50 things to see and do in the Bay

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After exploring so many of New Zealand’s famous places over the past two years, we felt that it’s time to highlight the beauty of our own little slice of heaven, where the mag was born and where we’re so lucky to live and work.

Photos and videos: Alex Spodyneiko

With activities and landscapes as diverse as those of a big country, the Bay of Plenty is the place to be in summer. From the volcanic valleys of Rotorua to literally ‘set in stone’ haiku poems in Katikati, to breathtaking hikes up The Mount in Mt Maunganui, the Bay of Plenty offers endless possibilities for an ultimate staycation. Seriously, it was almost impossible to choose ONLY 50 of the local wonders!

MUST DO’S

Mount Maunganui. Wouldn’t it be weird not to start with the place that makes it into ‘New Zealand’s top-10 most photographed spots’ every single year? Hike up the 232m Mauao for top-notch views and that feeling of literally being at the edge of the world.

White Island. New Zealand’s only active marine volcano sits 49km off the coast of Whakatāne. Accessible by boat or helicopter, this sleepy beauty is quite smelly and acidic, so you’ll thank your guide for the gas mask and lollies each visitor is given on the tour.

Skyline Rotorua. This all-age and all-weather attraction has so much to offer that you can easily spend a day there! Jump on board a gondola to get to the top and storm down in one of the gravity-fueled luges, or tickle the nerves on a 13-metre free-fall and a high-speed zipline.

Te Puia. This Rotorua attraction is a must for anyone wanting to experience everything our region is known for, in one place. Te Puia includes a Māori concert and hangi degustation, a geothermal valley with the biggest geyser in the southern hemisphere, kiwi, and historical artefacts to name just a few.


Polynesian Spa. Bay of Plenty has so many hot pools it might be hard to choose the one and only. Being voted a World Top Ten Spa four times, the Polynesian Spa in Rotorua easily narrows down the options. Enjoy hot mineral spring bathing or pick one of the luxurious massage and beauty treatments.

OUTDOORS

Ngā Tapuwae o Toi. An ultimate walkway in Whakatāne, taking you from the city centre all the way to Ōhope in around 3 hours with some stunning cliff top views, native forest, spectacular pohutukawa and seabird colonies along the way.

Te Urewera Walk. Our own ‘Jurassic Park’ is the largest forested wilderness in the North Island. Known mostly for the 3-4 day-long Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk, it actually has lots of super short walks as well. Many of them lead to New Zealand’s most stunning waterfalls (think Aniwaniwa Falls, 20m Papakorito Falls and a22m high Korokoro Falls).

McLaren Falls Park. Spectacular both during the day and atnight (thanks to the magical glow worms!), this park is loved by campers, fishers and kayakers as well as families who come herefor picnics, bush walks or to play a fun game of disco golf.

Kaiate Falls. Perfect for a chill on a hot summer’s day, this complex of two waterfalls with a refreshing swimming hole at the base is only a 30-minute easy walk away through the forest.

Papamoa Hills Regional Park. Recently renovated, this 135ha property is any hiker’s paradise. Walk through pine forests, native bush and across open farmland with friendly cows and sheep to see Tauranga from a different perspective. Nice bonus – you’ll probably remain one-on-one with nature most of the time!

Te Puna Quarry Park. A world-class park with fascinating views, exotic plants from all over the world and beautiful sculptures instead of an ugly disused quarry? Easy peasy! Local volunteers turned an old scar into an amazing outdoor area suitable for visitors of all ages.

Redwoods Treewalk. Little can beat a walk along the 23 suspension bridges hugging the 100-year old giants of the Whakarewarewa forest (unless you’re scared of heights, ofcourse, then this activity fits more into the ‘Extreme’ section of the article). Go back at night for an iconic magical light show,created by the world-famous David Trubridge Design.

Kuirau Park. A steaming and boiling lake in the very heart of Rotorua is New Zealand’s only geothermal public park. Take one of the scenic pathways towards the remarkable hot footbaths. A lovely relaxing spot!

Hamurana Springs Walk. A short 30-minute walk to the crystal- clear water laced with shades of turquoise, jade and emerald is a wonderful way to perk yourself up on any weekend. It takes 70 years for the water to make its way through underground aquifers to appear outside so clean and pure. Nature’s wonder, worth seeing with your own eyes.

Orokawa Bay Walk. The 45-minute walk to this secluded beach starts at the northern end of Waihi Beach. With beautiful pohutukawa and shimmering white sand, this beach is well worth the short hike. Spectacular Pacific Ocean views along the way make it even easier to get to the final destination.

