Tolaga Bay is most famous for its “mile-long” 660m wharf—the tourist icon of the East Cape. While the wharf is scenic, long, picturesque, and dilapidated, this bay offer so much more. How ’bout sandstone cliffs firing at sunset, Cook’s Cove walkway, a viewpoint track from the north beach campsite…and the little-known and remarkable Mitre Rocks and Pourewa Island.
The East Cape’s best walking track leads to Cook’s Cove. (40 minutes one-way.) The track starts with sheep and views, descends through loud bush and pops you out into Holei n - t h e - W a l l ’ s sandstone wonderland and Cook’s Cove scenic inlet. Up the hill you’ll find the historic marker, then out to the cove you can swim into history. Here’s a neat bonus secret though—the sight of Mitre Rocks and Pourewa Island are fantastic, but much better from the ridge above the cove. Another halfhour jaunt hops the gate across from the cove and heads up the grade. At the top climb the ridge, descend to the stock pond then up again to the obvious track on the eastern ridge. Wow, payoff! Quite a sight— Pourewa’s emerald channel flanked by sculpted islands at either end…and a good look at Mitre’s sea arches. Head north on the ridge then angle back down to the cove to make a loop.
Once you’ve seen the Mitre Rocks, you may, like myself, say “I gotta paddle out to see those lovelies up close.” Fortunately, Mike at the campground has kayaks for hire. Here’s what other guidebooks don’t know—the paddle out to Mitre Rocks and around them, then circling Pourewa Island to loop back… may be the funnest paddle I’ve ever had. Anywhere! It’s like combining Cathedral’s cove with Paihia’s hole with Abel’s Tasman…I can’t say enough. On a calm day you’ll paddle along the cliffs, past the Hole, then out to Mitre to weave through more sea arches than you can count. Then swerve through Pourewa’s cluster of isles, channels, and sea stacks and come back through the aquamarine inside passage, maybe stopping at the beach for a little Abel Tasman-like swim. Simply Magnificent! Finally, back under the longest wharf to end the journey. Sweet as! This may be the best uncommercialized stretch of WILD coast that this amazing island has to offer—at least one that few people know about. Pray for a calm day to experience it. Plan for a couple of days around Tolaga Bay to give yourself a chance for calm. When windy explore Anaura’s tracks, Tokamaru’s ruins, or Loisel’s…when calm, rejoice around Pourewa and Mitre.
One more thing.The beach south of the island is named “Wairere.” Go see!