The staggering beauty of New Zealand’s coast line plays our perfectly in the Bay of Plenty. A destination rich in cultural experiences, historic Maori sites, natural scenery, incredible food and vibrant beach towns, it’s a great addition to any New Zealand itinerary. Spend your days soaking in the sun, enjoying the water and breathing in the fresh air as you explore all 125km of this coastal nirvana. To help you #TravelWell, here’s our ultimate guide to the Coastal Bay of Plenty.
How to get to the Bay of Plenty
Located in the North Island of New Zealand, the Bay of Plenty (BOP) is around 2 hours and 50 minutes hours drive from Auckland. It is the perfect addition to a New Zealand road trip itinerary or a great extension to a visit to Auckland and the Coromandel (Read: How to spend 2 days in Auckland here).
If you’re on a road trip you’ll most likely want to fit BOP into your itinerary before or after the Coromandel. For example, you may do what we did and spend 3 nights in Auckland, 2 nights in the Coromandel and then head to the coastal BOP. If you’re moving south to north, you may choose to visit Napier, Taupō and Rotorua then head to the coastal BOP.
Overseas visitors will need to travel to New Zealand by plane. Visiting from Australia, we flew direct from Brisbane Airport to Auckland Airport with a flight time of 3 hours. Though, you could also fly to Rotorua Airport if you prefer. We opted to fly with Qantas as they allowed 30kg of checked luggage and an in-flight meal.
Did you know? Mount Maunganui Main Beach and Ōhope Beach have regularly featured among New Zealand’s most loved beaches!
How long to spend in the Bay of Plenty
The Bay of Plenty is situated around a bight in the coastline, stretching around 260km from the Coromandel Peninsula in the west to Cape Runway in the east. Much like we experienced in the Coromandel, it is a vast area encompassing coastline and inland spots.
We opted to spend 2 nights in the coastal Bay of Plenty, basing ourselves in Tauranga. Honestly, we could’ve easily spent a week moving through the area, exploring all the beach towns and journeying through the gorgeous scenery. Our two nights stay was enough to see and do quite a bit but I don’t recommend staying less than 2 nights, if possible. You’d still have a great time, of course, but you’d be missing out! Aim for 2 nights minimum and stay longer if you can.
Did you know? Whakatāne is the Kiwi Capital of the world! Conservation efforts have seen the native kiwi bird population soar. Be sure to add a visit to your itinerary.
Where to stay in the Bay of Plenty
We stayed at Trinity Wharf Hotel, perfectly located on the spectacular Tauranga Harbour a few minutes from the central business district. Staying in a Harbour Deluxe Spa, room 126, we loved the huge floor-to-ceiling windows allowing plenty of natural light into the room and stunning views of the water. Outside, a large private balcony offered the perfect spot to sit and watch the day come to life each morning.
Inside, we found the room to be spacious and comfortable with plenty of floor space to open up our suitcases and unpack. A comfortable King Size bed, two armchairs, a desk and table, large screen TV, free wifi and small fridge with coffee making facilities made the space functional and very cosy. In the bathroom, a heated tile floor and fluffy robes combined with a generous spa bath provide the ideal scene for relaxation, with a seperate shower available too.
The hotel’s convenient location, spectacular harbour views and comfortable interior made for the perfect base for our BOP adventures. Those on a road trip will appreciate the free on-site parking and, if you’re visiting in the warmer months, be sure to check out the pool! Find Trinity Wharf Hotel here.
How to get around the Bay of Plenty
On arrival at Auckland Airport we collected our hire car from GO Rentals and, if you’re planning to visit the Bay of Plenty, a car is essential. We opted for a small SUV (Toyota RAV4) owing to our 3 1/2 week road trip through the north and south islands, though a small car would be fine too. The GO App allowed us to complete check-in before we departed home, making our vehicle pick-up fast and easy! Find GO Rentals here.
Pro Tip: Stay connected with a local sim card from SimsDirect. Get your sim card before leaving home, ensuring you’re able to ‘check-in,’ navigate and find great things to do on the go!
11 of the BEST things to do in the Bay of Plenty
Planning a Bay of Plenty itinerary? Here’s what we got up to over 2 days, based in Tauranga:
1. Visit Waihi Beach
Start your BOP itinerary at Waihi Beach, a picturesque coastal town at the start of the western end of the BOP. In the heart of town, you can wander past quaint cafes, boutiques, eateries and more. Be sure to take a walk along the pristine, white-sand beach and, if you have time, do the Orokawa Bay Walk. It should take around 30-45 minutes each way, covering 3km if you complete the full walk through native bushland and past unbeatable views of the BOP coastline. Find Waihi Beach here.
2. Leveret Estate Wines
Conveniently located along State Highway 2, Leveret Estate Wines is the coastal BOP’s only winery and an easy stopping point along the way. Pull in for a cellar door tasting inside the historic Cape Dutch building that dates back to 1978. It’s a great way to taste the region, stock up on a few bottles to enjoy along the way or take home and, hopefully, discover something you love! Find Leveret Estate Wines here.
