The ‘Bay of Plenty’ stretches widely across a coastline of roughly 259 kilometers. The bay extends from the Coromandel Peninsula in the west to Cape Runway in the east. The bay is also known as Te Moana-a-Toi (the sea of Toi), a term which refers to an ancestral explorer Toi-te-huatahi. Māori people, the indigenous group of New Zealand, are believed to have settled first, in this region. The region wasn’t frequently visited by European explorers, but in 1769, James Cook, an English explorer visited the Bay, and called it the ‘Bay of Plenty’ due to its abundant resources and substantial population.
The Bay of Plenty is characterized by its sandy coast, sand spits, islands and tidal harbors. The area enjoys rich fertile volcanic soil that helps produce its classical kiwifruit and citrus. The bay is one of the most sought-after holiday destinations for New Zealanders and visitors from around the world, owing to its warm climate during the summer, mild winters and accessibility to its plethora of beaches.
The most populous city in the Bay of Plenty and also one of the fastest growing cities in New Zealand is a paradise for outdoorsy hobbies and water sports enthusiasts. Local produce has been used creatively in restaurants and cafeterias. Spacious housing developments are visible everywhere, and one can witness the spirited café culture in the city.
Surfing, white water rafting, kite boarding, hiking and golfing are the variety of activities provided in Tauranga. You can also engage in a pleasant divertissement like wine tasting or picking kiwifruits, which the city boasts of in plenty.
A 10 minutes’ drive from central Tauranga and you’ll encounter the popular McLaren Falls Park, alongside the quaint McLaren Lake. The park has walking tracks and also provides accommodation for campers, for a maximum 3 nights. Besides, free gas barbeques are available for public use around the park. Many kayaking trips also take place at the park, and trout fishing is permitted throughout the year.
A cascading Kaiate Falls awaits the visitor 7 km from Waitao road. The falls have good well maintained trails with steps for steeper areas. The highlight of the falls is its pool at the bottom, which is very popular among local teenagers. The wall of the pool valley is coated in verdant greenery with its long fall of water from the plateau above. The Kaiate falls is a great hangout for a picnic and a swim.
To the north of Tauranga, lies Mount Maunganui, a coastal resort town, enclaved with bars, cafes and beaches. It boasts of being New Zealand’s ‘surf city’ with an artificial surf reef, spanning 100m. Moturiki Island adjoining the peninsula by a man made land bridge provides plenty of rock climbing opportunities.
Invigorated by the huge influx of domestic and international tourists, Rotorua is known for its geothermal activity, featuring geysers and hot mud pools. The city has also been nicknamed as ‘Sulphur City’.
Having a substantial Maori population, this is a fine spot to experience the Maori traditional ‘Hangi’ a cooking method where food is cooked using heated rocks buried in pit ovens. Maori cultural performances can also be enjoyed at the Tamaki Maori Village. Hire a boat and enjoy the serene beauty of the lakes of Rotoiti, Rotoehu, and Rotama.
Between Lake Rotorua and Rotoiti, rests Rotorua’s most active geothermal area ‘Tikitere’. Believing, this area was indeed the gates of hell, George Bernard Shaw gave it the name ‘Hell’s Gate’. Hot boiling pools with temperatures rising as hot as 100 degrees Celsius, sulphur pools, New Zealand’s largest active mud volcano, are the hallmarks of this area. The visit to the spa at Hell’s gate opens up relaxing mud baths and Maori massage techniques.
Take a trip to Lake Tarawera, and gaze at the historic Mount Tarawera, responsible for a frightening night in 1886, that went down to be one of New Zealand’s largest volcanic eruptions. The area surrounding Lake Tarawera has several walking tracks including the trail that leads to the attractive Tarawera Falls.
White Island (Whakaari)
Off the coast of Whakatane, lies New Zealand’s most active cone volcano. The island is also called ‘’Te Puia o Whakaari’ which means ‘the dramatic ‘volcano’ owing to its frequent hot water steaming and hissing from vents, with temperatures touching as high as 600 to 800 degrees. Since 1826, it has had around 35 small moderate eruptions, its last being in 2000 and is roughly circular in shape.
The island has been declared as an important bird area by Birdlife International as it houses 3000 pairs of Australasian Gannets. The island is accessible by licensed tourist operators and can visitors can only land with prior permission. There are strict rules with respect to any interference with wildlife. Fishing is very popular in the water surrounding the White Island. Flyover trips, charter trips which may include a walking tour around the island are also available
Moutohora or Whale Island is situated 9 kilometers of Whakatane. It is called Whale Island, because of its leviathan shape. The island has a protected status and thus tours are restricted to the months of January to March. The Island is a popular spot for diving and fishing with local tour companies arranging activities like dolphin and seal spotting, snorkeling, and walking tours to Moutohora Island wildlife sanctuary, a home to a number of bird and reptile endangered species.