Whitianga's big attractions are the sandy beaches of Mercury Bay and the diving, boating and kayaking opportunities afforded by the craggy coast and nearby Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve. The pretty harbour is a renowned base for game-fishing (especially marlin and tuna, particularly between January and March). There are numerous charters on offer for would-be boaties, starting at around $500 and heading into the thousands. If you snag an overfished species, consider releasing your catch.
A genuine nautical hero, the legendary Polynesian explorer and seafarer Kupe, is believed to have landed near here sometime around AD 950. The name Whitianga is a contraction of Te Whitianga a Kupe (the Crossing Place of Kupe).