Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrWith endless sunshine, to-die-for beaches, and a laid-back lifestyle, Tauranga is the perfect beach getaway if you still need a good barista coffee in the mornings.
GeographyTucked away in the north-western corner of the Bay of Plenty region of the North Island of New Zealand, Tauranga is the fifth largest city in New Zealand. The city is overlooked by the extinct volcano of Mauao (Mount Maunganui).
HistoryThe region was settled by the indigenous Maori in the late 13th century, with leader Tamatea captaining the canoe Takitimu as it arrived near Mount Maunganui. Control of the region was fought for between different tribes over many centuries. European settlers arrived in the early 19th century, including many businessmen trading in flax. Tauranga did not escape the New Zealand Wars , waged between the New Zealand government and indigenous Maori in the mid-1800s. The Battle of Gate Pa was an attack on a fortress and its Maori defenders on 29 April 1864 by British forces. It was the single most devastating loss of life suffered by the British military during the New Zealand Wars, resulting in 31 British and 25 Maori casualties.
From the 1910s, the population grew as the dairy industry developed in neighboring districts. Growth was further fostered in the later twentieth century by horticulture - in particular kiwifruit growing - in surrounding district and by the lifestyle appeal of the town.
The StrandThe Strand waterfront area is modern and always buzzing. Home to a number of cafés, restaurants, pubs, nightclubs and accommodation options, The Strand is the life of the central city.
Mount MaunganuiThe beachside suburb of Mount Maunganui is a mecca for beachgoers and holidaymakers in summer months, swelling the population of Tauranga significantly. New Year celebrations in Mount Maunganui are one of New Zealand's biggest events to see in the New Year. Mount Maunganui is the best beach in Tauranga, where you can swim, sunbathe or even take surf lessons. The waves are suitable for all levels, including beginners.
Tauranga Art GalleryOpening in 2007, the Art Gallery showcases local, national and international exhibitions. Home to historic and contemporary art, it has a permanent collection as well as frequently changing local and visiting exhibitions. Located on the corner of Wharf Street and Willow Street, opening hours are 10am - 4:30pm. Admission is free.
Minden LookoutTen kilometers west of Tauranga lies the Minden Lookout, which gives a stunning view over Tauranga harbor and the Bay of Plenty. To get there, take State Highway 2 to Te Puna, turn onto Minden Road, and continue along for three kilometers.
Elms Mission HouseElms Mission House is the oldest building in the Bay of Plenty, built in 1847. Furnished in the style from the period, the house provides a glimpse into the area's colonial past. Located on Mission Street, opening hours are 2-4pm Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. Admission is 5 NZD for adults, and 50 cents for children. The Mission's gardens are open daily 9am - 5pm, and admission is free.
Tauranga HarbourIn Tauranga, you are never far from the water. A scenic cruise of the harbor is a great way to see the city and its surroundings from the water. Kewpie Cruises has a one hour cruise costing 20 NZD for adults and 15 NZD for 12 - 17 year olds. Under 12s are free. Adventure Sail also offers a range of cruise and sailing options, including visiting the beautiful Matakana Island.
The harbor is also great for kayaking. A small number of companies offer kayak rentals, with rates beginning at 20 NZD for a half day, and 40 NZD for a full day. Stand up paddleboarding (SUP) is also popular, with rentals available at Mount Maunganui. Board hire for 30 minutes is from 15 NZD, with one hour from 25 NZD. A one hour lesson begins at 35 NZD.
National Jazz FestivalThis event, which has been running for over 50 years, takes place in Tauranga every Easter, featuring dozens of live acts. Jazz artists come from around the country and the world to perform at the festival, where you can enjoy great music alongside food and excellent local wine.
Food and DrinkIf you're in need of a caffeine fix, be sure to stop by Grindz, a funky cafe located on First Ave. With delicious food and excellent coffee, it is open Monday through Saturday. Elizabeth Cafe & Larder is a cool new cafe-bar on Cameron Road. Don't let it's office block location put you off, the food is great and the New Zealand wine even better. Open daily. Mediterraneo Café on Devonport Road is also famous for its quality coffee, along with myriad delicious lunch options. Stop by for a morning coffee or for a salad or sandwich for lunch. Open daily.
Fish and chips is practically the national dish, and you won't be disappointed by the delicious fare served up at Fresh Fish Markets. The Markets is a local institution where you can enjoy your dinner on the tables by the water's edge. Open 11am to 8pm daily, it is located on Dive Crescent.
