While you’re here, you won’t want to miss –
Even Captain James Cook breathed a sigh of relief when he first encountered the eastern coast of the North Island in 1769. He aptly named the area the Bay of Plenty due to the scenery, abundance of food and the generosity of the natives.
Today, the Bay of Plenty’s bounty still lies in its beautiful surroundings, fresh produce and friendly locals. Vacationers seeking rest and relaxation in this area won’t be disappointed with the awesome things to do.
The region’s capital is the cheerful port of Tauranga, the 6th largest city in New Zealand. To the east lies the landmark Mount Maunganui (Mauao), which guards the entrance to Tauranga Harbor, and further inland to the west, are the lushly forested Kaimai ranges. The ranges shelter the lower plain and give the region its mild, almost Mediterranean climate.
It is this temperate climate and rich soil that make the Bay of Plenty the premier kiwifruit and avocado growing area of New Zealand. In fact, the growing is so good here that driving about the region in summer, you’ll see road side stalls overflowing with fresh fruit and vegetables. You can also Pick-Your-Own boysenberries and strawberries.
If you enjoy fresh bread, or perhaps a pot of specialty relish, then head along to the Tauranga Farmer’s Market, which is open every Saturday at the Tauranga Primary School. You’ll find a wide range of locally grown produce, as well as cheeses, jams, pickles and other homemade fare – all the great fixings for a picnic.
When it comes to eating out, you can’t beat New Zealand’s iconic fish & chips – wrapped in newspaper from the local carry-out. Consumed them with gusto while sitting on the beach – but don’t forget the malt vinegar for a real Kiwi experience.
You’ll also find many excellent restaurants to choose from, such as the award-winning Harbourside Restaurant in central Tauranga and also Café Versailles, which as its name suggests, provides a French fine dining experience.
If exercise is on your vacation agenda, then an amble on Mount Maunganui is the perfect alternative to the gym.
A well-marked walking track leads around the base of the mountain, and takes approximately 45 minutes to complete at a gentle stroll.
Feeling more energetic? A 20-30 minute track leads up to the summit – it’s not a difficult trek and the views from the top offer plenty of photo opportunities.
Best Place for Souvenirs
Explore the world of the kiwifruit at Kiwi 360 Park, just 5 minutes out of Te Puke – it’s hard to miss, with an enormous kiwifruit sign outside!
Inside you’ll find a fabulous array of New Zealand souvenirs – everything from housewares, merino goods, jewelry and kiwifruit products. Try to make time for the guided tour of the park and orchards to learn about how New Zealand brought the Kiwi – fruit, that is – to the world. It will be time well spent.
Māori people have lived in the Bay of Plenty for about 700 years, with the east coast region still home to many Māori. For those interested in Māori culture, Whakatane – only about an hour’s drive from Tauranga – has an excellent museum with a Taonga Māori collection of artifacts unearthed from around the area.
Whakatane is also home to numerous dolphins and marine life. Take a once in a lifetime cruise out into the surrounding bay to watch or, even better, get up close and personal to swim alongside the dolphins.
Keep a lookout on the way to Whakatane for a volcano spurting smoke just off the coast. This is White Island, New Zealand’s only active marine volcano. Its crater is accessible to tourists (when it’s not too active) via a guided tour. Walking on White Island has been likened to walking on the moon!
Garden and ArtFest
Back on dry land, garden lovers may like to time their visit to the Bay of Plenty with the popular Garden and ArtFest which takes place every two years at the beginning of November. Some of the finest private gardens from Katikati to Te Puke are opened up to visitors. Works by local artists are also on display.
Events like the Garden and ArtFest and weekly markets are a good opportunity to meet friendly locals and also have a leisurely day out. After all, relaxation is high on the list of things to do in the Bay of Plenty, as you’ll discover.