The Pacific Coastal Highway travels alongside 125 kilometres (77 miles) of white, sandy beaches, but it’s not just sun and surf that make this part of New Zealand such a popular holiday spot with both Kiwis and international visitors.
With a mild climate all year round and outstanding landscapes, this region has many outdoor activities and scenic attractions to accompany its rich culture. Just offshore, Whakaari, known as White Island – New Zealand’s only active marine volcano – offers visitors the chance to experience a geological wonder.
The Bay of Plenty offers some of the country's most spectacular scenery and many ways to enjoy the pristine scenery and natural wonders. Visitors also enjoy exploring the Bay’s Māori heritage and pre-European roots.
The Bay of Plenty is officially New Zealand’s sunniest destination, enjoying short-lived winters and long summer days.
Tauranga – New Zealand’s fifth largest and fastest growing city – is a sophisticated centre of boutique shopping, thriving café culture and discerning eateries fuelled by the ready supply of seafood and local produce.
At the entrance to Tauranga Harbour, Mauao / Mount Maunganui – known locally as "the Mount" – has long been a favourite Kiwi beach-holiday destination. With internationally known surf breaks, warm ocean waters and white-sand beaches, the Bay of Plenty attracts big crowds over the Christmas/New Year period when events, local markets and festivals are in full swing.
Plenty to discover
Bay of Plenty’s heritage unfolds in a fascinating procession for visitors to explore and enjoy as they travel the Pacific Coast Highway stretching from Waihi Beach to beautiful seaside Ohope.
When British navigator Captain James Cook arrived in 1769, he bestowed the title of "plenty" on the bay because it supplied fresh resources from land and sea to replenish his crew. It’s no different today in this region renowned for its agriculture and marine harvests. Visitors can sample kiwifruit straight from the source at Kiwi Country, manuka honey products at nearby Comvita or follow the Katikati Cuisine Trail to meet local producers and taste fresh seasonal treats.
The region traces its Māori heritage back to 1,000 years ago, when three Māori waka (canoes) arrived in New Zealand. Cultural experiences include Mataatua Marae in Whakatane – "the house that came home" after travelling the world, with a singular story to tell. Guided tours highlighting the area’s cultural history are hosted at other historic sites.
The 10 ancient village sites at Papamoa Hills Cultural Heritage Regional Park (Te Rae o Papamoa) are among New Zealand's oldest. At Maketu, near Te Puke, a memorial on the foreshore commemorates the landing place of the Te Arawa canoe during the great migration.
Mauao, the sacred mountain at Tauranga’s harbour entrance, translates as "caught in the light of the day". There’s a local Māori legend about how Mauao was spurned in love by the beautiful Pūwhenua and abandoned on the ocean shore.
Adventure / outdoors
The Pacific Ocean is an endless playground for fishing, diving and wildlife encounters, including swimming with some of the 10,000 dolphin pods that reside in the region.
Offshore, Whakaari / White Island is New Zealand’s only active marine volcano. On a guided tour by helicopter or boat, visitors can land here for a once-a-lifetime experience, walking right up to the crater and feeling the power of nature rumbling beneath their feet. You can also fly over the steaming island to enjoy remarkable vistas.
At Papamoa Beach, locally designed self-drive blokarts – three-wheeled, land-based yachts – harness wind power to provide an exciting speed thrill.
Visitors can kayak through enchanting glow worm caves, take a guided walk through native bush, visit wildlife sanctuaries on the land or at sea, or relax on the private hot water beach on Moutohora (Whale) Island. Finish the day with a relaxing soak at Mount Maunganui’s hot saltwater pools, under the shadow of Mauao, or enjoy a warm sunset walk around or to the top of the famous Mount.
And by the way...
Mt Maunganui Beach has been voted the best beach in New Zealand (2016 Tripadvisor Travellers Choice).
Each year, nearly a million people walk up and around Mauao / Mount Maunganui (232 metres or 760 feet).
Tauranga, meaning "place of safe anchorage", is New Zealand's busiest port by tonnage and hosts about 80 cruise ships annually.
Te Puke is the international "home of kiwifruit". More than 80 percent of New Zealand's kiwifruit exports are grown in the region.
Tuhua (Mayor Island) has the world’s largest pohutukawa forest.