If you're after a romantic dinner setting, try Harbourside at the end of The Strand. Situated in a 100-year-old boathouse, the location can't be beat, with lapping waves and a railway bridge stretching out into the harbor. Opening hours are 11:30am - 2:30pm and 5:30pm until late. For a special treat, swing by Somerset Cottage in Bethlehem. The restaurant is the most awarded in the region, and for a good reason. With simple, seasonal and delicious food, Somerset Cottage is sure to impress. Open for lunch Wednesday through Friday, and for dinner Monday through Saturday.
Established in 1989, Mills Reef Winery is one of the region's most popular wineries. Famous for its Bordeaux varietal reds and Syrah, a stop at this winery is a must-do for many visitors to the region. The building itself boasts Art Deco style architecture, and is set on beautiful sprawling grounds. Spend a lazy afternoon here tasting different wines, or enjoy the amazing food from the restaurant. Located on Moffat Road in the suburb of Bethlehem, the restaurant is open 7 days for brunch and lunch, and for dinner by reservation. The tasting room is open 7 days a week from 10am to 5pm.
ShoppingThe main shopping mall is Bayfair, located in Mount Maunganui. Most of the city's shopping centers are found in the suburbs, including Fraser Cove, Bethlehem Town Center, Palm Beach Plaza, Fashion Island, Bay Central and Greerton Village. The city center is also a great place for shopping, with plenty of boutique retail stores along with national chain stores.
Top-rangeFor modern rooms with private balconies and views of the bay, Hotel On Devonport is located 10 minutes drive from Ocean Beach, and 1,148 feet from The Strand, on Devonport Road. Alternatively, Trinity Wharf Tauranga is a 4-star hotel overlooking the harbor. With all the perks of a great hotel, it has a perfect location for exploring the town center, or relaxing with a glass of wine in the evening looking over the harbor.
Mid-rangeHarbour City Motor Inn lies smack bang in the middle of Tauranga city, with all the extras you need, as well as spa baths in each room. City Suites is a great option for self-contained rooms, with full kitchens, terraces or balconies, and a swimming pool to boot. Situated on Cameron Road, the suites are a 10 minutes walk from the city center. Roselands Motel is also close to the action, just a five minutes walk from the city center on Brown Street. The motel has spacious rooms and friendly hosts in a quiet location. On the outskirts of town, try Ambassador Motor Inn on Fifteenth Ave. In Mount Maunganui try the Mission Belle Motel on Victoria Road for well-furnished, modern rooms, with great rooms for families.
BudgetPacific Coast Lodge & Backpackers is a great option in Mount Maunganui when you want to be near town as well as the beach. Bikes and surfboards are provided free of charge. Mount Backpackers, also in Mount Maunganui, can't be beaten for location, close to both the beach and bars and restaurants. Take advantage of their discounted surf lessons. Located on The Strand in the center of Tauranga city, Harbourside City Backpackers boasts plenty of tidy rooms and a stunning roof terrace, perfect for hanging out on a summer's evening. If you're after seasonal work, they can also put you in touch with local employers. If camping is your style, you can't go past Cosy Corner Holiday Park right by the beach.
Getting AroundThe bright yellow Bay Hopper buses connect most areas within the city and surrounds. A fare to Mount Maunganui costs 3 NZD and takes 15 minutes. The central stop is found on Wharf Street, and timetables are available from the i-SITE information center.
By car, the city is easy to navigate. You can hire rentals from a number of rental agencies in town and at the airport. Taxis can be expensive (like most in New Zealand, with fares from the airport to the center of town costing around 20 NZD.
Getting ThereTo get to Tauranga by bus, InterCity and Naked Bus both offer services from cities such as Auckland, Hamilton, Rotorua, Taupo and Wellington.
Tauranga airport is located 10 minutes drive from the city center, and seven minutes from Mount Maunganui. National carrier, Air New Zealand and their operators offer flights to Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
Further informationTauranga has a temperate - subtropical climate. Summers can be hot and humid, with average daily temperatures of 59 °F. Winters are mild, with temperatures ranging from 43 °F.
For further information on Tauranga, swing by the Tauranga i-SITE Visitor Center on Willow Street in the center of the city.
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Author: Amanda. Last updated: Mar 15, 2016