The Bay of Plenty lives up to its name, with a great sweep of beautiful coastline, perfect for fishing, swimming, and all the seaside pursuits of the classic Kiwi beach holiday.
Then there’s the buzzing coastal city of Tauranga, for shopping, cafes and activities, beside a beautiful harbour. Inland, Rotorua lives up to its reputation as a holiday mecca, with all manner of attractions, sights and experiences, set in a landscape of serene lakes and steaming thermal wonders.
Western Bay of Plenty
Waihi Beach unfurls along 9kms of perfect white sand, with the glittering waves offering up a safe surf break and great fishing. There are also excellent bush and coastal walks in the area. From the northern end of Waihi Beach you can hike 45minutes to beautiful Orokawa Bay, where you can picnic beneath phohutukawa trees. Or for a longer hike, and a glimpse into the kauri logging past, try the Waitawheta Tramway. The Karangahake Gorge is fantastic for walking or biking, with relics from the gold-mining days, tunnels, suspension bridges and a scenic trail beside the river. At the end of a long day cycling, surfing or walking, you could soak in the geothermal pools at Athenree.
Mount Maunganui is famous for beautiful beaches and summer revelry. Climb Mt Maunganui, or Mauao, as its also known, and you’ll feel virtuous and get amazing views. Afterwards you could soak in the hot salt water pools at the base, or head to one of the many restaurants and cafes in the vicinity. Mt Maunganui sits on the eastern edge of Tauranga City, so all the shops, cafes and attractions of this seaside city are right there if you tire of relaxing on the white sands and besporting yourself in the waves. The long, white beaches continue down the coast, with Papamoa being a popular spot, especially if you feel like giving blokarting a go.
With drifting steam, bubbling mud and spouting geysers, Rotorua is a brooding, excitingly active geothermal landscape. It’s been drawing tourists since the nineteenth century. The eruption of Mount Tarawera in 1886 put paid to the Pink and White Terraces that were once the major drawcard, but a plethora of other tourist attractions have sprung up. The tradition of Maori cultural performance, hospitality and guiding remains, with many Maori cultural experiences on offer from local Te Arawa people. There are also loads of activities to thrill or amuse, from animal parks, adrenaline rides, to kiwi classics like the Agrodome. The beautiful natural environment of Rotorua, with its serene lakes and native forest, is perfect for anyone who enjoys fishing, kayaking, mountain-biking or hitting the trails. The mountain-bike trails through the Whakarewarewa Forest are superb - many people would rate this as their favourite place to bike in NZ. There are also downhill trails accessed by gondola at Skyline Rotorua. With 19 hot springs in the Rotorua area alone, you can choose to soak in a luxury spa, or natural spring in bush surrounds.
“NZ’s Sunshine Capital”, Whakatane District clocked the most hours of sunshine in 2012, while Ohope has been voted NZ’s Best Beach. Sounds like a good reason to take your togs and spread out a towel. The beautiful coast around Whakatane is a great place to give surfing a shot. There are good breaks along the Matata Coast, and waves at West End on Ohope Beach, and the Whakatane Heads. The Ohiwa Harbour is a good place for fishing, bird-watching, water-skiing and kayaking. Or head out on a boat: there are fishing charters, whale-watching, seal and dolphin encounters on offer. You could head off on a dive trip to Whaakari, White Island, New Zealand’s only active marine volcano. If you don’t like getting wet try a helicopter flight out to White Island instead, or take a horse trek to get a different view of the coast and off-shore islands. There are great walks in the area, discovering native forest, or Maori historical sites. Experience a Maori marae at Mataatua Wharenui, NZ’s most travelled meeting house, a treasure of the Ngāti Awa tribe of Whakatāne. Children might like the River Edge Park Miniature Railway, (runs Sundays in the holidays, near the skate park), the Awakeri Hot springs or the Whakatane District aquatic centre. At Julian’s Berry Farm there’s a playground for the kiddiwinks, as well as ice-creams and animals, and berry-picking in season. Take a mountain bike and try the trails at Rawhiti MTB Park or the Whirinaki Forest tracks. Or try 18 holes at Ohope International Golf Course, set scenically with views of the ocean and Ohiwa harbour.
Bookabach/33304 Waiotahi Beach and Estuary, Opotiki
Opotiki is the northern gateway to the East Cape. There are lovely beaches within easy reach. Gardeners, botanists, or anyone keen on a gentle stroll amongst greenery, should walk through Hukutaia Domain, a native bush remnant with a great collection of native plants. If you’re peckish, Two Fish Cafe gets great reviews for its coffee and food. Opotiki Museum is in the main street, and there is a skate park in Potts Avenue. Mountain-bikers should try the Motu Trails, part of the NZ Cycleway.
- www.bayofplentynz.com - Bay of Plenty’s tourist information site
- www.nzhotpools.co.nz - Hot pools in the Bay of Plenty area
- www.waihibeachinfo.co.nz - Waihi Beach information site
- www.doc.govt.nz - Tracks and walks in the Bay of Plenty
- www.nzcycletrail.com - Geothermal bike ride
- www.taurangafarmersmarket.co.nz - Tauranga Farmers’ Markets
- www.whakatane.com - Whakatane attractions and activities
- www.mataatua.com/cultural-experience - Mataatua Marae Experience
- www.opotikinz.com - Opotiki sights and activities
- www.nzcycletrail.com - Motu Trails