Best things to do in Tauranga
Find out more about those top places in Tauranga
Just south of Auckland on the coast of the spectacular Bay of Plenty sits the boomtown of Tauranga. As New Zealand’s fastest growing city (it recently overtook Dunedin to become the nation’s fifth largest), Tauranga displays a suitably energetic pace of life. Revolving around a lively waterfront, the city center has numerous art galleries, boutique shops and vibrant eateries waiting to be explored. What Tauranga lacks in blockbuster attractions it more than makes up for with splendid views of the extinct volcano Mount Maunganui and the seaside suburb of the same name, which is lined by 20 kilometers of golden sand beaches.
The most historic location of the Bay of Plenty, the Elms was founded in 1838 as the region’s first mission station. Today the original buildings, including the Anglican minister Alfred Brown’s house and the chapel, remain intact and are packed with period furnishings. For the best experience, fascinating guided tours take you through the area’s rich history and the story of the mission.
In a country full of natural wonders, the unassuming Lake McLaren hardly stands out – until nighttime that is. Once the sun goes down, the narrow cliff lined lake becomes illuminated by millions of tiny glow-worms that cling to the rock faces creating a mesmerizing light show. To explore this unusual attraction, regular tours run from Tauranga.
Just south of Tauranga lies the picture-perfect village of Bethlehem and its world-famous winery Mills Reef. While the Bay of Plenty is not grape growing country, Mills Reef source grapes from other areas of New Zealand before processing them in their state-of-the-art facility. For the best experience, head to one of their award wining tastings.
Located in the buzzing heart of Tauranga, the city’s up and coming art gallery is one of New Zealand’s most challenging. With a rotating selection of contemporary art, the gallery punches well above its weight in the national art scene.
Set in the lush countryside south of Tauranga is Hobbiton, the set used as the location for the Shire in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit franchise. Guided tours of the fairy tale landscape are held throughout the day and conclude with a complimentary drink at the Shire’s famed Green Dragon pub.
Tauranga sits on the aptly named Bay of Plenty, which is home to New Zealand’s most spectacular marine life. Regular boat tours from the city take you out to sea where you can marvel at dolphins, penguins and seals and explore the rugged islands of Matakana, Karewa and Motiti on foot. For the best experience, you are recommended to bring snorkeling gear for a closer look at the bay’s underwater attractions.
Located west of the city center, Minden Lookout provides visitors with a panoramic view of the Bay of Plenty. From the Victorian-era viewing platform you can even see the volcanic island of Whakaari smoking distantly.