Hooked on the Hokianga

I could write a whole catalogue of clichés to describe the beauty of Omapere and the impact it has had on my life. But, let’s just start with a couple – it’s a beautiful jewel on the Hokianga Harbour, which has totally taken my heart.

“Oma-where, Oma-what. Where the hell is this Omapere?” I remember saying.

I couldn’t believe one of our dearest friends had decided to leave Auckland behind and go to live in some little place I’d never even heard of in Northland. And it took nearly four hours to drive there from Auckland.

“Oh, it’s beside Opononi. Yes, I remember being fascinated by the story of Opo the Dolphin when I was just a little girl. Only 20 minutes or so after Tane Mahuta.”

And so our first visit to Omapere was organised for a weekend in April last year. We had to find out what had compelled our friend to make such a major move.

The road after Dargaville through the Waipoua Forest includes 25 kilometres of tricky twists and turns, but usually the traffic is light there and just 18 kilometres after the great Kauri, you turn a corner and Omapere and Opononi are spread out before you.

As soon as we saw that view, the Hokianga had us. The sun was shining on the golden sand dunes at the Head of the Hokianga Harbour, the water looked azure blue and the old wooden pier added some historic romance.

Omapere and Opononi are joint settlements on the south shore of the Hokianga harbour, which is also known as the Hokianga River – an estuary extending inland for 30 kilometres from the Tasman Sea.  The 2013 Census recorded their combined population as 414.

The surrounding countryside is rugged and wild, while the ambience is totally relaxed. There’s no room for any pretentious prattle there and you don’t need make-up or fancy threads – it is just so completely laidback.

My husband had always wanted a house with good views of the sea and I had always wanted to do up an old wooden villa. By sheer luck, we managed to get both in one house in Omapere – right next to the house our friend is renovating.

We won’t move out of Auckland, but I think we will be spending more and more time up in Omapere. It’s a very caring community – the locals are constantly offering home-grown fruit and vegetables and mouth-wateringly fresh seafood. On our last visit we were treated to kahawhai and kingfish that had just been caught that day and smoked at our friend’s home. Along with some Dargaville kumara, it was a magical meal.

If you miss your Ponsonby Road coffees, there is an excellent coffee shop, The Landing Café at Opononi or you can enjoy the old world elegance of Omapere’s Copthorne Hotel. I’d also heard that Opononi Beach Takeaways had an excellent reputation and enjoyed a picnic on the beach – with their superb fish and chips.

As we lurch into retirement, we have a wonderful project to focus on in a place I knew nothing about until last year. The renovations might take a while, but we will enjoy every day we spend on the Hokianga.

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