Tauranga (population 120,000) is the major city of the western Bay of Plenty on the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand. It is the sixth largest city in the country, and is 105 km east of Hamilton and 85 km north of Rotorua.
Tauranga is located at the head of a large harbour which extends along the western Bay of Plenty, and is protected by Matakana Island. The volcanic cone and town of Mount Maunganui stand at the entrance to the harbour, five km north of Tauranga. "The Mount", as it is known, is often regarded as a satellite town of Tauranga, although it is technically a suburb. It is one of the major resort cities in New Zealand, famous for its beautiful beaches and surfing.
The name Tauranga comes from Maori, it roughly translates to "a sheltered anchorage". Due to its sheltered position on the east coast, Tauranga enjoys a warm, dry climate. This has made it a popular location to retire to. During the summer months the population swells as holidaymakers descend on the city.
Much of the countryside surrounding Tauranga is horticultural land, used to grow a wide range of fresh produce for both domestic consumption and export. The area is particularly well known for growing tangelos (a grapefruit / tangerine cross) and kiwifruit. The Port of Tauranga also experiences brisk but seasonal shipping traffic and is a regular stop off for both container ships and luxury cruise liners.
Tauranga i-SITE Visitor Information Centre, 95 Willow St, NW corner of Wharf, in the heart of the Tauranga CBD, is the first place a visitor should go for local tourist information, maps, bookings, and tickets. From there, most of Tauranga's top attractions, shopping and dining options are within a 15-minute walk.
Driving routes are State Highway 2 from Waihi, and Auckland via the scenic Karangahake Gorge; SH 29 over the Kaimai Range from the Waikato (also an option from Auckland via SH 27 onto SH 29); SH 36 from Rotorua via Pyes Pa (now sealed all the way); SH 2 from Te Puke, the western Bay of Plenty (and Rotorua via SH 33).
Tauranga Airport has regular Air New Zealand direct flights from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
- ManaBusoffers bus services to Tauranga several times a day from Auckland and Hamilton at great value, with fares starting at $1.
- Naked Bus offers daily departures to most North Island locations, including Waitomo Caves, with fares starting at $1.
- InterCity stops in downtown Tauranga en route from numerous parts of New Zealand.
- TwinCity Express, part of the local public transportation system, runs a twice-daily bus from Rotorua to central Tauranga and Mount Maunganui.
Centrally located in the Bay of Plenty and home to a deep water harbor, the Port of Tauranga is a popular cruise hub with over 85 ships per year. The cruise port itself is actually located in the township of Mt. Maunganui, a laid back beach town, which is 7km north of downtown Tauranga.
From the cruise ship dock at Salisbury Wharf, it’s only a five-minute walk into the Mount's CBD on Maunganui Rd. Many cruise lines also provide shuttles to the town’s CBD (or better yet, to Tauranga's CBD), and all of the attractions in Mt. Maunganui are within a ten-minute radius of the Salisbury cruise port.
In order to reach the city of Tauranga, you can ride the public BayBus Routes 1 or 2 from Mount Maunganui to Tauranga CBD. Bus 1 runs along Maunganui Rd and bus 2 starts on Salisbury Ave, and it takes about 30 (#1) or 45 (#2) minutes to get to the middle of the Tauranga CBD. You should get off at the Tauranga i-SITE visitor centre at Willow and Wharf Sts. From there, all of Tauranga's top attractions, shopping and dining options are within a 15-minute walk. Alternatively, you can take a taxi (~$20) for the ten minutes ride to Tauranga. Or, if you would prefer to hop back on a boat, there is a ferry service between Salisbury Wharf and the Tauranga waterfront, which is run by Tauranga Water Transport.
The Tauranga cruise port is also convenient for day trips to Rotorua, where steaming geysers and geothermal wonders create a fascinating, otherworldly landscape. To reach Rotorua, many cruise lines offer shore excursions which provide transport for the one-hour journey.
Bayhopper bus system is a reliable service that covers the Tauranga, Mt Maunganui, Papamoa & surrounding areas. Cash fares (Aug 2015) are $3.20 for an adult, or $1.90 for a concession, and these tickets are valid for any transfer within 60 minutes of issue. A Daysaver pass costs $7.40/$5.30, and allows travel on any bus for the day of purchase. If you plan on using the buses a lot, investing in a SmartRide card may be a good idea. These cost $10 and are available from the bus driver, or the central Tauranga i-Site, and save you 20% on single-ride fares.
Tauranga Water Transport operates harbour scenic cruises and historic tours, daily service on the Matakana Ferry between Omokoroa and Opureora, ferry service between Salisbury Wharf in Mount Maunganui and The Strand in the CBD, and other charter services.
- Tauranga Art Gallery,100 Willow St, NE corner Wharf St, 10am-4:30pm daily, is one of New Zealand’s newest and most respected regional public galleries. Since opening in 2007, it has consistently delivered high quality exhibitions within its contemporary gallery space located in the heart of Tauranga’s CBD. Touring the ground floor and mezzanine galleries will take an hour or so. Free admission. Donations appreciated.
- Katikati Bird Gardens, Walker Rd East (25 min drive north of Tauranga off State Highway 2), ☎ . 10:00-16:30. Lovely old established gardens on the edge of the inner Tauranga Harbour. Mostly formal with wetlands area and walk. Golf cart tours and hire. Great café. Native birds on display including the NZ kea. From $5.
