Ohiwa Harbour offers wonderful paddling, with plenty of beaches to stop for a rest. There’s plenty of open paddling around high tide. Around low tide, there’s less choice but the channels are easier to follow and it’s easier to spot birdlife. Especially on an outgoing tide, the places you can paddle change very quickly.
There are five main islands: Uretara, Ohakana, Hokianga and Pataua. Uretara is administered by the Department of Conservation (DoC). You are welcome to explore this lovely pohutukawa-edged island, though not to camp or light fires.
A great fine-day family paddle is to set off from Ohope Wharf about 60-90 minutes before high tide. Paddle up the harbour (heading west) towards Ohakana and around the back of the island, where there are again overhanging Pohutukawa.
Continue past the racks of growing Ohiwa Oyster Farm oysters and start heading back east. You’ll pass by a small island with yellow sandstone cliffs. Gulls, terns and shags roost here so don’t land, but it’s a neat spot to pause for a rest.
Keep going around Ohakana and you’ll soon be able to see Ohope Wharf again. Head home, hopefully by now with a following tide.
If you’d like an experienced guide, or you don’t have kayaks of your own, this is one of many Ohiwa harbour paddles offered by KG Kayaks.
Experienced paddlers 45-60 minutes; families 2-3 hours.
At high tide you can paddle up to Ohiwa Oyster Farm, which sells great seafood and other takeaways. At Ohope Wharf, there’s safe parking, a café and toilets. You can launch from the wharf even at low tide.
You can paddle most of Ohiwa harbour in the two hours either side of full tide. A great trip for experienced paddlers is to start at Ohope Wharf and paddle around Ohakana. Then head around the back of Uretara, passing through a narrow channel between island and mainland. Next go around Hokianga, and back up the main harbour channel to the wharf. This takes an experienced paddler in a fast boat around 2-3 hours.
Unless you are experienced, stay away from the harbour mouth in an outgoing tide. Ohiwa tides may well flow faster than you can paddle. Stay alert to boats and in summer keep out of the water-ski lane, east of Ohope Wharf.
The harbour can get very choppy, especially in the main channels, so stay alert to the weather. Please do not land on islands other than Uretara as they are privately owned or managed. And please, stay away from birds and nesting areas, as many species are rare or endangered.