Ōhawe Beach to Waihi Beach Coastal Walk
There are impressive views, interesting rock formations and rock pools on this walk.
Type of pathway: foreshore
Grade of walk/ride: moderate
Time to complete: 2.5 – 3 hours
Description/history: With steep cliffs on one side and the sea on the other, this coastal walk is like no other in Taranaki. The Waingongoro River mouth was where some of the first Maori settled in Taranaki. In fact, the remains of moa bone have been discovered in cooking ovens around the edge of what is now a camping ground. Walking along the beach, its hard not to notice the huge cliffs that have been uprooted from the sea over millions of years.
Points of interest:
WAINGONGORO RIVER – Waingongoro River means snoring river and this name was given by Turi (the captain of the Aotea Waka) because of the sound the water makes as it rolls over the stones. The Waingongoro River and Waihi River define the natural boundary between Ngāti Ruanui and Ngāruahine Iwi. The mouth of the Waingongoro River was the first Maori settlement in the area and remains of Moa have been found in cooking ovens around the edge of the present camping ground.
ŌHAWE BEACH - There are approximately 400 residents in Ōhawe and like most coastal settlements some families have lived here for generations. The beach is a traditional Tauranga waka (Māori fishing launch used by hapū and iwi) and has a boat ramp installed.
ŌHAWE SOLDIERS CEMETERY – This memorial cairn overlooks Ōhawe village and commemorates 45 imperial and colonial servicemen who died in South Taranaki during the second half of the 1860s. Many of these men were killed in the battle of Otopawa while others have been reinterred into the cemetery from other sites including Manawapou which was a cliff-top military cemetery eroding into the sea. The cairn was erected in 1907 with the original plaque positioned to face the setting sun.
RANGATAPU MARAE – Today Rangatapu Marae sits on the top of Ōhawe Terrace. The whare (building) was the former Tokaora School Hall which was relocated after the school closed. Rangatapu translates as the ‘holy band’ and in the 1860’ss was the site for the regiona’s first Methodist Church.
ŌHAWE BEACH CAMP – the camp is administered by the Trustees of Rangatapu Marae and open to the public. Freedom Camping is prohibited in the vicinity of Ōhawe Beach.
CLIFFS – the uplofted marine terraces that form the South Taranaki coastline from Ōhawe to Whanganui begin here. These cliffs are characterised by spectacularly high soft papa rock that forms the lower part of the cliffs. These have been uplifted from the sea over the past 3 million years. The cliffs are prone to continual erosion.
ROCK POOLS – the coastline features coastal reefs with two particularly large and accessible areas of rock pools. These pools contain a wide range of interesting sea life and are safe to explore at low tide.
TRAM RAILS – Remnants of tram rails can be seen at the base of the cliffs near the end of Hauroto Road. This rail was used to haul shingle and sand from the beach to build roads and some of the earlier concrete buildings in South Taranaki.
WAIHI BEACH – The descent to Waihi Beach from the carpark at the end of Denby Road is via a steep gravel track. Care needs to be taken. The hazardous nature of the cliffs on Waihi Beach and dangerous surf conditions restrict general use of the beach.
Dangers/warnings/things to be aware of:
TIDAL – the walk from Ōhawe Beach to Waihi Beach is along the foreshore and is tidal. It is safe to walk up to 2.5 hours before and after low tide. Stay safe and check the tides before you leave.
FALLING DEBRIS – The cliffs along this walk are unstable – beware of falling debris
SWIMMING – There is a strong undercurrent along the beach and the safest place to swim is at the end of the boat camp at Ōhawe Beach
FOOTWEAR – Beach conditions are very changeable and walkers may need to do some rock hopping. Good footwear is recommended.
Warning – This walkway is along the foreshore and is tidal. It is only safe to walk up to 2.5 hours before or after low tide. Check the tide tables before you leave. The cliffs along the coast are unstable so beware of falling debris. Swimming is only safe at the end of the boat ramp at Ōhawe Beach (toilets and changing rooms are available here). Remember to pre-organise transport as this is a one-way walk.
Type of footwear required: Sturdy walking shoes or boots
Accessibility: walkers, no cyclists, dogs allowed
How to get there: The walk can begin from either Ōhawe Beach or Waihi Beach. Ōhawe Beach is accessed by turning left into Ōhawe Road from Surf Highway 45 five km west of Hāwera. Alternatively you can turn west into Denby Road at Hāwera. The descent to Waihi Beach is via a steep gravel track to the carpark at the end of Denby Road.