The name Opunake means the prow of a canoe and springs from the bav or the beach. There never was a Maori settlement at Opunake, although the bay'itself was used as a landing place.
The two chief Maori settlements were at Te Namu to the north and Matakaha on the south headland of the Waiua River to the south. Opunake is the thriving centre of a rich dairying district.
The township itself has a population of 1,811 but this is boosted by over 600 bus pupils during the school year, and by a considerable number of tourists and holiday makers during summer.
The township is situated right on the coast overlooking a magnificent beach-easily the best in Taranaki-and within easy travelling distance of New Plymouth, Hawera and Mt Egmont.
A daily passenger bus service links Opunake with New Plymouth and Hawera, while daily road freight services carry goods to and from New Plymouth, Stratford, Eltham and Hawera. In 1891 a jetty was constructed on the North West headland of Opunake Beach, but plans to develop Opunake as the chief port of Taranaki never came to fruition.
However the remains of the jetty may still be seen. Opunake enjoys a warm and equable climate. On the coast frosts are rare, but further up towards the Mountain quite severe frosts may be experienced. The temperature ranges from about 12°C in winter to about 18°C in summer.
The occasional blustery southerly can bring temperatures tumbling down, but on the whole the temperatures are mild throughout the year and this contributes largely to the virtual year-round growth of pasture.
Rainfall varies from about 45" on the coast up to over 250" at Dawson Falls on Mt Egmont. The climate is therefore a very pleasant and healthy one, with a complete absence of high humidity and atmospheric pollution that make so many other areas unpleasant to live in. The township is a riding of Egmont County which covers an area of 240 square miles and contains a population of 4,340.
The great bulk of the population is connected in some way with the dairy industry, either directly asfarmers, or indirectly in servicing it. In the early days almost every road had its own cheese factory every three or four miles along it, but by today most of these have amalgamated into the large and modern fa tory at Opunake.
In recent years a number of farmers have diversified into beef cattl and horticulture but the dairy cow still reigns supreme.