3. Explore Tauranga
Meaning ‘place of rest or anchorage,’ in Maori, there’s a long list of things to see, do and experience in Tauranga. I recommend spending an afternoon driving around and exploring on foot, taking in vibrant street art, cool cafes, restaurants and bars, ducking into thrift stores and boutiques and enjoying the fresh sea air. A few spots. to check out include Tauranga Art Gallery, the carvings outside the University of Waikato, Matariki Pou on The Strand, the Historic Village, The Incubator and Gate Pa Memorial Reserve. The largest city in the coastal BOP, you may also want to add a few water-based activities to your itinerary.
4. Glow Worm Kayak Tour
Kick off your 3-hour guided glow worm kayak tour with sundowners at Lake Mclaren Falls Park. Get to know your tour mates and the local swans while sipping on mulled wine and enjoying a few nibbles. Once the sun gets low enough, it’s time to strap on the necessary gear, go through a safety briefing and head out onto the lake in your kayak. We paddled around 6.5km all up and found the calm water and our expert guide made it very easy going! On arriving at the glow worm cave, you’ll learn all about these remarkable creatures and hear important stories from the Maori culture. Find the Waimarino Glow Worm Kayak Tour here.
5. Dumplings and Beer at The Rising Tide
Located in Tauranga, The Rising Tide acts as a cellar door to Mount Brewing Co, so expect a very cool brewhouse fit-out with plenty of ceiling space and neon lights. With around 40 beers on tap, you’re sure to find something you love with an ever-changing roster of local brews to sample. When hunger strikes, check out the menu for Johneys Dumpling House, with plenty of delicious bites including dumplings, burgers and tacos. Find The Rising Tide here.
6. Breakfast at The General
For a delicious breakfast in Tauranga, look no further than The General. Situated right near Mount Maunganui, the interior is spacious and airy with a cabinet and fridge bursting with cakes, sandwiches and other goodies that will have your tummy doing somersaults. The all day menu boasts a range of sweet and savoury dishes that all look so good it’s hard to choose just one. Find The General here.
7. Climb The Mount
Looking up at it from the beach, I was unbelievably intimidated by Mauao or, it’s also known, ‘The Mount.’ Rising some 232 metres from the sea and a destination deeply rooted in Maori culture, the summit offers the very best views over the Bay of Plenty and is an absolute must-do for visitors. It took us around an hour to make our way up and back, covering a distance of nearly 4km. We took our time, resting along the way to enjoy the views and moving at our pace. Be sure to allow plenty of time at the top to just sit and soak it all in as well as wander a little to check out the 360-degree views. Bonus points if you make it up for sunrise! As this is a very special site in Maori culture please take note of all signs, don’t fly a drone and stay to the path. Find The Mount/Mauao here.
8. Visit Kaiate Falls
Nothing can quite prepare you for how beautiful it is at Kaiate Falls, a 25-minute drive from Tauranga. We spent just under an hour here, covering a distance of roughly 2km all up, making our way along well-formed trails to visit the two falls locations. We loved how raw and open the space was, with no guard rails to get in the way. While you’ll need to be safe and cautious, you can stand in a secure spot to just breath it all in and feel the power of the water pretty close up! Our visit to Kaiate Falls was an unexpected highlight of our time in the BOP and a bit of a hidden gem. Find Kaiate Falls here.
9. Feast at Rice, Rice Baby!
Vibrant colours and bright music set the scene for dining at Rice Rice Baby in Tauranga. Plastic chairs and tablecloths, an assortment of sauces and a container filled with plastic chopsticks and spoons capture the essence of authentic Vietnamese dining. The menu caters for a range of dietary needs with a roster of tasty bites including summer rolls, Banh Mi, Pho, curry, fried rice, wontons and more. It’s super popular so get there early or take advantage of their take out menu. Find Rice Rice Baby here.
10. Soak in the Hot Pools
One of the things I love most about New Zealand is the hot pools dotted across both the islands! In Tauranga, you can get your soak on under the stars and the calming presence of The Mount. The aptly named Mount Hot Pools has a range of pools to sit, soak and relax in and the facility is really clean and non-creepy (if you know, you know!) If you want to get fancy you can book yourself in for a massage or for access to private pools. Find Mount Hot Pools here.
11. Coffee and breakfast at Eddies & Elspeth
You’ll find Eddies & Elspeth in a gorgeous white building in Mount Maunganui. It’s important to note they are two different businesses, sharing one space (i.e. the ultimate power couple!). Eddies Brunch Parlour is a cafe serving up food that is every bit as beautiful as it is delicious. Elspeth is an artisan bakery with a wall of freshly baked breads and glass cabinet overflowing with goodies that will have your eyeballs twitching. On our visit, we ordered coffee and a pain au chocolat to-go from Elspeth and a raw, plant-based bite from Eddies, also to-go. The coffee and food were all fantastic! Find Eddies Brunch Parlour here and Elspeth Bakery here.
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