New Zealand’s fifth-largest city, booming Tauranga is an increasingly popular place to live and vacation and it is easy to see why. Set in a scenic spot on the Bay of Plenty, it has stunning coastal scenery to explore alongside iconic Mount Maunganui.
While the natural riches offer up an extensive array of things to do in Tauranga, the bustling port town also has a handful of interesting historic tourist attractions and art galleries. In addition, its suburbs of Papamoa and Mt Maunganui are home to a host of great bars, restaurants and boutiques that attract both local and international tourists alike.
With splendid sunbathing, swimming and surfing to be had, Tauranga is not to be missed when traveling around the North Island.
12. Te Puna Quarry Park
Once a bit of an eyesore, the abandoned Te Puna Quarry has now been transformed into one of the city’s most beautiful and unique parks thanks to the hard work of a dedicated group of volunteers. Over the decades, they planted groves of trees and colorful flower beds with old mining equipment and phenomenal public artworks also dotted about the lush gardens.
Nestled amidst the rolling Minden Hills to the west of town, the peaceful park now has everything from irises, cacti and succulents with a bonsai corner and butterfly garden also on offer.
While plenty of striking sculptures can be spied alongside its weaving paths, the undoubted highlight has to be its enormous artwork of a grinning dragon. With countless concerts, community events and festivals also taking place, Te Puna Quarry Park definitely warrants a visit.
11. White Island
White Island is home to New Zealand’s most active maritime volcano. Situated about fifty kilometers off the Bay of Plenty coastline, its smoking crater and arresting lunar landscapes can only be reached by unforgettable but expensive aerial tours that take you above the vast stratovolcano to see all its steaming vents, boiling mud-pits and dramatic lava-scarred terrain.
With knowledgeable guides on-hand, you’ll learn all about its frequent volcanic activity. On top of this, dolphins, flying-fish, seals and seabirds are often sighted on the approach to the isolated isle.
10. Tauranga Art Gallery
Back in the center of town is the Tauranga Art Gallery which boasts all kinds of amazing artworks and exhibits. Now located in the former Bank of New Zealand building, its light and airy galleries are a treat to peruse with magnificent paintings, photos and sculptures wherever you look.
First opened to the public in 2007, Tauranga’s pre-eminent art gallery now displays a fine collection of thought-provoking works by both local and international artists. Set over two levels are around 500 art pieces for visitors to enjoy with incredible landscapes and portraits exhibited next to captivating contemporary art and video installations.
In addition to all its permanent exhibitions, the gallery also puts on plenty of talks, classes and temporary exhibits during the year.
9. The Elms
Not far from the art gallery you can find yet another of Tauranga’s top tourist attractions which is also one of New Zealand’s oldest heritage sites. Still central to Tauranga’s history and identity, The Elms is an interesting and important place to visit with the atmospheric old mission surrounded by gorgeous grounds and gardens.
Lying towards the northern tip of the Te Papa peninsula, the missionary station was founded in 1838 with it now home to some of the Bay of Plenty’s earliest buildings. At the pretty property, guests can see centuries-old artifacts and hear all about the lives of the early settlers and their first contact and conversion attempts with the local Maori.
After having taken in all the fetching antiques and architecture, you can stroll around its expertly manicured lawns and gardens.
8. Waihi Beach
Although it lies almost an hour’s drive north up the coast, Waihi Beach is well worth checking out if you are after some sun, sea, sand and surf. Stretching 10 kilometers in length, the charming coastal town’s main beach is the ideal place to relax and unwind or enjoy some awesome outdoor activities.
Located on the west side of the Bay of Plenty, its warm and welcoming white sands face the almost endless open waters of the South Pacific Ocean. Renowned for being home to one of the safest surf breaks in the country, it also has a small sheltered bay where you can swim and splash about.
Aside from lounging on the beach and basking in its divine views, there are also countless boutique shops and excellent eateries to try in town.
7. Te Puke
Marketing itself as the ‘Kiwifruit Capital of the World’, the sun-kissed town of Te Puke can be found just twenty minutes’ drive east of Tauranga. Thanks to its warm climate and fertile volcanic soils, it has long been famous for its fresh fruit and produce.