- Marshalls Animal Park, McLaren Falls Rd.
- Te Puna Quarry Park, Quarry Rd (off State Highway 2, 15 km north of Tauranga). Previously a quarry, now turned into a park through volunteer work. Free, donations welcome.
- Located about an hour from Tauranga, near the town of Matamata in Waikato, the Hobbiton movie set provides a fun and fascinating experience of this famous location in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films.
In summer, holiday-makers travel to "The Mount" to make the most of the beautiful beaches and the great surf. The waters off the coast of Tauranga are good fishing areas.
- Mauao or Mount Maunganui Summit Track. The volcanic peak at the mouth of the harbour is considered by many the peak to climb. Offers fantastic views of the beach-side suburb named after it (Mt Maunganui or The Mount), Tauranga, and the entire Tauranga harbour area and coastlines. Mauao (meaning “caught by dawn”) is an historic reserve owned by Maori and managed by Tauranga City Council. Tramp to the top or walk around the base track. There are several tracks to the summit. The summit is 232m high – it takes about 40 minutes to get to the top. A circular track at the base of the volcanic cone offers views of the harbour, the ocean, and the town and takes about 40 minutes to complete. Stroller and wheelchair accessible. The summit tracks are just a bit more challenging with plenty of stop overs to catch your breath.
- Mount Maunganui. As New Zealand's Surf City, Mount Maunganui has beaches on the coasts that are great for surfing and diving, with large numbers of visitors wanting to experience the laid-back summery atmosphere.
- The Kiwi Asylum, 386 Papamoa Beach Rd, ☎ . , Dirtsurfing is for the adrenaline junkie in all of us. All that is needed is a willingness to try this inline board sport. Only your imagination will limit what you can do with your Dirtsurfer. A Dirtsurfer is like a combination of a skateboard and a bike moulded into one.
- McLaren Falls Park. Summer: 7.30am – 7.30pm; Winter: 7.30am – 5.30pm. McLaren Falls Park is located just 10 minutes’ drive from central Tauranga. The popular park comprises 190 hectares of parkland alongside the picturesque Lake McLaren. It is home to a number of easy walking tracks and is also a great spot for camping, fishing, kayaking, bbqs and picnics. A ranger is on duty seven days a week. Around 300 sheep roam through the grassed areas, so dogs are not permitted within McLaren Falls Park.
- Walks. The free Tauranga City Walkways pamphlet from the i-SITE Visitor Information Centre details walks around Tauranga and Mt Maunganui. There are also beautiful walks further afield.
There are two main shopping centres in the Tauranga region - Bayfair at 'The Mount' and central Tauranga, or 'town'
People in Tauranga love to eat out. There is a large selection of restaurants to eat at, especially on 'The Strand', which is regarded as the restaurant central of Tauranga.
- Bella Mia Pizzaria, Devonport Rd. In the same spot for over 30 years, pizza-pasta Italian restaurant.
- Bravo, Red Square. Excellent weekend brunch, lunch and dinner spot in the centre of town. Great restaurant and Cafe food
- Harbourside. Situated over the water in a historic converted yacht club
- Nazar Mediterranean Cafe & Takeaway, 332 Maunganui Road, Mount Maunganui, ☎ . Cafe & takeaway. Cuisines: Mediterranean, Turkish. Payment Options: cash, EFTPOS, Visa, MasterCard, American Express. Street side outdoor seating. $10-20.
As with eating, people in Tauranga love cafes. You will also find numerous pubs around the area. A double spirit will cost $6-7.
'The Strand' is the main area for Tauranga's nightlife consisting of a strip of bars, clubs and restaurants.
- Krazy Jacks - Alternative / rock club providing live bands - no dress standard enforced
- The Budda Lounge - Cocktail lounge with some impressive bartenders working
- Home Bar
- Coyotes - Mainstream music with dance on Saturday nights - high standard of dress
- Crown & Badger - Great pub meals
- De Bier Haus
- Tauranga Yacht and Power Boat Club Sulphur Point
- Mount Ocean Sports Club Pilot Bay, Mount Maunganui
Various backpacker/hostel type accommodation is available in Tauranga.
- Just The Ducks Nuts Backpackers, 6 Vale St, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Located in the Otumoetai/Pillans Point area a 20-25 min walk or short bike from downtown Tauranga.
- Genevieves Garage, 2/30 Miro St. Mount
- Harbourside City Backpackers Tauranga, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. 105 The Strand. Located right in the main restaurant, pub and clubbing area.
- Hotel On Devonport, ☎ . Devonport Towers, 72 Devonport Road. Noticeable in the heart of downtown Tauranga, it also houses private apartments.
- The Sebel Trinity Wharf Tauranga, 51 Dive Crescent, ☎ . Stylish 4.5 star hotel. In the heart of Tauranga with harbour views.
- Te Puke
- Waihi Beach
- White Island. New Zealand’s only active maritime volcano. Tours operate from Whakatane. Before stepping on the island, tourists are issued hardhats and gas masks. It is necessary to wear mask because fumes on White Island can affect some people - with headaches or nausea. From the ancient dock of the Island, one has to climb along steel ladders, walk along a concrete wharf, over a rusting steel bridges, and then clamber over rocks before you find yourself standing in front of a live volcano.