Around nine kilometres long, this fascinating loop walk extends right around the margins of the estuary. Close to the city, it’s an easy two-hour hike, taking you through a ‘unique wilderness’ of tidal mangroves and marshland habitat. Cyclists are allowed on the walkway, but must give way to walkers.
From downtown Tauranga the best access is towards Otumoetai, along Chapel Street. Turn left into Maxwell’s Road and look for a small carpark beside the estuary. A blue sign shows the start of the Daisy Hardwick section of the walkway. The Don Stewart walkway comes next, the most ecologically fascinating, with a boardwalk that’s raised above the wet areas of mangrove and marsh grasses, where shallow pools teem with tiny fish.
Take the left-hand fork for a short diversion to an interpretation panel that explains the ecology of the area, its fish and plant life. Further on, a sign indicates a small island, Motuopae (off limits), out towards the middle of the estuary. This is a sacred burial ground of the Ngaitamarawaho tribe with white gravestones clearly visible. Papamoa alone. The best way to explore local walkways is to pick up the free Tauranga Walkways booklet, available free from visitor centres, city council offices ((07) 577 7000), or from www.tauranga.govt.nz