Home to New Zealand’s top-rated beach, the world’s most accessible active marine volcano, kiwifruit, glow worms, street art, and more, the region is aptly named the Bay of Plenty. It is filled with exciting and fun things to do in Tauranga (the largest city), Mount Maunganui (coastal beach town), and the surrounding region. It’s a locals playground, a weekend getaway for other New Zealanders, a key cruise port, and a haven for international visitors.
Unlike cruise visitors, we had several days to explore. We included the Bay of Plenty in our recent North Island driving adventure and arrived after driving around the East Cape. We were ready for relaxation, but couldn’t resist the unique and fun things to do in Tauranga and the surrounding area. If you are arriving via cruise ship, be sure to see our recommended shore excursions below.
Table of contents
- 1 Most Exciting and Unique of the Bay of Plenty Activities
- 2 Things to Do in Mount Maunganui
- 3 Fun Things to Do in Tauranga
- 4 More Nearby Things to do Tauranga and Mt Maunganui
- 5 Arriving via the Tauranga Cruise Port
- 6 Important
- 7 Where to Stay
- 8 With so many fun things to do in Tauranga, Mt Maunganui, and the rest of the Bay of Plenty, which will you do first?
Most Exciting and Unique of the Bay of Plenty Activities
• White Island volcano tour
White Island is New Zealand’s (and possibly the world’s) most active marine volcano. Some compare the lunar landscape and active geothermal vents to their image of walking on the moon. The Māori name ‘Te Puia o Whakaari’ translates to ‘the dramatic volcano’. At 50 kilometres off the Bay of Plenty coast, White Island boat tours or White Island helicopter tours are popular and fill up early.
If you are cruising into New Zealand click here for a cruise ship excursion option to White Island that includes either a light plane or helicopter flyover, an option to land on White Island, and a guided tour of a Kiwifruit Orchard. Otherwise, check out:
Boat to White Island: Once at the island enjoy a guided tour of the inner crater including steam vents, bubbling mud pits, and a lake of steaming acid. Then observe the island’s walls from the boat, as well as wildlife viewing often including gannets, dolphins, and whales.
Check pricing and read the details
⇒ White Island Day Tour from Whakatane, Tauranga or Rotorua ⇐
Helicopter to White Island: Fly to and over White Island, explore the rugged coastline from the air while your pilot provides commentary. Then land and walk in the crater.
Check pricing and read the details
⇒ White Island Volcano Helicopter Flight and Crater Tour ⇐
Things to Do in Mount Maunganui
• Swim, surf, or snorkel at Mount Maunganui Beach
No question about it, Mount Maunganui Beach is paradise. Voted New Zealand’s number one beach, the seemingly endless white sand and surf are frequented by locals, Kiwi travellers, and visitors from around the world. It’s a popular surfing area, although the weather was calm when we visited. Also popular is snorkelling, and if you prefer to have a guide, check out this 2-hour guided snorkelling adventure.
• Hike up Mount Maunganui (Mauao) or walk around the base
The extinct volcano’s Māori name is Mauao, which translates to “caught by the dawn.” Rising 230 metres above sea level, Mount Maunganui’s coastal views from the summit track are unforgettable. Due to a random turn of events, we didn’t make it to the top and had to turn back about midway up. To that point the walk was steadily uphill, but not too steep. It’s a popular walk that is now labelled “the best” by one of the Game of Thrones stars.
If climbing Mount Maunganui isn’t your thing, the more popular track is the 3.4-kilometre path around the volcano’s base.
• See the blowhole on Leisure Island (Moturiki)
Moturiki (Leisure Island) is accessible via a manmade land bridge from Mount Maunganui Beach. You can see the island in the photo above. The blowhole spot shoots up at high tide on days with wild surf. We visited on a calm day, so despite the proper timing, there was no splash. However, the island is a lovely nature walk offering plenty of rock pools and endless views
• Mt. Maunganui street art crawl
Just off the main street in town (Manganui Road), there is incredible street art, some of which is from well-known street artists like Askew One, Flox, or Andrew Steel. Ask at any i-site for a free street art map.
Locals are often seen fishing off the rocks, and if you have a rod, join in.
• Relax at hot salt-water pools
The perfect place to relax and soak away the day. Or, if you are looking for things to do in Mount Maunganui with kids, there is a children’s pool with water slides. Less relaxing than a soak, but good family fun.
• Watch the sun set behind Mount Maunganui
Fun Things to Do in Tauranga
Tauranga is the largest city in the Bay of Plenty. Tauranga Harbour welcomes nearly a quarter million cruise ship visitors annually, and the port of Tauranga is now the largest cruise tour port destination in New Zealand, and consistently voted the favourite. (If you are arriving via cruise ship be sure to check out the excursions lower on the page.
• Tauranga street art
Tauranga has impressive street art. You can pick up a free street art map at any i-site.
• Discover at the Tauranga Art Gallery
Tauranga Art Gallery is a regional art museum featuring a collection of historical and contemporary art in a modern building. It is open every day and admission is free.
