head out from underneath the surface all your minds thoughts will be thinking about nothing but the wellbeing of your body and trying to bring your temperature up to a reasonable standard. A cheeky skinny dip wouldn't be far off the cards if you found yourself a secluded area a furthers walk up stream from the falls itself. Although jumping from the 20 metres high bridge to the water below is prohibited due to the dangers of the possible hidden rocks and boulders below the waters surface.
I haven't ventured further than the falls and the bridge, but reading a bit more about McLaren Falls I found out there are nature trails which after dark are home to thousands of glow worms, part of the track is also wheel chair and motor scooter friendly so theres no excuse for anyone not to join in on this nature trail.
The park is popular for camping, fishing, kayaking, wedding photos, adventure of any kind and is home to one of the most wonderful collection of trees in the north island
Camping at the McLaren Falls park comes with a maximum stay of 3 nights on a first come first serve basis as bookings are not required, adults are $10 per night and children are $5 per night with under 5's free.
Fishing is available but you need to purchase a fishing licence, day licences can be purchased from Marshalls Animal Park or participating sports stores within the region.
The gate to McLaren falls is open from 7;30am to 7:30pm during the summer months and daylight saving, and 7:30 to 5:30 when daylight saving ends.
First time coming to McLaren Falls I needed some breathing space from the claustrophobic living that the city can sometimes bring. I brought my camera along with me, walked, ran and jumped from various rocks and perched myself on the edge of a single tall standing rock right on the edge of the falls with a straight 10-15 metre fall to the water below. Not many people were around as it was lunch time on a working day in the middle of the week but I found the tranquility of McLaren falls breathtaking in the sense that time somewhat stood still. There were no people around who were rushing to be somewhere, there were no buses or taxis picking up impatient passengers wanting to get to work before their pays were docked, there were no loud mouths preaching their inconsistencies with the world and condemning you to hell for living life your way, and there was no breathe down my neck by people expecting me to reach their expectations or to live a certain way. The water on the lake was still and a slight breeze was brushing the leaves through the trees, this is why McLaren Falls makes it to my list of top 5 small North Island destinations.
Berry picking is one of my favourite must-do's every summer! Whenever I visit my family in Whakatane during the summer I always make time to head to Julians berry farm to pick berries or have a fresh berry ice cream. There are so many berries to pick from and when they are in season you can enjoy going into the field and picking you own, Julians' grow such a wide range of berries it's hard to say no to just one type! Including; Blackcurrant / Blackberry / Blueberry / Boysenberry / Cranberry / Gooseberry / Kotataberry / Loganberry / Ranui berry / Raspberry / Redcurrant / Strawberry / And Tayberry
Prices range from $15 to $35 depending on how big the carton is you choose, and whether you mix your berries. With this heat though you must ensure that they are kept in the fridge or freezer, as you might wake up one morning to find your berries have transformed into balls of fluff...
Julians Berry Farm isn't just restricted to berry picking though! They have a small farm with alpacas, sheep, chicks, rabbits and cows that children are able to feed and pat, and there is also a small course of mini golf. So even if there aren't many berries to pick, or your favourite ones are out of season there is still plenty to do at the farm. There is also a cafe which you can grab a cup of coffee at and enjoy a cake if berry picking isn't quite your thing.
The cafe also sells a wide range of products made with their own berries and other local produce from the farm including jams, sauces, soaps, moisturisers and their own frozen berries, plus heaps more!
Whakatane heads is the place to go if you want to head out for a surf, or just want to relax with some fish and chips and watch the waves break. The view from here includes a beautiful sea horizon which is broken up by two islands; White island and Whale island. White Island is New Zealands' only active marine volcano and one of the worlds most accessible live volcanoes that you can go and visit via a booked tour. If you're keen on learning more about White Island, there is a tour boat that goes out everyday and takes you to check out New Zealands' most active cone volcano. Check their website out here if you're interested in booking a tour!
If you plan a road trip down the East coast of the North Island anytime soon you must make time to visit Whakatane. It's my favourite place to spend part of my summer and everyone is so friendly and down to earth! The coast line is so beautiful and it's not hard to find Instagram worthy pictures ;)
Ohope is a small township just over the hill from Whakatane and is a popular holiday destination for thousands of kiwis' every year. During the summer months Ohope is usually swarming with beach goers, holiday makers and people just wanting to escape the busy cities and daily grind of the work force.
Ohope beach is one of New Zealand's most loved beaches and it's not hard to see why; This flat white sandy beach stretches for 11km from Ohiwa wharf to West End, which is a popular surfing area during the summer months.
If you don't own a surf board, nor do you know how to surf but want to experience the waves, there is usually a surf lessons tent opposite the car park on the side of the road at West End; head on up over there and I'm sure the guys can help you out with making the most of the Ohope surf. Ohope beach is perfect for families, as it's not a far walk for small legs and the sand is great for building castles or sand-snow men if you're wishing of a white Christmas.
The beach is extremely easy to access as it stretches parallel to many roads along Ohopes' beach front, park up your car on the side of the road, take a few steps and you're on the beach! It's not hard to find a place to park your car as at the end of West End Road there is plenty of parking as well as a waffle cart and public toilets (Don't worry, those facilities aren't attached).
Fun Fact: The beach has a beautiful view of White Island, which is an active volcano situated 48km from the coast in the Bay of Plenty and has been in the continuous stage of smoking since it was discovered by James Cook in 1769, so don't worry if you see it spewing puffy white clouds.
If you do ever make a trip to Ohope to spend the day at the beach, you need to stop in at Hui Bar and Grill for lunch. It is situated in the block of shops at the bottom of the hill coming from Whakatane.
I had lunch at Hui Bar and Grill twice while I was staying in Whakatane for the first week of this year.
The service was great with such friendly and down to earth waitresses and the food was definitely worth the wait and it wasn't short on taste. I tried the chicken burger and fish burger, both of which were absolutely delicious and very fulling. I can't tell you much else about what was in the burgers as I was more focused on eating it than studying it, but I would head back to Ohope just for them!
I ordered a bowl of kumara chips which were accompanied by aioli and chutney, my partner has never been the biggest fan of kumara yet he absolutely loved these! they were so sweet and crispy. We couldn't finish the rest after our burgers so we asked for a doggy bag, couldn't just leave them behind!
The restaurant has indoor and outdoor seating, so if you turn up for lunch on a beautiful summers day make sure you get a table outside; on table just near the entrance to the toilets there is usually a bottle of sun block on it for customers to use, so make sure you slip, slop, slap and wrap!
Quite often they have live music playing throughout the evening and into the night, so if you're in the area and want to grab a drink with mates head on over to the bar to enjoy a night with great night!
A play at the beach and lunch at the grill made for a great summers day out; 10/10 would recommend this bar for anyone who is thinking of visiting Ohope, be it summer or winter. Make sure you check out their website for news and updates!
P.s. my mouth is watering just thinking of the Kumara chips!
Michaela Loye is an 22 year old blogger and free lance photographer hailing from Auckland, New Zealand. She has a passion for adventure and locally sourced beauty products.
1. Tinder Test - How did the males in Whakatane and Auckland compare to each other?
2. Broken Hill - Exploring abandoned mine caves in the Coromandel
3. Bossy Cosmetics - Cruelty free beauty straight from the Bay Of Plenty