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Recently a couple of us Gizzy Local crew were having a chat, peering into a very murky crystal ball, trying to imagine how things might pan out for us all out here out East, this summer.  

We were delighted when through the haze we perceived a sparkly lapping tide, the faint sound of a coffee grinder beneath some lively summery tunes.  “Aha” we thought “It’s all going to be okay!” 

When uncertain times make it difficult to plan a faraway holiday, it’s a great relief to know that a wonderful staycation option awaits, just over the Makorori hill.

Tatapouri Bay.  Anyone who’s had their eye on local social media or who has ventured beyond the Tatapouri boat ramp over the past couple of years will know that the Tatapouri campground has undergone some tremendous transformations lately. The humans behind it all? Nathan Foon and Shanti Probst.

Shanti and Nathan met at Massey University in Wellington about thirteen years ago, Shanti studying Industrial design and Nathan, Visual Communication Design. After graduating they travelled together and had ended up in Auckland with Nathan working as a graphic designer for the television and film industry, which he loved. 

Shanti had taken some time off work as she kept experiencing vertigo and dizziness. Nathan was surprised to learn that his dad Meng had invested in the Tatapouri campground after selling the Kaiti Mall, but seeing an opportunity to get a branding project on his design portfolio, they headed back to Gizzy for the summer. They thought they’d check the place out and lend a hand, and then soon return to their lives in Auckland.

Nathan started out on the branding and website for the campground but soon realised that a swish-looking sticking plaster wasn’t going to cut it. So Nathan and Shanti proceeded to get stuck in, planting, painting, and coming up with simple ideas on how to inject some life into the place.

When they realised that Shanti’s health was improving with the outdoor work and as the potential of the place began to dawn on them they eventually decided to take the opportunity to take the ball and run with it. And while it was a big decision to not return to their previous life, their imaginations were bursting with inspiration from cool cafes, accommodation and restaurants that they’d visited all over the world, helping them form their ideas about the kind of space and experience they could create at Tatapouri Bay.

On their way home to Gisborne they had taken a short holiday in Raglan, staying at campground, venue and cafe Solscape, and it was this last pocket of homegrown inspiration, which has really helped the couple hone their vision of a community-focused, inclusive space with different price points and accommodation options; a place where you can gather, stay, eat or play, for both locals and travelers alike. 

Tatapouri Bay really does provide us with an easy getaway when you want to do something or go somewhere special, whether for a whole weekend or even just a few hours, and this Labour Weekend the crew will be emerging from their winter hibernation with the oceanside cafe opening up its doors for summer good times. 

This year bagels will be joining the menu alongside coffee, baked treats and ice cream and this weekend also marks the return of sunrise yoga sessions, which run every Saturday and Sunday morning throughout the summer season.

While it is known as a campground, Tatapouri Bay has evolved into a gathering space for tourists and locals alike, with people flocking to the Bay for a coffee, yoga class, ‘Sunday session’ of live music, or just good vibes in general. 

Nathan and Shanti have done very little hibernating themselves over winter and this year a new covered outdoor space will provide a sheltered venue for community events and workshops with artists and wellness practitioners, and some sparkling new accomodation options have also joined the ranks. 

Accommodation at Tatapouri Bay ranges from the newly completed super luxe Zen cabins, to furnished glamping tents, to campsites. In addition to finishing the Zen cabins, the Tatapouri team spent their off-season performing a general upgrade of all the facilities.  There’s a new outdoor kitchen for the glamping area, and refined landscaping all over the property.  Shanti emphasizes the work has a distinctly personal touch “We’ve poured everything into it, every little corner has had time spent on it, or has a story around someone who came in and put their energy into it.”

The team feels lucky that they haven’t felt the impact of restrictions on travel, as the majority of their market is local and regional. Nathan observes that even travelers from farther afield are looking for a “local experience” rather than the “touristy things” typically marketed to international tourists.

That local experience is provided and celebrated throughout Tatapouri’s offerings. Exterior walls are adorned with murals by local artists, yoga classes are provided by a rotation of local teachers, and the cafe sources its coffee and baking from the Far East Coffee Co. and Curbside Kitchen. And the team has hopes for hosting bigger events in collaboration with other Gizzy businesses throughout summer.

Nathan and Shanti are starting to see the best testament to their efforts – it’s increasingly common for guests to want to extend their stay, “they don’t want to leave!” 

Beyond the incredible view and the outstanding hospitality, there seems to be an intangible element to Tatapouri’s appeal.  As Nathan puts it “This place just has a really good energy.  That’s exactly what we were trying to achieve and it’s the locals who help us hold that.”

Story by Victoria Williams & Sarah Cleave
Images supplied.

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