There’s plenty to see and do in the Bay of Plenty, as this part of New Zealand is so affectionately named. In Tauranga, a mix of quirky sites and natural attractions make it easy to spend the day here and get a sense of the town’s completely unique personality. The harbor and port town make for a popular beach destination by the name of Mount Maunganui. On your New Zealand cruise, you’ll find out why Tauranga is the Bay of Plenty’s shining gem.
Waterfront restaurants and cafes give Tauranga a sense of glamour. It’s hard not to feel swept up in the flurry of geothermal activities travelers can do here, whether that’s a dip in a hot mud bath or getting up close with an active volcano on White Island just a boat ride away. Like Auckland, Tauranga’s food scene offers cuisines of every variety. Of course, Tauranga doesn’t forget its Maori roots, and you can tour villages where the Maori still live, work, and play.
Mount Maunganui, nicknamed “the Mount,” is a must-do activity while in Tauranga. The Mount is located across the Tauranga Harbor. According to Maori legend, the mountain, named Mauao, is a sacred place with healing properties. It’s only a 45-minute walk to get up to a lookout point where travelers can see Tauranga in the near distance.
As one of the oldest buildings in New Zealand, the Elms Mission House holds special cultural significance for residents of Tauranga. Tour the Elms Mission House for a detailed understanding of missionary settlement and efforts in the Tauranga area. A leisurely walk through the grounds and the extensive library is a thrill for history buffs.
This active volcano in the Bay of Plenty is just a short boat ride from Tauranga. It’s typically shrouded in a plume of white smoke, giving the island a mysterious, spooky feeling. While stopped on your Tauranga cruise, you’ll get up close and personal with mud baths and other geothermal wonders you’ve never seen before.
Go swimming in the relaxing waters of Pilot Bay, where you can even spot and swim alongside wild dolphins. The beaches in New Zealand attract thousands of surfers and swimmers each year. You can rent equipment for surfing or snorkeling, or simply spend the day lounging beachside.
At neighboring town of Rotorua, you can experience Hell’s Gate, which is a geothermal reserve and paradise. Craving both time in nature and an unforgettable experience during your time in New Zealand? Take a dip in the largest mud baths in all of New Zealand, and check out the hot waterfall while you’re there.
One of the world’s largest cinematic franchises, built its famous Hobbiton set here in Tauranga. Walk in the footsteps of the Fellowship and tour the movie set where you’ll learn exciting trivia and tidbits about the movies and their impact on New Zealand’s tourism.
No Tauranga cruise is complete without experiencing and honoring the Maori culture that has so shaped the region as it we know it. Take a trip to Te Puia Maori Cultural Centre or stop in and meet Maori residents at Whakarewarewa, where locals will show you how they live alongside the geothermal springs and use their unique properties to power their daily routines. Sample Maori cuisine and see a traditional dance performance while you’re there.
Most of the world’s kiwifruit comes from New Zealand. During your Tauranga cruise, you can tour a kiwifruit orchard, pick your own kiwifruit, and learn about the growth, production, and trading of this native fruit.
Address: 309 Maunganui Road, Tauranga, NZ
Fresh sushi and Japanese fusion are the specialties at Satori Lounge, whether you’re a sashimi or eel lover or you prefer the slightly more familiar California roll. In fact, Satori has nine different spins on a California roll to choose from. The fact that they offer dairy-free cream cheese and gluten-free tempura or panko is a huge win for those with dietary restrictions, too.
Address: Old Yacht Club Building 150 The Strand, Tauranga, New Zealand
Harbourside has the waterfront views and the filling mains you need during a big day of exploration, whether that’s beer-battered fish and chips or a pan-roasted chicken breast with delicious, creamy pancetta pasta. Fresh seafood done up in clever ways are staples on the menu, and you’re promised the freshest catch of the day here. Lunch is served from 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM, and the place opens back up for dinner each day at 5 PM.
Le Petit Four Cafe & Patisserie
Address: 65 Chapel Street, Tauranga, NZ
To indulge your sweet tooth after a day of hiking or swimming in Tauranga, try Le Petit Four Cafe & Patisserie, which specializes in beautiful cakes, freshly baked bread, and pastries, plus breakfast favorites and sandwiches for the lunchtime crowd. Vegetarian-friendly options are a huge draw, too. It’s a good spot to grab an afternoon coffee before continuing on with your tour of Tauranga.
Johney’s Dumpling House
Address: 107 Newton St, Mount Maunganui, Tauranga, New Zealand
Craving dumplings in a cozy, no-frills atmosphere? Johney’s is the spot in Tauranga for that. The dumplings here receive consistently raving reviews and come in all sorts of flavors. The cocktails warrant a try, too.
In the Maori language, the word “Tauranga” means “resting place,” which is both apt for the town’s easygoing spirit and its prominence as a vacation destination for those on a Tauranga cruise. The Maori and the Takitimu settled in the area as early as the 1100s. Later, this part of New Zealand was affectionately nicknamed the “Bay of Plenty” by English colonizer Captain James Cook in the 18th century. Missionaries and European settlers started flocking to Tauranga as early as the 1830s. The status of Tauranga as a port city and a hub for trade brought jobs and economic development to the area in the mid-20th century as well. Today, Tauranga has immense respect for its past and pays homage to its Maori culture through events and programming as the city continues to grow and evolve into a business hub for New Zealand.
Cruise ships will dock at Mount Maunganui at the Salisbury Wharf. Both the beach and the Mount Maunganui main street area are just a short walk for travelers who wish to stretch their legs after time at sea. You can also take a shuttle further into Tauranga from the port. The waterfront is beautiful, and travelers can continue onto their shore excursions or break off on their own itineraries from there.
Taxis are common in the area, and you can book them ahead or call them if you have the information of a local taxi provider. Ride-sharing services like Lyft or Uber aren’t available in Tauranga yet. There’s a shuttle for cruise passengers from the port to Mount Maunganui every half hour, six days a week. The shuttle isn’t available on Sundays, however. An excursion with Celebrity will take care of any transportation needs you may have getting to and from your excursion. Of course, you can also rent a car to get around for the day if you wish to get behind the wheel and see Tauranga via car.
The main drag of the small town called Mount Maunganui features plenty of high-end fashion boutiques and clothing stores for an upscale afternoon of shopping. Pohutukawa Gallery sells indigenous arts and handmade pottery if you’re looking for a souvenir that was made by locals. Plus, bars and cafes line main street, so you won’t have difficulty grabbing a bite to eat, either.
Use the New Zealand dollar (NZD) while stopped on cruises to Tauranga and other cities in New Zealand. Tipping isn’t customary here, so you don’t have to worry about leaving a tip for taxi drivers, servers, or bartenders. You can exchange currency at banks and ATMs across the area. When you’re shopping, taxes will already be included in the total price, and you’ll quickly notice that credit cards are commonly accepted almost everywhere in New Zealand.