BEACHES

Mount Maunganui Main Beach. You can’t beat this spot in summer! A glorious stretch of golden sand with the iconic Mauao in the background and the nearby row of on-trend fashion stores and healthy food cafes makes this the ultimate place to socialise and create memories.

Ōhope beach. Recently voted New Zealand’s most loved beach in the AA travel poll, this eastern Bay of Plenty gem stretches along the sparkling ocean for a good 11km. Dreamy white sand, great surfing and excellent food bring in thousands of tourists every summer.

Omokoroa beach. It looks like this tranquil pristine beach knows the secret to attracting good weather on most days. The lovely wooden deck of the Boat Club restaurant is our fav place to soak in the sun, while munching on yummy fish ‘n chips.

Waihi beach. Think unspoiled white sand, safe swimming, good surf, a bustling beachside community and vibrant dining spots. Waihi beach pretty much sums up everything we love about our coastal region.

Matakana beach. This untouched paradise is accessible only by water, so jump on a barge from Omokoroa or Sulphur Point in Tauranga to spend a day at the 20km-long white sand beach surrounded by pine forest. It’s a great place for experienced surfers or avid picnic lovers.

Otarawairere beach. This hidden jewel in Ōhope is not to be missed during the pohutukawa season as there are loads of these gorgeous trees straddling a beach of stone and crushed seashells. Our own version of paradise!

ACTIVE

White water rafting at Okere Falls. The Kaituna River has some heart pumping rapids up her sleeve including the highest rafted waterfall in the world. It’s the self-proclaimed best rafting base ever, and it definitely didn’t receive this title for nothing.

Zorb. Did you know this crazy activity was invented in New Zealand? Get a taste of what it’s like to roll uncontrollably down a hill from the pioneers of Zorbing. With a selection of track choices out there, you have enough room to experiment with both dry and wet Zorbs and undoubtedly laugh your head off!

The Squeeze. A fantastic experience that starts with a thrilling jet boat ride through Tutukau Gorge on the Waikato River to ‘The Squeeze’, a narrow section where you wade in shallow waters to a waterfall. The reward for an intense workout is a mystical hot spring waterfall all for yourself.

Canopy Tours Zipline. An enlightening adventure that takes people deep into an ancient forest. But don’t be afraid to get lost – you’ll be securely tied up! In fact, you won’t even have to walk on the tour, only fly through the bushes on ziplines, with the longest of them exceeding 400m.

Blokart. An invention, created in Papamoa in 1999, that quickly took the world by storm. A fun, fast, compact wind-powered go-kart is an exhilarating way to experience windsurfing on the ground.

Waimarino Glow Worm Kayak Tour. The tour starts with wine and cheese by the spectacular McLaren Lake before twilight, then continues with paddling your way through the enchanting high- sided canyon to see the glow worms, hypnotising and twinkling all around you.

RELAXING

Mount Hot Pools. This iconic Tauranga spot is an excellent way to relax and unwind after a hike up The Mount. The heated salt water is detoxifying and is believed to heal pains and inflammation.

The Cider Factorie. Located on the outskirts of Tauranga, enjoy award-winning cider whilst soaking in the most amazing views of Pilot Bay, Matakana Island and the Kaimai mountain range. Come with friends, as drinks and platters are designed to share.

Volcanic Hills Winery. This award-winning Rotorua winery might not have those endless rows and rows of grapes outside its tasting room but the superb location at the top of the Skyline Gondola, with epic views, is well worth the visit.

Kerosene Creek. The secluded hot pool, located south of Rotorua, is a beloved spot for those willing to experience iconic New Zealand geothermal facilities for free (find out 4 more free things to do in Rotorua). Hot water cascades two metres down to the tranquil pool, providing bathers with a stunning, relaxing backdrop.

Waikite Valley Thermal Pools. The ‘Living Waters’ of the Te Manaroa Spring form arguably the most beautiful swimming spot in the Bay. Ten different pools amalgamate into the scenery so perfectly, you feel like you’re bathing somewhere in a natural oasis. Take a short walk alongside the stream to see where the 100% pure boiling water comes from.

Agrodome. Home to the cutest farm animals, this Rotorua farmland has been a hit among tourists for over 40 years! Explore the working farm, enjoy the farm show and learn more about how world-famous New Zealand wool is created.

