One of the first things you'll notice in the area is the spectacular scenery. Tauranga is set amongst a thermal wonderland with hot springs, surf beaches, a harbour, a mountain, boutique shopping and an exceptional cafe culture. All this is within 15 minutes from the CBD.
Being a coastal paradise, the obvious choice in the Bay of Plenty is to head to the beach. One of the longest uninterrupted coastlines in NZ, the B.O.P. offers dozens of beaches, from super-popular to low-key. Swimming is great, with gentle breakers at most, and surf live-saving at the larger beaches. For those who'd prefer to stay on dry land, why not grab a coffee, or stroll the boardwalk at the amazing Ocean Beach at Mt Maunganui.
Tauranga is located in a geothermal area which means one thing - Thermal Springs! The Bay of Plenty boasts one of the largest numbers of hot pools in the country. One of the most popular are the Mount Maunganui Hot Pools where you can relax and gaze up to the volcano towering above you. There are several campgrounds built on thermal spring sites. Omokoroa, Athenree and all the family favourites are listed in our Tauranga Hot Pools section.
An absolute 'must do' while in Tauranga, is to climb stunning Mount Maunganui, also known as "The Mount". This 232m volcano sits at the end of a peninsula straddling a surf beach and a harbour. It goes without saying that this 360 degree view is spectacular. Ocean, Coastline, Harbour and Islands are all layed out before you. There are two walks to choose from: one great coastal walk around the base, and the surprisingly tame 45 minute walk to the summit. Read more on the Mt Maunganui Mountain sightseeing page.
If you are looking to keep the family entertained then Tauranga will keep you busy for weeks. What to do in Tauranga is a redundant question with so much on offer. There are lots of family activities and great things for kids to do. On land you have many exciting options from Blokarting (land yachting around a track), kayaking on the river, Bay Park Stadium and speedway, laser tag and paintball. Be sure to check out our family activities section.
The Spring Loaded Fun Park is located just 30 minutes from Tauranga in Te Puke. You can ride the Kaituna Jet which blasts down the amazing Kaituna River. Continuing with the adrenaline junky activities, Spring Loaded also offers white water rafting and the Mud Bug 4WD experience. Send Dad and the older kids to go on the big rides, and enjoy the kiwifruit and farm tours with the little ones. Or simply relax in the "Off Track" cafe, overlooking the beautiful natural surroundings.
In a similar vein, the Waimarino Adventure park has plenty to offer for families. Just 10 minutes north of Tauranga, this picturesque riverside location is bursting with fun things to do for kids big and small. Based around kayaking, and the river here is a quick run down of the things to do: Tarzan swing, Kayak Slide, Diving Boards, Warm thermal pool, Slip n slide, Trampoline a low ropes course and more. Teenagers will enjoy the Big Blob human catapault that will launch them 5-10 metres into the air. This is a full day's trip, bring some food and use the BBQ provided at Waimarino Adventure Park.
Tauranga, being so close to the ocean also offers an exceptional choice of sea-based activities for families. There are Dolphin Watching tours, Island Tours and Fishing Charters a-plenty. See our aquatic activities section for the full range including diving excursions. Remember, no family trip to the Bay of Plenty would be complete without a trip to one of the many thermal hot springs.
Things To Do in the Bay of Plenty
Captain James Cook was right when he claimed this to be a "bay of plenty". The favourable climate is perfect for agriculture including kiwifruit and apple growing. The natural environment is the key asset of this region. Everywhere you look are lush green fields, orchards, or stunning coastline. While there are many adventure-type activities the closer you get to Tauranga, towns on the outskirts certainly showcase their natural beauty.
To the north, Katikati has been dubbed "Mural Town" and has dozens of painting on the sides of shops. The Katikati Bird Gardens are extremely popular. These harbourside gardens, set in park-like grounds were established in 1976. All manner of birds, both native and imported call this haven home. For a small admission fee you can feel free to stroll the grounds, relax by the pond or take a guided golf cart tour. The on-site cafe serves scrumptious italian coffee and light lunches, and certainly takes advantage of its picturesque surroundings. Rated the No.1 Attraction in Katikati, allow some time to discover the secret paths throughout.
