Exploring the Bay of Plenty

Get yourself some wheels and find the markets, breweries, galleries, waterfalls and roadside stalls that promise plentiful fun in the Bay of Plenty.

Whether you base yourself in Tauranga or Mount Maunganui, you'll want to venture further than your immediate neighbourhood because this region demands deeper discovery. A rental car will offer you the freedom of the road, so you can find some of the best things to do in the Bay of Plenty.

Big little markets

Outdoor markets are high on the list of Bay of Plenty activities, because the weather's nearly always nice. Here's a quick guide to farmers markets and other open-air shopping experiences:

  • The Tauranga Farmers Market happens every Saturday morning in 5th If you're doing a bit of self-catering on your holiday, you'll love picking up fruit, vegetables, bread, freshly baked treats and other tasty goodies from local producers
  • Over at the Mount (Mount Maunganui), Sunday is farmers market day. Head to Phoenix Park/Te Papa O Nga Manu Porotakataka for fresh breads, pastries, cheese, smoked fish, oils, chutneys, relishes, honey and other delicious edibles from the region
  • The Historic Village Market takes place every two weeks at the Historic Village in 17th Avenue, Tauranga. It's a thoroughly quaint experience, complete with cobbled streets and the charm of yesteryear.
  • Little Big Markets are held on the third Saturday of every month at the Pāpāmoa Pony Club. This market's a scrumptious mixture of arts, crafts, street food and live music
  • The Our Place container mall is set in the heart of Tauranga's CBD and offers a range of retail stores, live music, craft beer and the city's best dumplings. Open Tuesday - Sunday

Craft beer and cider

As the craft beer movement gains momentum across New Zealand, some highly acclaimed breweries are serving great tasting paddles around the Bay of Plenty.

The Island Brewery in Pāpāmoa welcomes beer connoisseurs for Friday night frivolity, where you'll get a beer and a plate of BBQ food for just $10, or you can head along on a Sunday for beer with live music.

Another fine brewing experience can be found in Whakatāne at Mata Brewery. An extensive menu of year-round and seasonal beers will ensure your beer-tastebuds have plenty to think about. The tasting room also serves pizza, gourmet pies, toasties and various other forms of beer-compatible deliciousness.

Special mention must be made of the Tauranga craft beer destination that consistently gets rave reviews - The Rising Tide Brewhouse in Newton Street. This bar has nearly 40 taps supplying the best craft beer and cider, and taps 1 to 10 are exclusively for beer produced by the Mount Brewing Company. Watch the brewers at work while you sip your way through a tasting paddle.

If time is short, the Brewbus runs the Beer O'Clock tour that departs from Mount Maunganui on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. The tour is three hours long and takes you to a couple of great local craft beer destinations.

Food fun in Tauranga

If you're familiar with the works of AC/DC, you'll definitely want to visit Phil's Place. This restaurant belongs to Phil Rudd, AC/DC's drummer. He always wanted a place where people can enjoy great food at affordable prices and now his dream is a reality. Phil's Place gets great reviews. You'll find it down at Tauranga Bridge Marina.

The Cider Factorie in Te Puna isn't just famous for its cider. It has a ripper of a casual restaurant set in a former avocado packing shed, with views of the inner harbour and Kaimai Ranges. Sharing plates and platters are designed to complement the ciders.

For a special night out, or even just brunch in a gorgeous setting, Mills Reef Winery Restaurant has a reputation for fantastic food matched beautifully with local wine. When the season's right, alfresco dining is glorious.

In summer, the Mount's Gourmet Night Market at Coronation Park is a Friday thing that you won't want to miss. It's a chance to enjoy street food with a gourmet spin, accompanied by live music.

Art and culture

In Whakatāne, the Bay of Plenty's second-largest city, you can learn about Māori culture at Mataatua Wharenui, a carved ancestral house that travelled the world for more than a century before returning home to the Ngāti Awa tribe. It's an award-winning tourism experience that includes a delicious feast of local delicacies and indigenous cuisine served in the wharekai (dining hall). As Bay of Plenty attractions go, this one is up there with the best.

For a contemporary art experience, the Tauranga Art Gallery always has something amazing to see in its exhibition space, while The Incubator within the Historic Village is a hub for edgy events and exciting art exhibitions. And when you're strolling around the streets of Tauranga, watch for the spectacular street art - Fintan Magee's wall, Seth Globepainter's wall and Wongi's Wall, just to mention a few.

Fruit and vegetables

The Bay of Plenty is just that - a land of plenty. As soon as you leave urban areas, there are market gardens, orchards and farms for miles. Many producers have a shop or stall at their gate, so you can pick up the freshest local produce while you're going from A to B.

Make sure you visit Te Puke, the kiwifruit capital of New Zealand. Call into Kiwifruit Country here and lean about how it's all done on an idyllic kiwifruit orchard. Another treat is Julian's Berry Farm in Whakatāne, which has a great café and a shop laden with berry-made treats.

Avocado orchards are everywhere, but they're particularly thick on the ground in Katikati, the unofficial avocado capital of New Zealand. If you enjoy eating avocados, this superfood is found here in abundance. Katikati also has some excellent street murals.

Honey-lovers can discover the fascinating life of honeybees at Experience Comvita in Paengaroa. There are guided tours that let you see the world through the eyes of the honeybee and learn about how honey products are made. The café at Comvita is also a reason to visit - it focuses on free-range, organic local produce.

Picnics in paradise

After you've gathered the perfect lunch from a farmers market, deli or one of the many food stores at Tauranga Crossing (the Bay of Plenty's newest shopping experience), let Google nav steer your car towards a waterfall, park or mountain. Here are some location ideas for a picnic:

  • The Elms is one of the Bay of Plenty's most important historic sites. You can explore the elegant mission house, built in the mid-1800s, and the extensive gardens surrounding it. You're welcome to spread your picnic rug on the lawn to enjoy the tranquillity
  • Hike to the summit of Mauao, the extinct volcanic cone that guards the entrance of Tauranga Harbour. It's one of the best Bay of Plenty walks and there's a grand 360° view waiting at the top. You'll also find a track right around the base of Mauao; there are some gorgeous picnic places along the way
  • Find a picturesque spot at McLaren Falls Park. This spectacular slice of nature has one of the best botanical collections of trees in New Zealand, as well as an outstanding waterfall and glow-worms
  • Katikati Bird Garden at the western end of the Bay of Plenty is set on 10 acres of land that runs down to the harbour's edge. It includes aviaries and wetlands
  • Anzac Bay in Bowentown is also down the western end of the region. There are views across the water to Matakana Island and the pohutukawa trees provide shade from the hot Bay of Plenty sun

Check out the Bay of Plenty's best family activities

Keep exploring Tauranga