A Day in Awakeri: Bush Walks and Hot Springs

Whakatane is such a crazy place. Nowhere else in New Zealand have we been to an urbanised area where forests full of wildlife are your next door neighbours. We certainly found that yesterday when hearing kiwi birds at night and where we end up today is just another example.

The White Pine Bush Scenic Reserve

After our railbike tour is cancelled in Awakeri, a small town just outside of Whakatane, we look for something else to do nearby. This results in finding out about the White Pine Bush Reserve, so we take the two-minute drive down State Highway 2 to the roadside reserve.

The wall of wilderness

We are greeted with a bizarre wall of tall-standing trees along with a pretty intense sound of birds. There is also a fence covered in gumboots, but we won’t go too much into detail about that – it is what it is.

Crossing a wooden bridge across a small river, we enter through “the wall” and suddenly feel like we have been transported to the wilderness. All types of bird melodies warble around us in their insane New Zealand way. The only time we have heard birds this loud is in Ulva Island, a bird sanctuary just off Stewart Island. Along with that sound, we’ll get the odd sound of traffic speeding passed on the nearby road. Like we said, it’s so crazy!

You're right, there are not enough gumboots on this fence You're right, there are not enough gumboots on this fence
A wall of wildness! A wall of wildness!
One of the few birds who actual came down from the trees to hang out with us One of the few birds who actual came down from the trees to hang out with us
The stunning white pine forest The stunning white pine forest

Embarking on the unknown track

Usually, a hiking track in a Scenic Reserve in New Zealand would have a sign indicating walking times, but no such thing exists in the White Pine Bush Scenic Reserve. We get walking on a track not knowing how long it is going to take.

Although there are no walking time signs, there are a few interpretation panels about the flora and fauna in the reserve, one of which is the white pine or kahikatea. This is the tall-standing white trees that are making a lot of the other trees in the forest grow taller to compete for sunlight. Way up there in the canopy is where all the bird sounds come from, while we walk below frustrated at not being able to see them! They are just shadows in the canopy to us.

One last attempt to see birds

The unknown-length walking track starts to turn back in a loop pretty abruptly. We find ourselves back at the start within about 15 minutes… That’s awkward. In that case, we take the track again but slowly to increase our chances of seeing birds.

We don’t see any birds… But thanks to our night walk last night, we do notice some insects and spider webs knowing that giant spiders will be nearby. We also find some radioactive orange mushrooms too.

Surrounded by wild native forest and the calls of birds

The Fantail: our saviour!

After a third walk around the track, we conclude that we are not going to see some birds. So Robin goes to take a leak while Laura finds a bit of weird-looking moss to take photos of. In that instance, a fantail flies in from above and dances around Laura landing on all the closest tree branches as if it just wants to be photographed! Amazing! It’s always just a case about waiting in New Zealand when it comes to wildlife.

Feeling satisfied, if maybe a little disappointed that the walk was not longer although we made it longer, we hop back into the car and go onward to our accommodation for this evening, the Awakeri Hot Springs & Holiday Park.

The whole pool to ourselves! The whole pool to ourselves!
Robin gets a hitchhiker Robin gets a hitchhiker
Let's go swimming! Let's go swimming!

The Awakeri Hot Springs

We waste no time chucking our things into the tourist flat, getting our togs (Kiwi for swimwear) on and walking over to the hot springs.

Unlike many of the other hot springs we have visited in New Zealand, Awakeri Hot Springs is actually consists of a large warm swimming pool, a smaller and hotter pool, and some spa pools hidden from the sight of us paupers taking the cheaper option. Although it’s a pretty warm and sunny day here in the Bay of Plenty, stepping into the thermal pool still has that relaxing effect. We don’t think we are going to do much swimming in here.

Hitchhikers and hot stuff

We float, sit and attempt the occasional swim while being hugged in warmth. In one stage of our relaxing time, we are joined by a hitchhiker, some sort of grasshopper, that hops onto Laura’s head then onto Robin’s face. There is a sheltered are of the pool which is welcomed when the heat of the sun combined with the heat of the pool becomes too much.

While there is plenty of space to relax, there is also plenty of space to muck about just like you would in a normal large swimming pool, resulting in some nonsense like pushing each other into the pool, doing handstands… You know, all those things that used to be so much fun as a kid, which we still do as self-respecting adults…

A not-so wild night

There always comes a point in hot pools where the heat gets too much, so we head back to the tourist flat for showers, food and a movie. (Not every night can be a “wild” as last night).

Join us tomorrow where we are ending our time in Whakatane with a bang! Ok, maybe the wrong choice of words, as we will be exploring an active marine volcano at White Island! Join us then!

Laura and Robin

Feeling the heat in the Awakeri Hot Springs
Feeling the heat in the Awakeri Hot Springs Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

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See you tomorrow!

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