Mauao/Mt Maunganui is one of the regions’s most iconic landmarks. It might not be among New Zealand’s tallest mountains, but its summit rewards all those who visit with sublime panoramas of the Tauranga Harbour’s white sand beaches and islands – as well as views of the forested Kaimai Ranges from a faraway distance. It can take approximately 40 minutes to hike up to the top, or you can simply walk around it for some scenic seaside vistas.
The spouting geysers, brightly coloured geothermal springs, and wonderful remnants of thousands of years’ worth of volcanic activity are among Rotorua’s finest offerings. The town is within close range to Auckland and Tauranga alike, and is also known for its adrenaline-inducing activities and cultural attractions.
Mt Maunganui’s coastal neighbour, Papamoa Beach, attracts thousands of visitors each summer. It is renowned for its prime surfing conditions, fishing spots, glistening white sands and safe swimming waters. Kite and wind surfing are other popular activities on this coastal stretch.
The best thing about the Bay of Plenty is that you’ve got a trove of beaches to explore – from the bustling hot-spots to the underrated horizons. Maketu, just 30 kilometres (18.64 miles) east of Mount Maunganui, has a couple of untouched coastlines worth exploring – most notably the sheltered Newdicks Beach. Tauranga’s lesser-known beaches include Matakana Beach (not to be confused with the Matakana township near Auckland) and Athenree Beach. Whakatane in the eastern Bay of Plenty also has its own coastal gems like the relaxing Ohope Beach.
Katikati, a town just 40 minutes from Tauranga, was a pioneer in New Zealand’s mural art scene. The town began painting its heritage and history along its walls in the 1990s, after drawing inspiration from a similar movement in Canada. Since then, Katikati has earned its place as the country’s home of mural art, boasting more than 60 open-air artworks and its own mural festival.
Kiwi muralist Graham Hoete, aka Mr G, came into the international spotlight after channeling his creativity to create a special tribute to one of his musical idols, Prince. He hails from Motiti Island in the Bay of Plenty region, and has been working as an artist for more than a decade. Hoete regularly works on commissions in New Zealand and abroad, having created artworks for prominent brands and celebrities along the course of his career.
White Island is one of the world’s easiest-to-access volcanoes. Whakatane is the closest township from this fascinating force of nature – meaning it is also the main departure point for the island-bound boat tours. Aside from the obvious geothermal activity on show, White Island is also renowned for its rich marine life, abundant gannet colonies and an interesting collection of Pohutukawa trees.
From coastal walks to forested treks – this is a region that’s dotted with a wide range of hiking opportunities. For a lustrous display of native forestry the Kaimai Mamaku Forest Park is an absolute must-visit. Other noteworthy options include the well-marked tracks around Papamoa Hills Regional Park, the Whakatane district’s historic Nga Tapuwae o Toi (the ‘Footprints of Toi’) Walkway, and the popular Orokawa Bay Walk in Waihi Beach.
Whether you’re a mountain biking enthusiast or a casual rider, the Motu Trails in Opotiki are a definite New Zealand cycling must-do. It is considered one of the country’s Great Rides and stretches from the eastern Bay of Plenty all the way to the Eastland region to reach the city of Gisborne. With a wide-ranging series of routes to explore, even novice cyclists will be able to explore some of the tracks at their disposal.
Besides the beachside attractions we’ve already mentioned, Tauranga visitors get to experience marine wildlife cruises and the opportunity to kayak by the glowworms, while Rotorua’s lakes are popular with kayakers, paddle boarders, fishers among other water sport enthusiasts. Essentially, if you love your aquatic activities the Bay of Plenty will spoil you for choice – no matter which town or city you end up staying in.
Rotorua is known for being one of the top places to experience Maori culture in New Zealand. For history with a techie twist, Mt Maunganui’s virtually-guided Arataki Cultural Walking Trails app sets out to showcase the area’s rich heritage – from landmarks to legends – in a way that’s engaging and encourages people to get out and about. If you’re exploring Whakatane, the Puketapu Lookout and Papaka Redoubt are the places to catch a glimpse of some of the regions’ ancient Maori fortification sites.