Things to do in Tauranga, New Zealand
Tauranga Cruise Stop
Overlooking the Bay of Plenty in northern New Zealand, Tauranga is the most populous city of the region and one of the fastest growing in the country. Attracted by its sunny climate, long, white sand beaches, and proximity to North Island’s ‘fruit bowl’, many of New Zealand’s retired population flock to its shores along with boatloads of visitors who regularly make calls at the cruise port located in the suburbs of Mount Maunganui at the headland of the harbour.
As Tauranga sits on the edge of the Taupo Volcanic Zone, it has one of the most active fault lines in New Zealand. In fact, you can literally peek into such underground activity in White Island, a bubbling cauldron of vast, white plumes and bright yellow sulphurous vents rumbling under your feet and biding time to erupt once again. Join a volcanic air safari or immerse yourself in an up close and personal experience after a short helicopter flight from the mainland. You will be flown right into the heart of the volcano’s landscape of bubbling mud and boiling fissures and allowed to trek – with a licensed guide and hard hats – up to the crater as the ground beneath throws its signature tantrums.
The Bay of Plenty, so named by Captain James Cook because of the bountiful sources of food when he anchored there in 1769, is equally abundant in maritime adventures. As you fly back to Tauranga from White Island, you will pass by Astrolabe Reef and get to watch dolphins and whales cavort in its vicinity. Cruises in the bay remain popular, as is surfing, sailing and scuba-diving. There is of course the ever-present white sand beach that beckons with its irresistible waters when you walk The Strand, Tauranga’s revamped waterfront and premiere shopping, dining and lifestyle hub.
While it’s tempting to immerse yourself in Tauranga’s seemingly endless water-based activities and fresh sea food, baskets of fruits and bottles of wine, there is a satellite of attractions just outside its doorsteps that await the tourist who can stand strong sulphuric smells. An hour to the south is Rotorua’s Te Puia Maori Cultural Centre and Thermal Reserve where you can watch Maori cultural performances, take part in a “hangi” traditional feast, watch geysers shoot hot water 90 feet into the air, or dip your toes in thermal pools. The ‘rotten egg’ smell can be pervasive, but worth the sacrifice.
Much closer to Tauranga is the famous movie set of The Lord of the Rings, on the map known as the Waikato farmlands, New Zealand’s major dairy farming region. While you will only cover a small acreage of the 1,250-acre sheep farm which makes up The Shire, you will have the opportunity to peek through half-ling holes in the bucolic village of Matamata, in real life a small town of 12,000 residents, and on the silver screen the dreamy landscape of Peter Jackson’s Hobbiton.