This edited post about New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty was originally published on the Avanti Travel Insurance blog where I write a regular post for them.
Plenty to do in the Bay of Plenty
In 1796 Captain James Cook anchored off the shores of a large bight in the north-east of New Zealand’s North Island. He noted the supplies of food at the Maori villages along the shores of the bay were plentiful. Accordingly, he named it the Bay of Plenty.
With 259km of sandy coastline, a mild climate and a large sheltered natural harbour it is becoming increasingly popular with international visitors. There is always plenty to do in and around the Bay of Plenty.
With so much coast open to the Pacific swells the Bay of Plenty is a popular destination for surfers from novice to experienced. For those wanting to learn there are a number of surf schools set up in Tauranga during the summer. At the less commercialised Waihi Beach there also several surf schools.
Tauranga is New Zealand’s Riviera. Its beaches and climate make it a great place for a beach holiday and an ideal base from which to explore the rest of the region. Tauranga’s biggest attraction is Mount Maunganui, a prominent feature along the coast that holds cultural significance for the local Maori. There are hiking trails to the top with amazing views of the bay. For those who are less energetically inclined, there are also marked paths around the base of the mountain.
Kiwi Fruit Farms
The Bay of Plenty region is known for the production of kiwi fruits and there are many growers who welcome visitors. You will learn more about the kiwi fruit, how it is cultivated and sample not only the fruit but other products too.
McLaren Falls Park
There are a number of rivers, waterfalls and country parks for outdoor activities away from the coast. Many of the waterfalls are easily accessible and are great for picnics and a cool dip in the deep pools. McLaren Falls Park close to, and easily accessible from Tauranga is very popular for picnickers on summer days. Crowds tend to gather round the waterfalls the park is named after but there are quieter spots in the park itself.
Several companies offer river tours in kayaks on the many rivers in the region. One of the more unusual and magical tours to take is an evening paddle along a narrow gorge lit by thousands of glow worms.
Harbour cruises and tours
Tauranga, one of New Zealand’s largest natural harbours, is a popular destination for cruise ships and has a well-developed tourist infrastructure. There are a number of cruises around the natural lagoon and out into the waters of the Bay of Plenty. Cruises around the lagoon are informative both of the local Maori culture and the workings of a large seaport.
Migratory whales and schools of dolphins can often be seen out in the bay and there is a chance to take what locally has been called “seafaris” to see them and other marine wildlife.
The ultimate boat tour is a trip from Whakatane further along the coast to White Island. This is New Zealand’s only active marine volcano and can be identified by the plume of smoke emitting from the peak. Boat trips will land passengers on the island were they will be taken on a guided hike among various geothermal features.
UPDATE: After the tragic death of 16 people on December 9 2019 when the volcano erupted unexpectedly there are no trips to White Island by boat and no landings either, by boat or helicopter. This is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. You may be able to get a flight around the island but will need to check with operators
For those wanting to splurge a little, there are helicopter trips to the island by aptly named Volcanic Air, which also land passengers for a guided hike. The flight in gives a completely different perspective.
New Zealand sits on a number of fault lines. As a result of this there a number of active geothermal areas in the Bay of Plenty region worth visiting. The best known of these is the town of Rotorua where there are several active geothermal features. You can see constantly erupting geysers, boiling mud pools and hot springs along with colourful deposits from minerals left behind by evaporating water. The thermally heated waters are also utilised in a number of spas in the town.
Rotorua is also one of the best places learn more about the Maori people with several cultural centres and museums dedicated to educating people about the first peoples of New Zealand.
There was a massive surge of interest in New Zealand as a result of the movies The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. All the films featured many of the stunning landscapes the country is famous for. The movie set for Hobbiton can easily be visited from Tauranga and other centres in the Bay of Plenty. Tolkien fans will enjoy the guided tour around the 12-acre site past Hobbit Holes, the Mill and a stop at the Green Dragon Inn.
There is more than enough to do in the Bay of Plenty Region today. I wonder what Captain Cook would have made of it now? Being the explorer he was I am sure he would be keen to explore the region further.
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