Where can you stand on an active volcano, swim with dolphins and catch a marlin, all in one place? Offshore from Whakatane, in the Bay of Plenty.

It’s strange but true. The warm waters of the Bay are a rich natural resource. New Zealand’s only active marine volcano, White Island is surrounded by big game fishing grounds. Captain Cook named the Island for its billowing plumes of white ash.

White Island is voted the most exciting trip by visitors to Whakatane. It’s a mind-blowing experience to walk on a live volcano with lunar landscapes. You have a choice of helicopter or boat trips. Registered guides escort you around the island and provide an interesting commentary. The seabirds are not phased by the fire and brimstone around the crater and the island teems with bird life.

Whakatane, on the Pacific Coast Highway tourist route from Auckland, is one of the sunniest places in the country. The locals call it the ‘Big Little Town’, that is a town small in numbers but big in attitude. The town’s main activity focus is eco-tours and blue-water adventures. Charter and cruise boats leave daily for recreational fishing, diving, game fishing, volcano watching and swimming with dolphins.

Activities on land are not overlooked in this progressive town. There is the interesting Town Centre Walk and also the Footsteps of Toi, which lead to a lookout with panoramic views. Whakatane’s shopping facilities are excellent and the visitor centre, Museum and Gallery in Boon Street are well worth a visit.

Trout fishing is popular on many local rivers. Jet boating and white water rafting trips take on the mighty Motu as well as several other rivers with plunging gorges and exciting rapids. Rock climbing, tramping, mountain biking and sea kayaking are on tap, with or without guides.

Ohope Beach is a lively place along the coast, with casual resort-style eateries and bars. It is one of New Zealand’s premier swimming and surfing locations. This is not surprising as the eastern Bay of Plenty has one of the most benign climates in New Zealand.

Whakatane is a ‘Big Little Town’ which is jam-packed with new experiences.