If you're visiting Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty on the east coast of the North Island, you're sure to see in the distance the region's best-known landmark, Mount Maunganui. This small mountain also gives its name to the adjacent beach and suburb, which is one of the most visited tourist spots in the northern Bay of Plenty.
This is also a very popular place for New Zealanders. National beach sporting events - particularly for surfing and beach volleyball - are often held on Mount Maunganui's ocean beach and it's a hot spot for New Year celebrations. Kiwis colloquially call the place "The Mount".
Mount Maunganui Location and Geography
The mountain and the surrounding town are located on the southern side of the Tauranga Harbor entrance. It is just a few miles from the center of Tauranga city and north of Papamoa beach.
The land area is a narrow strip of only a few hundred yards, formed as a sandbar joining the mountain to the mainland. On each side is a beach; on the harbor side is Pilot Bay which is a good access point to the harbor for boaties and jet skiers. On the ocean side is one of New Zealand's most popular surf beaches.
Mount Maunganui (Mauao)
The imposing mountain at the north of the town is now known by its Maori name Mauao. This is an extinct volcano and was also once a Maori pa site (the evidence of pa trenches can still be seen). It is open to the public and is a very popular place for walking, climbing and even paragliding.
Mauao is only 242 meters high and the tracks are very well laid out so a climb to the top is not difficult. From the summit there are panoramic views in all directions - up and down the coast, islands such as Mayor Island and White Island, and inland to Tauranga port and city. Tauranga is New Zealand's second-busiest port and with a narrow harbor entrance, container ships can often be seen arriving and leaving at very close range.
The walk around the perimeter is the longest but easiest of the walks. It is 1.8 miles (2.9 kilometers) in length and gravel underfoot, making it suitable for walking in all weather conditions.
At the base of Mauao is a campground and hot pools complex. It is also just a few meters from the many cafes and restaurants that line this stretch of beach.
Mount Maunganui Beach
The ocean beach is regarded as one of the best in New Zealand for surfing. The great sand also makes it very popular in summer for swimming and sunbathing. Although the beach extends for some distance, the northern end closest to Mauao is the most popular. This is also the end which is patrolled by surf lifesavers; with the beach often having dangerous rips it is safest to swim at this end and only between the flags.
Other Things to See and Do in Mount Maunganui
There are many cafes along the beachfront of Mount Maunganui, clustered in a small area at the northern end of the beach. It's a great place to enjoy a coffee or a meal, and most places have outside tables from which to take in the beach view. There is also a full range of shopping facilities in Mount Maunganui township's main street, which runs between the two beaches away from the ocean.
In addition to beach walks, another enjoyable experience is a soak in the hot pools. These are salt water pools (and they can feel quite salty!) and are very popular. There are both public and private pools for soaking and swimming.
With a great beach, impressive mountain and unique seaside atmosphere, Mount Maunganui is a highlight of any visit to the Bay of Plenty.