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Tauranga & Mount Maunganui

Click for Tauranga, New Zealand Forecast

Captain Cook was happily steering his boat Endeavour, when he open a big smile and said..."Sharks bite me, this place is too beautiful to be true!" The sea was as calm as a lake, the day was blue and the coast line was a green. The intrepid captain though he was navigation in a Bay, while his crew was hanging on one side of the boat trying to spot a beautiful native woman as well as any fruits of animals that could become dinner. They were ready to stop and go onshore but by that time they couldn't spot the narrow entrance of the inner bay. Desolated and crying like a baby due the lack of a safety place to drop anchor, Cook decided to keep navigating, and with luck find an anchorage ahead. They found it, but much later on the Coromandel Peninsula. Before the arrival in Coromandel, Cook had his last look to the place and commented with his crew..." What a gorgeous place and how beautiful the natives are!  Look at Tauranga and look at Mt. Maunganui, first officer. Have you seen places like these before?". The officer responded..."It is a bay of plenty captain". So, Cook liked the comment and decided to name the area Bay of Plenty! 

Mt. Maunganui e Main Beach

Tauranga is the centre of the universe, was what I heard on the radio from a local guy when asked what he thinks about Tauranga. The region of Bay of Plenty is made by many bigger and smaller towns not far from each other. Tauranga is the biggest one with more than 110,000 people (2009). The huge growth of the area made these two cities touch each other and they are separated today only by a bridge. Whakatane and some other smaller towns like Te Puke, KatiKati, Waihi e Matata have theirs own charms and attractions. Tauranga has no open ocean beach but Mt. Maunganui in compensation, has one of the best beaches in New Zealand, including fantastic waves for surfers. The life style in the area is also different than other areas of New Zealand, mostly made of young people, such as surfers, divers, kayaks, hang gliders, and people who loves the beach culture. On the New Year's eve, Mt. Maunganui gets packed with party goers that flock to the town for a celebration on the beach. Tauranga does have beaches but they are not good due the location in the inner part of the bay which can be very muddy sometimes (good for crab and oyster fishing anyway). Both towns are safe, with little traffic retentions and it takes about 15 minute to drive from the centre of one to the centre of the other.

Surfing is one of the attractions of the area and Mt. Maunganui is one of the best spots, with a right semi-point break that with the right swell can produce excellent waves (photo). On the other side of the point, a long open beach also can produce some nice isolated peaks, which attracts ocean haymakers, body boarders and surfers alike. The Island of Matakana on the other side of the canal, is also well known for nice waves but difficult access made only by paddle the surfboard across the canal or going by boat. The Mt. Maunganui, or simply the "Mount" as local people referred to it, is the remain of  a caldera of an exiting volcano. It is located at the end of a small peninsula where the centre of the town is. (see photos above). In one side is open ocean and the other is the sheltered Tauranga Bay. Go for a circle walk around the Mount, is a highly recommended activity, free and full of wonderful views. If you are in good shape, you can go to the top of the Mount, where a fantastic view or the surroundings is waiting for you. To go down is much easier, but you have the option to hang glide down in a tandem flight with a local expert. If you feel like relaxing your tired bones after some action, you can hit straight to the hot pools and soak in warm waters till you body melts. For campers, there is a beach front Caravan Park just beside the hot pools. All these attractions are just at the base of the Mount.

Pilot Bay is the sheltered beach just after the entrance of the canal (photo). It is nice for a picnic with tables, toilets and facilities and also nice for small kids. Just at the back of the beach, on the first parallel street, is the main street of the town and the business centre, where the majority of shops, cafes and restaurants are. Just after Pilot Bay, is the Port of Tauranga, the biggest Import and Export port in new Zealand. It employs a large number of workers and attracts companies in the same sector such as packaging, logistics, etc. Some times along the year the port also receives big size cruise ships.

Papamoa Marae

The Culture in the region is graced by a large Maori presence. See a dance show,  by arts and crafts, or a visit to one of the many Maraes in the region is a must for any happy tourist. The Maoris inhabit the Bay much before Cook called it Plenty and the their influence can be noted everywhere including sacred places. Along all the extension of the coast till the Town of Whakatane, and on the back to rural areas, the tourist will find plenty of farms and agricultural activities. Cow milking, cattle for beef and fruits are largely cultivated. The Bay of Plenty area is considered the Kiwi Fruit national capital and tourist visits to see the plantations and the processing of the fruit is offered by many producers. During the period of fruit picking and along the year for pruning the region attracts a large number of international travellers in the working holiday program. Honey is also a top produce of the area, each one better than the other.

For Tourists, the Bay of Plenty offer a 1001 options. From radical sports to quiet and tranquil tours, the fruity tourist has a bit of everything. There are exceptional trails, trekking, nature, waterfalls, river and ocean kayaking, jet boating in river, horse riding, Hang gliding, farm visits, surfing and many more for all groups of ages and fitness. The town of KatiKati, not far from Tauranga is called the Mural City, due to the many panel painting done on its walls. The large paintings, reflect the day-by-day life from the past century in the region and are simply beautiful. Accommodations in the whole region is not a problem to find. Doesn't matter the size of your budget, you will find all classes and style of accommodations, from camping and caravan parks, to Backpacker hostels, motels, hotels, to luxury apart-hotels. The price range is also lower comparing with other top destinations in New Zealand.

The Bay of Plenty and especially Tauranga and Mt. Maunganui are nice places to settle residence New Zealand. They are not overcrowded yet but at the same time the region offer all necessary in terms of infra-structure, such as good hospitals, good shopping, good nightlife and restaurants. For International students, both cities have plenty of courses in a safe, clean and happy environment. If you are thinking to travel New Zealand or planning to study in New Zealand, put the Bay of Plenty in you priority list. We spent almost 7 of the best years of our lives living in Mt. Maunganui, and all I can say is that it is really Plenty. Don't miss it.

Plenty of Kiwi Fruits Plenty of Crayfish

Study in Bay of Plenty

Attractions in  Bay of Plenty

Distances by road from Tauranga to:

Auckland 210 Km 2 Hours & 30 min.
Rotorua 85 Km 1 Hour & 15 min.
Whakatane 105 Km 1 Hour & 30 min.
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