Coastal Charm - Spotlight on Oakura


Rob Wright tells the story of his home, Oakura.

- What is your name?

Rob Wright

- Where do you live?

My studio and house is located in rural Oakura, 109 Surrey Hill Road.

- What is the origin of the name ‘Oakura’?

It is Maori for red kura/crayfish or some say it means sunset.
In my time, I have learnt that there are 3 main ways that people pronounce the word Oakura. You can usually tell how long a person has lived in the area by the way they pronounce the name.

- How long have you lived in Oakura and why did you move there?

I have been living here for over 40 years now. I love it because of the consistent surf, it is close to friends and family, plus it was a safe and natural environment to raise my children.
I was also able to set up a large studio in Oakura and still be just a fifteen minute drive away from New Plymouth city.

- Where do you take your visitors when they come to stay?

Mostly we take them to the exposed surf coast along Surf Highway 45, south of Oakura. It is a very special part of New Zealand. You are able to see very large swells from the southern ocean touching the New Zealand coast for the first time at Cape Egmont.

On quiet days, we like head out to Weld Road and Ahu Ahu reef to collect paua.

Another great spot is Koru Pa, just a short drive past my studio on Surrey Hill Road. There you can find a unique bush walk that explores one of New Zealand’s oldest Pa sites. Koru Pa is one of the most intact pa sites in Taranaki. You can spot hand-carved terraces where Maori chiefs would have lived, rua pits where food was stored underground and even dwelling sites where house floors used to be. The native bird song is beautiful in this area and there’s a great swimming spot nearby in the Oakura River - definitely a must see for every visitor.

- What makes you love Oakura?

It is a quiet coastal town with the most consistent surf in Taranaki in my opinion. When the sea breeze is blowing in central New Plymouth, quite often there are very good waves to be had outside the Oakura Beach Holiday Park and the beaches off Ahu Ahu Road and Weld Road.
I also love Oakura because we are very close to New Plymouth and with good access to South Taranaki. You drive home from New Plymouth in fifteen minutes but it feels like you’re escaping on a summer holiday.

- Best thing about your town?

In the years that I have lived here, I have seen our little sleepy coastal town develop into a thriving multicultural hotspot. Back in the day, Oakura was like a holiday town full of baches and surfers, but now we have people from all around the globe settling in and opening up new businesses and adding new flavours. It is fantastic.

- What is the town most well-known for?

It has to be the surf culture and our colourful selection of artists. We were also well-known a few years back for being the home to actor Tom Cruise while he filmed ‘The Last Samurai’ in the region.

- What is the town’s best kept secret? (ie great swimming holes, factory shops etc)

I could never tell that! Some of our walkways are stunning though – you can explore our semi-coastal forest and traverse the Kaitake Ranges by following the Davies Track on Surrey Hill Road. When you get to the peak, follow the Waimoku or Sefton Ridge Track back down to Lucy’s Gully. It is a great day trip and you experience beautiful views of the Taranaki coastline and Mt Taranaki.

- Why do visitors need to come out and visit Oakura?

Oakura is the place to go if you want to feel like you are having a holiday but you don’t want to leave Taranaki. Pack up your surfboards, togs, sunblock, books and your children and head out to Oakura for a day trip. Grab an ice cream from the Oakura 4 Square or a coffee from one of our great cafes while watching the waves and swim between the flags on Oakura beach.

- Tell us what makes your town ‘a little bit out there’? (tell us a quirky fact about your town?)

Oakura is a place where on one side of the road you can find a Yoga class while on the other side there is a live band playing. We also have a lot of artists in residence – so many that we host our own Oakura Arts Trail each year. If you aren’t here when the trail is on, there is a self-guided tour option which can be arranged year-round.

- Name some famous people from your town

Famous artists to successful business men/ women to sporting families our little town has them all!

- Where is the best place to take the kids?

The best spots for swimming are between the flags at Oakura beach or the river at Corbett Park which is always packed with families on a hot day. The playground and skate park next to the Oakura Boardriders Club is a great spot for kids of all ages too.

- Where can I get great coffee?

Oakura is a great place for coffee. High Tide Café on Oakura Beach serves coffee from a refurbished caravan and you sit and enjoy it on a beanbag in the sun. A great place to relax and catch up with old friends and meet new ones.

- Where is a good place to eat?

A fine delicacies shop called Kin and Co opened recently on the main road. On top of lunch options (I can recommend their sandwiches) they have a large selection of European salamis, cheeses and other specialty food.

- What would the ideal day in Oakura look like?

It would start by staying at Ahu Ahu Beach Villas or the Oakura Beach Holiday Park. Wake up really early and go for a long walk – the beach is beautiful at that time of the day. After this, come and visit me at Ringcraft Moana. We provide a range of tours and jewellery making classes so I’d provide an experience to match you. After all this, takeaway fish and chips from Butlers Reef eaten on the beach and swim or surf until the sun goes down.