Julians Berry Farm and Café. Your one-stop shop for all things berries. It offers delicious freshly-picked and frozen berries, along with ice cream, jams, sauces, soaps, moisturisers and other berry- infused items. Guests can pick their own berries or indulge in hot homemade meals and pastries.

Ōhope International Golf Club. Uniquely situated between the ever-changing Pacific Ocean on one side and the unspoilt picturesque Ohiwa Harbour on the other. Rated one of New Zealand’s top five links courses. That’s enough reason to give this game a go!

WILD LIFE

Katikati Birds Gardens. An extensive oasis that features native and exotic birds, such as the kawaupaka, kererū and kākāriki. Most birds roam freely around the waterlily ponds, natural wetlands and bushes. The wide range of species and seasonal flowers make this park a gorgeous destination all year round.

Paradise Valley Springs Wildlife Park. Literally, the closest you can get to a pride of African lions without hopping on a plane to another continent. The Rotorua park offers a chance to chat to intelligent kea, feed deer, wallaby and trout, and learn more about other local mammals and birds.

Rainbow Springs Nature Park. Another awesome family park in Rotorua. It hosts the world’s largest kiwi hatching facility, which makes Rainbow Springs the best place to meet shy, ground- dwelling kiwi during the day. There are also daily exotic bird shows and the famous ‘Big Splash’, a nine-minute journey through the ecological evolution of the country which ends in a big wet surprise!

Moutohorā (Whale Island). Home to New Zealand’s rare and endangered plants, birds and reptiles. Not everyone can get permission to visit this island but White Island Tours is allowed to escort small daily groups to discover tīeke, kākāriki, little brown kiwi, bellbirds, tui, grey warbler and many sea birds, as well as the local fur seal colony.

Dolphin Seafaris. The Bay of Plenty is an amazing place to spot dolphins, orcas, whales, sea turtles and seals. Boat tours from Tauranga have an impressive 95% success rate in meeting these mesmerizing marine creatures and you’re more than welcome to swim with them, if the weather allows!

HISTORY AND ART

Tauranga Art Gallery. The first public gallery in the area regularly delivers outstanding exhibitions of historical and contemporary art. Among the most popular recent displays were Banksy artworks, The Future Art of Fashion and even the Chinese Orchestral Performance.

The Elms. Previously serving as a mission house for European settlers, this gorgeous homestead was built between 1838 and 1847. It boasts historical artefacts and has managed to preserve the vibes of all the many generations that have lived there. The tiny local library is probably the most outstanding place to visit, so don’t skip the guided tour that includes a glimpse inside.

Brain Watkins House. Built from kauri timber in 1881, this cosy house, located at the corner of Elizabeth Street and Cameron Road, is one of only six surviving single-family homes, turned museums, in New Zealand. Tauranga’s oldest private house is open to the public every Sunday from 2-4pm. It gives great insight into the life of a middle class European family.

Tauranga Historic Village. A vast collection of original and replica buildings from early Tauranga, with charming cobbled streets and lush bush surrounds, the Historic Village has its own cinema, café, church, radio station and cute shops. An amazing place to visit, especially during the popular Saturday markets.

Classic Flyers NZ. This outstanding collection of classic aircrafts and aviation memorabilia was launched by a group of passionate individuals and quickly became an exciting open- air museum in Tauranga.

Goldfields Historic Railway. Travel back in time on a heritage train from Waihi Station – built over a century ago – to Waikino (and back). This area is rich in goldmining history and artefacts, and there’s a lot to explore. Trains depart from both stations daily.

Karangahake Gorge Windows Walk. Sitting at the base of the Coromandel, this short 2.5km loop is our favourite part of the greater Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway. It boasts spectacular views from the small windows of the disused gold mining tunnels down the river gorge. Make sure to take a torch!


Mataatua: The House That Came Home. After traveling the world for over a century, this fully carved Māori ancestral house is finally back in New Zealand. Located in Whakatāne, the latest digital technologies hidden inside the beautifully decorated building provide guests with a captivating experience of traveling through local history.

The Lady on the Rock. A sophisticated statue of a girl atop the Whakatāne Heads commemorates the bravery of Wairaka, who was left alone in a canoe. Handling a canoe by a woman was tapu but after the canoe started drifting into the sea she defied this taboo and brought the waka safely back to shore.

Haiku Pathway. The 24 engraved boulders, placed along the 2km path in the heart of Katikati is the largest collection of haiku stones outside Japan. This neat park, bisected by the tranquil Uretara Stream, is a really great place to contemplate life and the graceful Japanese art.