Tauranga activities for families
The beach is always a good idea for a family holiday, even in winter! But there's much, much more to Tauranga and the Bay of Plenty than beautiful surf and harbour beaches. Kids' activities in Tauranga can embrace science, wildlife, favourite book characters, hot water relaxing and never-done-before sports. You'll have some amazing times and gather a phone-full of hilarious memories.
With Whakaari (White Island) off the coast and Rotorua just to the south, it's not surprising that Tauranga is a hot spot for warm swims. The most famous of the region's hot pools is at the base of Mount Maunganui (Mauao). This geothermal spring was discovered in the 1950s by a local water diviner. Instead of finding fresh water, he found hot salt water! Of all the family things to do in Mount Maunganui, this one appeals to all ages and stages.
Another relaxing hot pool complex is located in Bethlehem, just minutes from Tauranga city. The Fernland Spa Thermal Mineral Springs geothermal pool complex is surrounded by native forest. There's a large main pool and eight private pools. Go for a soak at the end of the day and you'll all sleep like logs.
Glow worm kayaking and kiwi spotting
McLaren Falls Park is always a gorgeous spot for a family picnic. There's a fabulous waterfall, as well as ducks and swans, a disc golf course and bush walks. And a special treat here is the evening glow-worm kayak tour on Lake McLaren. The whole family can pile into kayaks to watch the sun set over the hills, then paddle stealthily into the enchanting glow-worm canyon. This tour only happens once a day, so you need to book in advance.
Another nocturnal activity in the Bay of Plenty is kiwi spotting. During April, May and June, the Whakatane Kiwi Trust runs Kiwi Night Walks every Friday evening. It's a great chance to hear kiwi calling and learn about the fantastic work being done to protect our unique national symbol.
Blokarts and SUP
BayStation at BayPark is the place for older kids and daring parents to satisfy their need for speed. The latest sensation here is drift trikes, three-wheeled machines with low-traction rear wheels that make it easy to skid spectacularly around a specially-made track. There are blokarts too, which are kind of like windsurfers on wheels. Learning to sail a blokart is a lot like learning to sail a small boat, but without the wet capsize factor. Huge fun!
Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) is another great activity for families. On the Pilot Bay side of Mount Maunganui, there are boards for hire that can be used in the tranquil bay and around the inner-harbour edge of Mauao. You can also try SUP on the ocean side of Mount Maunganui, when the surf's not too big.
Ocean cruises and dolphin swimming
Getting out on the water is possibly the number one thing to do in Tauranga and Mount Maunganui. Sightseeing cruises leave daily to explore the inner harbour, the coastal edge of Mauao and out into the blue yonder. Wildlife spotting is a big part of the fun - there's always the potential to see little blue penguins, New Zealand fur seals, whales, sunfish, sharks, orca and dolphins. If you make a day of it, a barbecue on board takes care of lunch. When conditions are right, some cruises offer swimming with dolphins - an experience that stays with you forever.
Ocean charters to try your luck in the legendary sport-fishing waters off the coast of Mount Maunganui are another way to get your family on a boat. Inshore fishing trips are great too, if you're more interested in catching a snapper than a marlin.
When kids need to burn off some energy, Tauranga's playgrounds are ready for action. Memorial Park in the city has several play areas, a skate ramp and mini golf. Kulim Park in Otumoetai has a large play area with barbecues, picnic tables and a ptetanque court. And the Lakes playground in Pyes Pa is loved for its flying fox.
Another of the best things to do in Tauranga for kids is a visit to the Hairy Maclary sculpture park on The Strand in downtown Tauranga. Presented as larger-than life bronze statues, all the characters are here: Scarface Claw, Slinky Malinki, Hercules Morse, Muffin McLay, Bottomley Potts, Schnitzel von Krumm, Bitzer Maloney, Zachary Quack and, of course, Hairy Maclary.
Marshalls Animal Park at McLarens Falls is a guaranteed way to keep kids happy. It's home to all sorts of farmyard animals (sheep, deer, goats, birds, pigs and horses), as well as giant African ostriches, Texas longhorn cattle and emu.