Offering up a perfect snapshot of rural life in New Zealand, the horticultural hub is set just a short distance inland from the Bay of Plenty. While many visit Te Puke to try delicious honey, kiwis and avocados at either its cafes and restaurants or on the surrounding farms, some splendid walks and outdoor activities can also be enjoyed in the nearby bush, beaches and countryside.
6. Papamoa Beach
Due to its proximity to the center, its wonderful white sands and ample outdoor activities, Papamoa Beach has long been a favorite haunt of locals and tourists alike. One of the city’s fastest growing suburbs, it has superb sunbathing, swimming and surfing to enjoy with brilliant shopping and dining options also on offer.
In total, it has sixteen kilometers of pristine beaches for visitors to explore with the nearby Papamoa Hills Regional Park boasting stupendous views over the Bay of Plenty from its lofty summit. While the remains of old Maori fortified villages can be spied amidst the rolling hills, a whole host of cosy coffee shops, happening brunch spots and unique stores can be found nearer the beach.
5. Kaiate Falls
Tucked away in a scenic yet secluded spot just twenty minutes’ drive southeast of the city are the majestic, multi-tiered Kaiate Falls. Tumbling their way down three craggy cliff faces, the small series of waterfalls certainly make for a stunning sight with lush vegetation lying all around them.
Also known as Te Rerekawau in Maori, the fantastic falls tower to a total height of around twenty-five meters with picturesque trails taking you up above and alongside them. As well as snapping photos of their jet white waters and enjoying the spectacular scenery, you can also plunge into the deep pool at the foot of the falls.
As they lie along the same route, you can easily combine a visit to Kaiate Falls with a stop at Te Puke.
4. Mt Maunganui Beach
As it is often included on lists of the best beaches in New Zealand, the picture-perfect Mt Maunganui Beach is definitely not to be missed when in town. While its blindingly white sands are perfect for lounging on lazily or playing a fun game of volleyball, the beach also has a reputation for being the hottest surf destination in New Zealand with national contests taking place each year.
Now connected to the city’s CBD by a bridge, the popular suburb is located atop a long sandbar and is named after the large lava dome which rises dramatically above it. From the soaring summit of the mount, you can enjoy sublime panoramas over both the Bay of Plenty and the beach and all the bustling businesses that line its shores.
3. Waimarino Kayak Tour
When visiting Tauranga, one of the best ways to explore both the city and its surroundings is to go on an epic Waimarino Kayak Tour around the area’s idyllic waterways. While paddling about, you’ll get to enjoy spellbinding scenery with professional guides on-hand to teach you all about the various landscapes and wildlife you come across.
Since the 1970s, several companies have taken keen kayakers all around the Bay of Plenty with other tour options including Lake McLaren, Lake Rotoiti and the Wairoa River. While it is certain to be a fun experience for all ages and abilities, arguably the most memorable tours take place during the evening.
This is when you glide across the calm and quiet surfaces of the lakes beneath the stars and enter the enchanting glow worm canyon which is lit up by thousands of little lights.
2. McLaren Falls Park
An absolute treat to explore, the lovely landscapes, scenery and nature of McLaren Falls Park lie just twenty minutes’ drive south of the center. Besides boasting one of the best botanical collections in the country, it has a long and peaceful lakeshore for you to enjoy with countless outdoor activities on offer.
Named after the glittering waterfall that is located at the entrance, the park has vast sections of both native and exotic trees to amble through with pretty plants and flowers on show wherever you look. Asides from taking in all the fabulous flora, visitors can fish or kayak out on the lake, picnic along its shores or camp overnight and see the glow worms spark up as dusk falls.
1. Mount Maunganui Summit Track
For the best and most breathtaking views imaginable over Tauranga and the Bay of the Plenty, make sure to head to the top of the magnificent Mount Maunganui. Overlooking the beautiful beach of the same name, it lies just north of the city’s CBD with a scenic trail taking you right up to its summit.
The long-extinct lava dome dominates its surroundings with various tracks and trails winding their way up the side of the steep mount. In less than an hour, you can find yourself atop its lofty summit, basking in its 360 degree panoramas.
As the volcano’s name means ‘caught by dawn’ in Maori, it is well worth timing your ascent to coincide with either sunrise or sunset which is when the whole coastline is coated in the most majestic shades and hues.