Tauranga (population 140,000) is a city 105 km east of Hamilton and 85 km north of Rotorua in the western Bay of Plenty on the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand. It is the largest city in the Bay of Plenty and the sixth largest in the country.
Tauranga sits at the head of a large harbour that extends along the western Bay of Plenty, with Matakana Island sheltering the harbour from the ocean. The volcanic cone and town of Mount Maunganui stand at the entrance to the harbour, 5 km north of Tauranga. "The Mount", as it is known, is a suburb of Tauranga, although it is often regarded as a satellite town. It is one of the major resort cities in New Zealand, famous for its beautiful beaches and surfing.
The name Tauranga comes from Maori and roughly translates to "sheltered anchorage". Due to its sheltered position to the east of the Kaimai Range, Tauranga enjoys a warm, dry climate, which has made it a popular place to retire to. During the summer months the population swells as holidaymakers flock to it.
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 experiences brisk but seasonal shipping traffic and is a regular stop-off for container ships and luxury cruise liners.
Tauranga i-SITE Visitor Information Centre, 95 Willow St (NW corner of Wharf St), 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).
- 1 Tauranga Airport (TRG IATA). Has regular Air New Zealand direct flights from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
- 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.
The Port of Tauranga is a deep water harbour and a popular cruise hub with over 85 ship visits a year. The cruise port is in Mt. Maunganui, a laid-back beach town 7 km north of downtown Tauranga. From the cruise ship dock at Salisbury Wharf, it’s a 5-minute walk to the Mount's CBD on Maunganui Rd. Many cruise lines provide shuttles to the Mount'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.
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. You can also take a taxi (~$20) for the 10-minute ride to Tauranga. Or, there is a ferry service between Salisbury Wharf and the Tauranga waterfront, 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. Many cruise lines offer shore excursions that provide transport for the one-hour journey to Rotorua.
Bayhopper bus system is a reliable service that covers the Tauranga, Mt Maunganui, Papamoa & surrounding areas. Cash fares (Dec 2017) are $3.40 for an adult, or $2.00 for a concession, and these tickets are valid for any transfer within 60 minutes of issue. A Daysaver pass costs $7.80/$5.60, 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.
- 1 The Elms (Te Papa Tauranga), 15 Mission St. Daily 10AM-4PM. House built in 1847 as a missionary station, with many original items of contents, set in a fine garden. Non-NZ adult $15, NZ adult $10.
- 2 Katikati Bird Gardens, 263 Walker Rd East, Aongatete (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 kea. Adult $10.
- 3 Marshalls Animal Park, McLaren Falls Rd. W–F 10AM-2PM, Sa, Su 10AM-4.30PM, daily during school holidays. Mainly horses, deer and farm animals. Adult $14, child $8.
- 4 Tauranga Art Gallery, 100 Willow St (NE corner Wharf St). 10AM-4:30PM daily. One of New Zealand’s newest and most respected regional public galleries. Since opening in 2007, it has consistently held high quality exhibitions in 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; donations appreciated.
- 5 Te Puna Quarry Park, Quarry Rd (off State Highway 2, 15 km west of Tauranga). Previously a quarry, now turned into a park through volunteer work. Free; donations welcome.
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 232 m 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.
- McLaren Falls Park. Summer 7.30AM–7:30PM; winter 7:30AM-5:30PM. McLaren Falls Park is 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.
- Waterfalls In Tauranga - With already an abundance of things to do in Tauranga, adding to the beauty and wonder of such a beautiful city are its waterfalls. There are a number of waterfalls throughout the Tauranga region where all are worth a visit. You have McLaren Falls, Kaiate Falls, Whataroa Falls, Omanawa Falls and Wairere Falls ( Wairere Falls being on the other side of the Kaimai ranges).
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.
- CBK Craft Bar & Kitchen Tauranga, Red Square, 1 Devonport Rd, ☏ . Excellent weekend brunch, lunch and dinner spot in the centre of town. Great restaurant and cafe food.
- 1 Harbourside, Old Yacht Club Building 150 The Strand, ☏ . Situated over the water in a historic converted yacht club.
- 2 Patrick's Pies Gold Star Bakery, Tenancy H1B, Bethlehem Town Centre, 19 Bethlehem Road, Bethlehem, ☏ . 8AM–4:30PM. Six-time winner of the New Zealand Supreme Pie Awards.
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.
- Tauranga Yacht and Power Boat Club, Sulphur Point.
- Mount Ocean Sports Club, Pilot Bay, Mount Maunganui.
- 1 Harbourside City Backpackers Tauranga, 105 The Strand, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. It's in the main restaurant, pub and clubbing area.
- 2 Just The Ducks Nuts Backpackers, 6 Vale St, Otumoetai, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. It's in the Otumoetai/Pillans Point area, a 20-25 min walk or short bike from downtown Tauranga.
- 3 Mount Maunganui Beachside Holiday Park, 1 Adams Ave, Mt Maunganui. Camping sites and cabins.
- 4 Papamoa Beachgrove Holiday Park, 386 Papamoa Beach Rd, ☏ . Tent sites, cabins, tourist flats.
- 5 Tauranga Tourist Park, 9 Mayfair St. Camping sites and cabins.
- 6 Welcome Bay Hot Pools and Campground, 409R Welcome Bay Rd. Powered camp sites and cabins that sleep 2-6 people.
- 7 Hotel On Devonport, Devonport Towers, 72 Devonport Rd, ☏ . It's in the heart of downtown Tauranga; it also houses private apartments. From $195.
- 8 Strand Motel, 27 The Strand. 9-room basic motel. Central location. From $105.
- Te Puke
- Waihi Beach
- White Island – boat tours operate to New Zealand’s only active maritime volcano from Whakatane and there are helicopter and plane tours also, although tours are suspended as of Dec 2019
- Hobbiton movie set, about an hour from Tauranga, near the town of Matamata in the Waikato, provides a fun and fascinating experience of this famous location in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films.