A new lease of life at Tatapouri
Tatapouri Bay is quickly becoming a destination rather than a stop-off on journeys around the East Coast.
The coastal campground run by Nathan Foon and Shanti Probst now touts their cafe “The Tata” — named in honour of the Tatapouri Hotel that graced the site for decades.
The old hotel had seen more than its fair share of accident, earthquake and mishap. It was hit by a tsunami in 1947 and turned to ash when a fire ended the hotel's life in 1996.
“Gizzy locals used to come when it was the Tatapouri Hotel,” says Nathan.
“It was a space for community, it was a space where locals got to come out and enjoy the afternoon: we're trying to recreate that and let people have that space.”
Nathan and Shanti — self-described “camp mum and dad” — took over the campground in April 2019, after moving back to Gisborne.
With their first summer under their belt, the goal now is to turn their humming business into a thriving community.
Accommodation is their main attraction. Travellers and locals alike can wake up to the sound of waves and the morning light in camping sites, glamping tents or cabins.
Wanting to put community at the heart of the business, they built a cafe to offer coffee and warm baking for surfers, day-trippers and campers, and add to the campground's gravitational pull.
Located right in front of the water, they pour coffee made with Far East Coffee Co beans and serve baked goods from Curbside Kitchen.
“We just have things in that we love. We've made it into a place we would want to go to in Gisborne. We wanted to make it a destination spot — we have all this beautiful coastline but where is a place you can go to that's 10 or 15 minutes away?” said Nathan.
Shanti agreed, “I think Napier and Hastings do destinations well. They've got little churches and things that are done up that have well-developed concepts. So people make an effort to visit these spots and it creates a nice culture — I guess that's what we're trying to do: just making it a nice hangout spot.”
The cafe opened last summer serving their captive market of campers, and they were busy. But once summertime campers began to dwindle, they had to refocus.
“Then some of the locals started finding out about it and it was this hidden spot. We didn't have any signs or anything — only our Instagram. It just started to grow by word of mouth.”
The pair said Joe Williams from Trust Tairawhiti had been a huge help: “He's got all this amazing experience from Melbourne setting up venues and bars, so we went to him for advice.”
Williams advised them to condense their opening hours and focus on drawing people in a few days, rather than spreading themselves thin.
The focus on the Gisborne community has been a big motivator for them. They were blown away by the support and have made sure their suppliers are local where possible.
The latest addition to the campground has been sunrise yoga. Anyone can pop to the campground for morning yoga at 6.45am both Saturday and Sunday, with the $10 charge going straight to the instructor. The pair say they are more concerned with building a long-term community space with activities on offer, rather than turning a quick profit.
The cafe is just phase one. They plan to build up the space to bigger and better things, with a permanent food truck to complement the cafe, and an event space for music — bringing back the hospitality locals used to enjoy at the Tatapouri Hotel.