Back past Tauranga is the town of Te Puke, kiwifruit capital of the world. Te Puke (pronounced Tea Pook-e) is covered in Kiwifruit orchards, and the export industry is worth $2 billion annually to New Zealand. The Kiwi 360 Centre is a key tourist attraction which showcases everything kiwifruit. Activities include the kiwikart tour around the orchard grounds, marvellous kiwifruit creations in the cafe, and the giant Kiwifruit with a view. This is a great way to spend an afternoon, with or without the kids. See our Kiwi 360 information page.
The Bay of Plenty offers over 150km of coastline to explore. Along the coastline you'll hit the seaside town of Whakatane. While becoming more urbanised as time goes on, there are many things to enjoy in this place. There are numerous walks along the estuary, There is a nice village atmosphere, with heavily planted lanes.
Worth checking out is the waterfall in the centre of town, and why not spend 10 minutes scaling the hill afterwards to experience the excellent view. You can see the estuary winding along beside the sea, the coast, islands, and the village below. I definitely recommend spending some time in Whakatane, it's a good place to spend the day exploring.
A little further to the east is Opotiki. A town with a lot of history, a stroll around the main street shows you how buildings were in time gone. The Opotiki River has a waterslide and swings into the safe waters, and it is highly recommended as a free activity for kids. Just ask a local how to get to the river. Further on the way back to Tauranga you'll find Ohope Beach. Safe swimming for the little ones and a mini waterpark at the Ohope Beach Campground, make it a great stop on the way back. If you aren't travelling with little ones then a Seaside Horse Trek back west at Maketu will enthrall.
More Things To See and Do in Tauranga
After you've climbed The Mount, soaked in a thermal pool and whizzed around the track on a Blokart, what's left on the list of stuff to do in Tauranga? How about hiking across a live volcano? White Island is New Zealand's most active volcano and is located 49km off the coast. Surrounded by water, the volcano is always steaming and spitting, but in late 2012 volcano spurred into action, with a lava dome forming.
In 2013 scientists have classified the island back down to level 1, and aviation code to yellow. To go ashore the island you travel in by boat, otherwise a sightseeing flight is a good way to see an aerial view. Find out about tours, and read an entertaining account by local journalist Grant Dyson on his life changing trip to White Island.
Scenic Flights go hand in hand with such a picturesque location. From the fields, to the harbour, to the coast and the outlying islands it's certainly worth the trip. The White Island flyover is a popular route allowing you to see into the mouth of this active volcano. Cessna's to helicopters, they are many aircraft on offer from around 8 Scenic Flight operators. Volcanic Air Safaris is the only chopper firm permitted to land in the steaming crater on White Island.
A week of golf anyone? If golf is your thing then the 7 local courses will keep you entertained. Green certainly is the name of the game, and with so much green around we'll forgive you if the scenery distracts you. Te Puke Golf Club probably receives the most players with over 10,000 having a whack each year. The Tauranga Golf Club is the oldest having been established in the early 1900's. All said, Mount Maunganui is reputed to be the finest of the bunch, and has a challenging layout. Most golf courses listed on our Bay of Plenty Golf page are pretty relaxed, so you can roll up and play.
The categories above showcase the key things to see and do in Tauranga. Make sure you click on each photo above to explore each category. We have spent hundreds of hours getting all this local knowledge into readable form, and are pleased to be of service to travellers and local alike. The Bay of Plenty has lots of small towns and hidden gems that make discovering them on your own, all the more rewarding. With such a long coastline, you'll find secluded coastal hideaways to relax and enjoy the beautiful climate. You'll regret not staying longer, so if you can stay longer than a weekend, we highly recommend you do :)