• Step back to Tauranga in 1918
A small bit of history is hiding at the back of the carpark behind the Tauranga Art Gallery. The double container contains historical artefacts taking us back to 1918.
• Enjoy shopping or a coffee
There are many great shopping or cafe choices along the modern Strand area of downtown Tauranga.
• Swim with wild dolphins
This five-hour boat trip offers an opportunity to view wild dolphins or to actually get into the water and swim with them. Award-winning guides keep both you and the animals safe. All necessary gear is included, but you will want to bring your camera.
(Read next: Dolphins and Whales Are Abundant in Auckland)
• Waterfront playground park
There are plenty of things to do in Tauranga with kids starting with this giant waterfront playground. With climbing structures, water play, and swings, this playground has it all. I wish playgrounds were this much fun when I was young.
• Hairy Maclary fans can’t miss this
I think every person who grows up in New Zealand knows Hairy Maclary and his crew of five kooky canines. The Hairy Maclary series was written by Tauranga author Dame Lynley Dodd, so it should be no surprise the town honoured her and her “crew” with these bronze Hairy Maclary sculptures. They are located at the waterfront, at the edge of the playground, and can be discovered on the Downtown Tauranga Art Lover’s Walk map available for free from the information site in town.
• Jump, splash and bounce on the inflatable waterpark
The Tauranga water park is a summer activity that was closed for the season when we visited in autumn. Claiming to be New Zealand’s largest floating waterpark, it tops my summer list of fun things to do in Tauranga with kids.
More Nearby Things to do Tauranga and Mt Maunganui
Aside from White Island, there are a few other fun things to do near Tauranga.
• Kiwifruit Country
We loved our kiwifruit plantation tour. Allow a bit of extra time to visit the cafe after the tour for samples and then get a scoop of kiwifruit ice cream.
• Night Kayak to See Glow Worms
The thrill of night kayaking and the magic of glow worms made our kayak tour a truly memorable event.
(Read Next: Tauranga Nightlife: Consider a Kayak Glow Worm Tour)
• McClaren Park and Falls
McClaren Park is 190 hectares of parkland best known for Lake McLaren, the McClaren waterfall track, and the glow worms that are plentiful after dark. Our kayak tour was in this park.
If you’re a Lord of the Rings fan and not travelling in your own vehicle, a tour from Tauranga to Hobbiton will be the easiest way to explore the Shire. If you have a vehicle and are happy to drive yourself to Matamata (45-minute drive from Tauranga) you may want to purchase your Hobbiton tickets in advance. Nothing worse than arriving to find out they are sold out for the day.
• Visit Rotorua and Explore a Māori Village
If you haven’t included Rotorua as a destination on your travels to New Zealand, then you may want to take a tour to this geothermal region.
Arriving via the Tauranga Cruise Port
If you are arriving via the Tauranga cruise terminal, you will have limited time to see the highlights of the region. While cruise ships offer plenty of Tauranga shore excursions, we generally find independent tours to have smaller groups with considerably lower prices to see the identical venues. Many companies, like Viator, even offer a worry-free shore excursion guarantee (be sure to read the details, and verify that the tour you selected currently provides the guarantee).
Check out these Tauranga Shore Excursions
|Rotorua Highlights||Maori village, geothermal wonders, kiwifruit orchard||7 hrs|
|Geysers||Maori village, geothermal wonders, Polynesian spa, lunch||8 hrs|
|Hobbiton & Geysers||Geothermal wonders, Maori culture show, Hobbiton||7 hrs|
|White Island||Fly over White Island, Mt Tarawera & Rotorua lakes, kiwifruit orchard||6 hrs|
If you are NOT arriving via ship and your plans are flexible, you might want to check the port of Tauranga cruise ship schedule. As you can imagine, in a regional area with a population of less than 140K, having multiple cruise ships in port on the same day makes many of the popular venues crowded. Check here for cruise ship schedules.
Where to Stay
We had our own vehicle and opted to stay at the Papamoa Beach Resort (see our full review at Papamoa Beach Resort: the Perfect Stay in Bay of Plenty New Zealand). Our beachfront villa was a perfect choice. Sleeping in a comfortable bed and starting each day watching the sunrise over the beach, I was in a great mood all day. Papamoa is only a short drive to either Mount Maunganui or Tauranga city, but more importantly, it’s a beach destination on its own, and most of the places we visited were outside of either of the two cities.
If you prefer to be right in all the action, you might want to check out these Mount Maunganui Accommodations. Here you will find everything from luxury five star high rise accommodations or apartments to shared rooms at a backpackers.
The third primary option is Tauranga accommodations offering nearly as many options as Mount Maunganui, but often at slightly lower prices.
With so many fun things to do in Tauranga, Mt Maunganui, and the rest of the Bay of Plenty, which will you do first?
Disclaimer: We worked with Tourism Bay of Plenty. Also, we were provided with many complimentary entrances, tours, sample items, or media rates to assist in the writing of this review. The opinions expressed here are strictly our own.