There are so many fun things to do in Tauranga and Mt Maunganui that you just can’t miss when you visit.
Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty is Auckland’s most favourite destination when it comes to beach holidays. And rightly so. Together with Mount Maunganui it offers the package: Tauranga has everything a city needs to offer and things to do in Mount Maunganui, which is only a 5 minute’s drive away, consist of an eternally long beach that’s perfect for any kind of water sports and lots of bars and restaurants.
Most of the things we tried out when we spent a weekend in Mount Maunganui, and it's lovely even in the pouring rain!
Fun things to do in Tauranga and Mount Maunganui
Visit the Tauranga Art Gallery
Entry at the art gallery is free, so even on a tight budget you can enjoy the changing exhibitions. If you liked what you saw in the exhibition, you can always make a donation to the gallery, either directly at the entrance or online a little later.
Mount Maunganui walk for sunrise or sunset
If you’re lucky and the weather is nice, make sure you get up early enough to tackle the Mount Maunganui summit walk in time to see the sunrise from the top. How long does it take to walk up Mount Maunganui, you wonder? It should take you about 30 minutes with moderate fitness. If you stop to marvel at the view in between (or catch your breath), calculate a little longer.
Take a torch or headlamp with you as there are no lights on the way up and some of the path goes through dark forest. Also, don’t forget to bring a picnic blanket and a thermos bottle of tea to really enjoy the sunrise in style. And, another must-bring: your CAMERA, of course!
If you’re not much of an early-riser, fear not. Sunset on Mount Maunganui summit is just as nice, only a little busier.
Base walk around Mt. Maunganui
The base walk around Mount Maunganui is another lovely path. It’s all nice and mostly even and about 3.5km long. If you’re lucky you can watch Mt. Maunganui’s resident seal, Oscar, playing in the waves or sleeping on the rocks.
Soak in the Mount Maunganui Hot Pools
This is especially nice if the weather doesn’t quite play along with your beach-swimming-plans. The Mount Hot Pools make for a relaxing couple of hours where all you do is soak in the lovely warm water and change pools every now and then. There is a splash pool for the kids, a passive pool and the small pools on the side that seem to be mainly for adults, even though it doesn’t explicitly say it. If you’re staying at the Beachside Holiday Park next door, you’ll even get 50% off the entry price!
Surfing Mount Maunganui
Surfing is one of the most popular Mt Maunganui things to do. The Mount is an awesome and famous spot for surfing. Why not hire a board or join a beginner surf lesson and find out for yourself.
If surfing isn’t your thing, a swim might be just what you need. The cool thing about Mt. Maunganui is, you can go play in the waves or choose calmer waters for an actual swim. If you’re like Chris, you’ll definitely enjoy the big waves on the main beach. Should you be like me and prefer the calm waters, just head over to Pilot Bay on the other side of the peninsula (It’s not even a 5 minutes walk)
Walk to the Blow Hole on Moturiki Island
Looking at Moturiki Island, you wouldn’t believe that once upon a time, the island first housed an aquarium and later a water park. Since then, the island has reverted back to its natural state.
The walk to the blowhole at the end of the little island is quick and easy. You can cross over to the island via the sandbank from the beach. It takes about 10 minutes to walk to the end, where the blowhole is the most impressive during high tide.
Walk or bike Waikareao Estuary
If you have about 2 hours to spare it’s well worth to walk the 9km around the Tauranga Waikareao Estuary. It will take you along the estuary at first, then through a more forestry area to a wooden walkway on stilts through the wetlands. This section is especially nice if you like to observe birds and other small wildlife that lives in this tidal zone. If you’re on bikes, it’s an easy ride on even grounds.
Cycle trails around Tauranga
There is a large cycling network in and around Tauranga City. You can easily discover the whole area by bike. Signs are telling you whether you’re still on the right path, all you need is to follow them.
Eat your way through Tauranga
There is definitely no shortage of restaurants in Tauranga and Mount Maunganui. Both places have an abundance of restaurants, from pubs to fine dining. The choice is all yours.
Where to go at night: Astrolabe Mount Maunganui
There are certainly many places to go at night in Mt Maunganui, but I really liked Astrolabe Brew Bar. The decoration consists of weird and wonderful things. One bar is made up like an old ship, it has a retro caravan in the garden and everything is very colourful. There is live music and on weekend nights the bar turns into one big party place.
Disc Golf McLaren Falls Park
McLaren Falls Park is a little outside of Tauranga (approx. 20 minutes drive) and is great for a swim in the man-made lake and a walk. But it’s also really cool for disc golf. The course is a full 18 baskets to play and you’ll have to bring your own discs (yes, plural. It’s very likely you might lose one or the other frisbee in the woods) as there is no rental place.
Also, don’t forget to stop and climb around the McLaren Falls (water height permitting, of course)
Night kayak to the glow worms
Kayaking on Lake McLaren is a very safe thing to do. It gets more thrilling at night, though, when you glide through the darkness. Your guide will lead you to the spots where you get to marvel at the magical light of the glowworms.
Mossops Honey Shop
On the way to McLaren Falls Park. Make sure you make a short stop at Mossops Honey shop. Not just because of the yummy honey and skin products you can buy there but mostly because of the live bee display. See what it looks like in a real beehive, how the bee colony works and try to spot the queen in each hive. There is also loads of information about the little insects that are so important for life on earth
Fly to White Island
Flying to White Island, an active marine volcano in the Bay Of Plenty, is definitely one of the awesome Tauranga things to do. The flight to White Island from Tauranga takes about 30 minutes. You will then land on the volcano and walk around this awesome otherworldly island while your pilot shows you around.
Climb the Wairere Falls
The Wairere Falls can be found about an hour outside of Tauranga, near Matamata (where Hobbiton is). It’s quite a steep climb up and involves a lot of stairs, Don’t be tempted to turn around at the waterfall view point. The view from the top of the waterfall over the flat area of Matamata (or should we say the Shire) is totally worth the effort. Be careful while taking pictures at the edge of the waterfall, it is a whopping 153 meters high!
On your way down the Wairere Falls Track you have the possibility of taking an ancient maori path. It’s an extremely steep path and unless you have a sense of adventure I don’t advise you to go down this path.
Find even more things to do in Tauranga:
Mount Maunganui accommodation:
What is your favourite activity in Tauranga and Mount Maunganui? What did we forget to mention? Let us know in the comments below!
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This article was originally posted in November 17 and got updated in March 19