With stunning beaches, excellent surf, an intriguing art scene, and the breathtaking backdrop of the Kaitake Ranges, there’s a lot to love about the quaint seaside village of Ōakura.
Nearby, New Plymouth might overshadow the small but scenic town, but Ōakura is a wonderful spot for exploring the coast and Taranaki district. In fact, its tiny population of 1720 people only adds to its charm, especially if you’re looking to explore New Zealand at a slower pace.
Aside from its stunning coastal setting and hiking opportunities, it’s also a creative hub for local artists and artisans; it’s well worth peaking inside their charming studios as you stroll around the village.
Fun Fact: Ōakura is home to one of the world’s biggest surfboards! Catch the 8-metre-long board on display outside Vertigo Surf Shop.
An overview of Ōakura
|Region||Taranaki, North Island|
|Main attractions||Ōakura Beach, Kaitake Ranges, Koru Pā, SS Gairloch shipwreck|
|Neighbouring destinations||New Plymouth and Whanganui|
|Nearest airports||New Plymouth Airport|
Things to do in Ōakura
In no particular order, these are our favourite things to do in Ōakura.
1. Ōakura Beach
Ōakura is best known for its picturesque black sand beach. It is perfect for relaxing family outings or for beginner surfers keen to have their first go at riding the waves.
If conditions permit, it’s a popular spot for kayaking, paddle boarding and swimming; if not, it’s still well worth visiting for its extensive views.
The beach was also the first blue flag-accredited beach in Oceania and is patrolled during the summer, allowing visitors to swim with confidence.
As always though, we only suggest swimming at a surf beach if you’re a relatively confident swimmer.
2. Ōakura Arts Trail
This annual festival showcases the work of local artists who open up their studios over two weekends. It features an eclectic variety of pottery, paintings, mixed media, glasswork, jewellers, sculptures and more.
Keep your eyes peeled for this event late October/early November.
Alternatively, you can follow the Ōakura Art Trail to discover the studios and workshops on display all year around. Pick up a brochure from the information centre or visit their website to learn more.
3. SS Gairloch shipwreck
Near the Weld Road surf break, walk across to Timaru Reef to discover where the SS Gairloch crashed into the rocks in 1903.
The shipwreck’s twisted bow still remains visible at low tide.
4. Koru Pā
Just 3km from Ōakura township, visitors can find the fascinating historical reserve of Koru Pā. This is likely one of the earliest Māori settlements in Taranaki and was likely built as early as 1000 AD.
The pathway to the site is somewhat overgrown and it isn’t well-maintained, but if you don’t mind the walk, it’s worth seeing the stone defensive walls and remains of food storage pits (known as ‘rua’ in re reo Māori).
The information boards at the start of the track give some interesting insights into Māori history so be sure to allow time to read them.
With its historical significance and the stunning location at the U-bend of the Ōakura River, this site is well worth the visit.
Whalers Gate, Kaitake 4374
Walking in the Kaitake Ranges
The Kaitake Ranges are part of the breathtaking North Egmont National Park.
However, the scenery here differs from the mountain slopes that the national park is better known for.
Instead, the ranges have a distinctive semi-coastal forest and excellent ocean views.
5. Sefton Track and Waimoku Track Loop
Beginning at the stunning Lucy’s Gully, you’ll start by crossing an unbridged stream before a 2km uphill climb that meets the Waimoku Track.
From there, enjoy the valley views before winding your way through a historic redwood forest on your way back to the car park.
The walk is deceptively challenging, with a steep climb.
In addition, the paths get slippery following rainfall, so suitable footwear is essential.
Total distance: 4.3km loop
Total time: 2 hours
6. Davies Track to Patuha Trig Lookout
Beginning at Surrey Hill Road, Davies Track climbs through farmland and native bush towards Patuha Trig, which has excellent views of Mt Taranaki and the coastline.
Continue back the way you came, or combine with the Waimoku Track for a loop walk that finishes at Lucy’s Gully.
Total distance: 7km return
Total time: 3.5 – 4 hours
Places to eat in Ōakura
You’ll find many cafes and restaurants along the lively section of South Road that winds through central Ōakura. Or head to Tasman Parade for dinner with an ocean view.
Toret Cucina Italiana
You can’t find better authentic and high-quality Italian food in Ōakura than this top-rated spot.
If you can’t choose between the delectable items on their à la carte menu, opt for the degustation menu to try a bit of everything!
The service is also impeccable, making this a great spot for special occasions.
1151 South Road, Ōakura 4314
Black Sand Pizzeria and Bistro
Their seasonal menu and friendly staff have you covered for an unpretentious and delicious meal overlooking the ocean.
1 Tasman Parade, Ōakura 4314
Grab some excellent Mexican food from the green caravan on Ōakura Beach.
There’s nothing better than sitting back on their comfy seaside bean bags while tucking into freshly-prepared burritos and bowls!
The keyhole, Tasman Parade, Ōakura 4314
Butlers Reef is a family-friendly cafe, bar and music venue, and it’s a great place to spend an evening.
In fact, many small and well-known New Zealand and international artists have performed here, including Dave Dobbyn, Trinity Roots, Supergroove and Jimmy Barnes.
In addition, they serve a pub menu which you can enjoy inside or outdoors in the garden.
1133 South Road, Ōakura 4314
Where to stay in Ōakura
There’s an intriguing mix of accommodations around Ōakura, and you’ll likely spot everything from quaint holiday homes to million-dollar beachfront properties as you wander around the township.
These are our favourite picks…
Budget: Ōakura Beach Holiday Park
For beachfront accommodation at an affordable price, Ōakura Beach Holiday Park is a fantastic option.
The property offers free parking, a children’s playground, a shared kitchen with a picnic area, a tennis court, and easy access to some of the area’s best hikes and cycle trails.
Rooms sleep two to six guests and feature a fantastic sea view. Some rooms include a TV, kitchenette, and private bathroom.
2 Jans Terrace, Ōakura 4314
Mid-range: Butlers Reef Accommodation
Butlers Reef Accommodation offers self-contained apartments with everything you need to enjoy a relaxing stay in Ōakura.
Each unit includes free Wi-Fi, a TV, a fully-equipped kitchenette, and a private bathroom with toiletries. Guests can also enjoy the garden and onsite bar and restaurant.
The staff here are really welcoming and the rooms are comfortable.
1133 South Road, Ōakura 4314
Check rates and availability: Butlers Reef Accommodation.
Luxury: Ahu Ahu Beach Villas
Delightfully nestled within the Taranaki farmland and overlooking the sea, this sustainable and rustic retreat provides the ultimate Ōakura escape.
Blending luxury, comfort, and nature, every Ahu Ahu Beach Villa features a cosy seating area with a TV, a kitchen, and a private bathroom with complimentary toiletries.
However, the highlight is undoubtedly the idyllic beach and mountain views, which you can enjoy from your patio or use the gardens.
You’ll find comfortable outdoor furniture, BBQ facilities and beach access all close to hand.
321 Ahu Ahu Road, New Plymouth 4374
Check rates and availability: Ahu Ahu Beach Villas.