Welcome to the Bay of Plenty!
Plenty of outdoors adventures that is for sure; from the iconic Mount Maunganui to the golden sands of Papamoa Beach or the isolated beauty and grandeur of McLarens Falls, this area of New Zealand is a must do for travellers, photographers and families alike. Join me on this discovery of highlights from the Bay that are secrets known to locals rather than tourist hotspots!
Spectacular glow worms for free!
Explore the Great Outdoors at McLaren Falls Park. This is a huge park with natural features including serene lakes, powerful waterfalls, thousands of tree species and the magic of glow worms after dark. Yes, glow worms! These tiny creatures emit tiny pinpricks of light after dusk to attract tiny insects into their sticky fishing line webs. Park maps are available at the entranceway visitors centre; you need to follow the waterfall track to see the glow worms. The gates close for park entry before dusk so check times on the link below. Automatic gates will let you out later though! The quickest walking route to the main glow worm overhangs is to take the bridge first, you can follow the loop track if you want to kill time until it’s really dark. Take a torch but minimise using it so allow your night vision to kick in. These mossy overhangs in amongst native ferns are home to the most spectacular array of glow worms – in my opinion rivalling that of Waitomo Caves.
Omokoroa Mineral Hot Pools
Tauranga is home to many hot pools including the Mount Hot Pools (salt water pools and spas), Fernland Spa (a delicious tropical setting for a night time soak) and Oropi Hot Pools ( nice for a relaxing swim with friends and family). Our favourite place to swim is the Omokoroa Hot Pools. These pools are located at the Omokoroa Kiwi Holiday Park. The natural spring waters are alkaline and contain silica and other minerals that unwind any muscle aches and leave your skin silky soft. The Holiday Park is a great place to stay for families!
Turama Ahi Pottery
Here is a different family activity! Creating your own sculptures from clay, squishing the sticky grey lump into an artistic form or coaxing a smooth glistening vessel on the wheel really brings your creative side out. Following your work of art from creation to firing, to selecting from the myriad of colours for the glaze and lastly seeing the final product. Tuition is given for those new to the process – classes are limited so please book first. This pottery is located between Waihi and Katikati.
Fergusson Park and cycleway/walkway
Fergusson Park is always a flurry of activity and events. It is a popular place for kayakers when it is not windy, and kite surfers for when it is. Overnight campers wake to a sunrise over the harbour. In springtime, you may be lucky enough to see Orcas cruising past, eating the baby stingrays they find. The kite festival held on Queens Birthday is a spectacular visual feast of flying art! A favourite activity is to cycle or walk from here to Sulphur Point and the Nautilus Restaurant (see dining recommendations below) or if you are feeling keen continue on over the Tauranga Harbour Bridge all the way to the Mount.
Only for the adventurous: High Ropes and Water Action
For those who love the great outdoors: the Waimarino Adventure Park if you like getting wet, and the Adrenaline Forest high ropes course if you are not afraid of heights!
- Waimarino has a range of activities including kayaks, pedal boats, Blob catapults and waterslides. Take a picnic for the day, wetsuits can be hired if you don’t own one – the water can be cold!
- Adrenaline Forest brings out the monkey in everyone! A quick training course to familiarise you with the harness and zip line, then you are off climbing and swinging in the trees. Each trail builds on the previous one so you develop your skills for the trickier obstacles until you find yourself on a flying fox waaaaay up off the ground!
Best places for eating out in Tauranga and The Mount.
There is definitely no shortage of places to eat out in Tauranga. Choose from live music at Mount Maunganui pubs to restaurants along the Strand or from a plethora of cafes and takeaways. Here’s are some favourites recommended by locals:
The Pizza Library and Vaudeville Bar.
Unique decor and definitely amazing Pizzas! Best eaten outside on the theatre seating, or indoors at Vaudeville the (bar next door) where the barman will whip up some amazing cocktails at your request. A load of fun!
Great coffee, an all day breakfast and casual cafe dining, combined with spectacular views of the harbour. Watch the comings and goings at the Sulphur Point jetty, and see the forklifts move launches from the water up into the boat park. Conveniently located on the cycleway from Fergusson Park!
Fine dining in Tauranga. A classy atmosphere right down on the waterfront where you can see the fish swim up to the restaurant lights. Definitely recommended for a romantic dessert date on a warm summer night – bookings recommended!
A summer favourite overlooking Papamoa Beach. Seagulls, sun, sand and delicious food! Great beachy vibes make this cafe a favourite.
Best ever kiwi “Fush n Chups”! Located at the fresh fish market on Dive Crescent. Eat in at the picnic tables overlooking the harbour and fishing boats (you can take your own drinks and sauce etc) or take away. Make sure the seagulls don’t eat your unattended chips!
Mount Maunganui or Mauao – always something new to discover!
Walk around it or up to the top! Or for a different perspective, head out on the water with the Kewpie Cruise from Pilot Bay to Matakana Island. There is always action near the Mount: the surfers at Main Beach, paragliders launching from the top, triathletes, beach volleyballers and families enjoying ice cream from Mount Gelato or Copenhagen Cones. Travellers Tip: avoid it on the weekend if you want to find a carpark.