By Bachchat staff
Tauranga is blessed with a deep harbour, expanses of stunning beach, the striking volcanic cone of Mauao (Mount Maunganui) and scenic bush and farmland nearby, with the Kaimai mountain ranges to the west. The largest centre in the Bay of Plenty, Tauranga is a growing city with 111,000 people.
The name “Tauranga” means safe anchorage, or resting place. Tauranga Harbour is an impressive attraction in itself, with an idyllic marina sheltering over a thousand yachts and launches, and with ideal conditions for swimming, windsurfing or jet skiing. Chartered trips are available on a yacht or launch, including fishing charters in the internationally renowned deep-sea fishing waters off the coast of Tauranga. Alternatively, choose a half-day adventure and swim with dolphins, whales, seals and other marine wildlife, or kayak around the harbour and glow-worms caves. Sheltered in the harbour, Pilot Bay is a quiet beach perfect for families with small children. There are no waves to bowl little ones over, and the grassy area is great for picnics or fish and chips as the sun sets.
Mauao is the name of the striking volcanic cone at the entrance to the Tauranga harbour, sacred to Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāi Te Rangi and Ngāti Pūkenga. There are easy walking tracks around the base of the mountain which anyone can enjoy. For fitter folk, there is a spectacular view of the coastline from its summit. Mauao is often referred to as “Mount Maunganui”, a name which gets shortened chummily to “The Mount” when referring to the seaside town at its base. On the eastern side of the peninsula the stunning white sand beaches draw crowds for the surf, swimming and sun. Fringed by Phoenix palms, shops and restaurants, “The Mount” is known for beach culture and summer revelry.
Tauranga has interesting historical sites such as Gate Pa, the site of the famous battle between local Maori and the British Colonial Forces; Elmes Mission Station, a group of heritage buildings on Mission Street; Monmouth Redoubt; and Tauranga Historic Village, which features restored colonial buildings.
Tauranga’s art galleries include the Tauranga Gallery, featuring art from both local and international artists; the smaller Art Boutique Gallery, with impressive glass art and sculptures; and the Turner Gallery, which also offers art classes and workshops. “The Cargo Shed” is a vibrant art space and market open on Saturdays and Sundays, handily set next to a fish and chip shop that locals swear by. For music-lovers, Tauranga hits a high note every Easter with the National Jazz Festival, featuring dozens of live acts, great wine and food. For a spot of viticulture, there’s Mills Reef Winery 5 minutes from Tauranga, with cellars, wine-tasting and restaurant in landscaped grounds.
Outstanding parks and gardens are located around Tauranga. Visit Yatton Park, which has a freshwater stream and a walk through native bush; Cascade Fountain Gardens, a popular function venue with its lakes, fountains and native bush; and McLaren Falls Park, which has many scenic walking tracks through native bush and parkland, as well as glowworms at dusk.
Further afield, for something a bit wilder, head 20km out of Tauranga to the Kaimai Mamaku Forest Park, a 37,000ha protected area with a unique mix of semi-coastal forest with alpine plants and rare birdlife; it’s a wonderful area for tramping, hunting and exploring.
If you fancy mountain biking, Oropi Grove has plenty of challenging, forest single tracks. Or there’s Summerhill Recreational Farm, at Welcome Bay. Summerhill offers expansive views, picnic areas, specimen forests, Mongolian Gers, and great single track for mountain bikers as well as challenging trails for all levels of walkers.
Where to stay
What to do
- Climb to the summit of Mt Maunganui
- Go blokarting at Papamoa Beach
- Kayak past the glowworms at dusk in McLaren Falls Park
- Go game fishing at Mayor Island
- Visit White Island, a live marine volcano
- Enjoy a bush walk at Kaiate Falls
- www.bayofplentynz.com - Tourism Bay of Plenty, the Regional Tourism Organisation
- Tauranga region walking tracks (DOC site)
- From Hamilton by road: 106km
- From Rotorua by road: 86km