Outdoor things to do in Tauranga
If getting outside is a top holiday priority for you, you can't beat the Bay of Plenty. From volcanic island tours and hikes through ancient native forests, to sandy beaches and marine wildlife cruises, there’s a huge range of outdoor things to do in Tauranga, Mount Maunganui, Whakatāne and the bay’s friendly country towns.
White Island tours
Whakaari (White Island), 48km off the Bay of Plenty coast, is New Zealand's most active volcano. What's visible when you visit the island is actually the peak of a large submarine mountain. The main vent is below sea level, but shielded from the ocean by high crater walls. The island erupts from time to time, but mostly the volcanic activity is limited to steaming fumaroles and boiling mud.
Accessed from Waihi Beach, Orokawa Bay has beautiful white sand beach at the forest edge and absolutely no houses; it's truly pristine.
You can visit Whakaari (White Island) on a cruise or helicopter trip from Whakatāne, just an hour's drive from Tauranga. It's an unforgettable experience and one of the most unique outdoor activities to do in the Bay of Plenty. Wearing a hard hat and gas mask, you'll walk right into the main crater where moody volcanic ash scenery is brightened by yellow sulphur crystals growing around the edges of hissing fumaroles. While exploring, you'll see remains of a sulphur mining operation that came to a sudden halt in September 1914. There was a mudslide and only the camp cat (named Peter the Great) survived.
Mt Maunganui beaches and walks
There's no shortage of fun outdoor things to do in Mount Maunganui, in fact it's one of the top Tauranga attractions. You can walk the long sandy beach, take a surfing lesson or enjoy a body surfing romp at Mt Maunganui Main Beach. For calmer kid-friendly waters, head a few hundred metres across the peninsula to Pilot Bay Beach. A walk around the base of Mauao, the mountain itself, is one of the best free things to do in Tauranga. Suitable for strollers and wheelchairs, the 3.4km, 45 minute walking track passes through regenerating native forest with close views of the shipping channel from the harbour to the ocean. If you're feeling more energetic, the 40 minute climb to the summit of Mauao is rewarded with spectacular long range views in every direction. Pack a camera, sunscreen and some water. It's definitely worth the hike.
Waihi Beach and Orokawa Bay walks
About 45 minutes north of Tauranga by car, you'll discover one of the Bay of Plenty's best-kept secrets. A favourite with locals, Waihi Beach has a laid-back, family-friendly atmosphere and some truly rewarding walks. The easy 45 minute Waihi Beach to Orokawa Bay trail passes through native forest and offers sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean. Orokawa Bay has a beautiful white sand beach at the forest edge and absolutely no houses; it's truly pristine. If you fancy a climb, the Trig Walk is a well-formed track to the top of a hill behind the Waihi Beach settlement. It takes about 90 minutes to reach the summit for spectacular views of Waihi Beach and the Bay of Plenty coast.
McLaren Falls Park and Papamoa Hills
Set on the shores of Lake McLaren, family-friendly McLaren Falls Park is only 15 minutes from downtown Tauranga by car. Here you can enjoy camping, fishing, kayaking, disc golf, forest walks and picnics. The park also features one of the North Island's best botanical tree collections. There are about 10 tracks to explore, including an easy short walk past glow worms (shining in the evening) to a beautiful waterfall.
On the way to McLaren Falls Park from Tauranga, you'll pass the turn off to the Pori Pori waterholes. They're a popular swimming spot on the Wairoa River, with pools of various sizes and depths set in rock surrounded by native forest.
About 20 minutes southeast of Tauranga, on the road to Te Puke, the Pāpāmoa Hills Regional Park offers walks through working farmland and around historic Māori pā (fortress) sites, plus a 45 minute summit walk to panoramic coastal views.
Mountain bike and cycle trails
The Bay of Plenty has great cycling trails for every skill level and numerous local operators provide bike hire and shuttle services.
Just outside Tauranga, the Oropi Grove Mountain Bike Park is a popular destination for experienced and advanced riders. About 20 minutes further out, the TECT All Terrain Park is a must for adventure lovers. Set in 1,650 hectares of pine and native forest, it offers about 10 mountain bike trails, from a kids loop to advanced rides. If you have energy to burn and you're looking for fun things to do in Tauranga, put this on your list.
Summerhill Mountain Bike Park, in the hills above Pāpāmoa is perfect for intermediate mountain bikers. Set on a working farm, it offers a variety of steep and rolling hill tracks through native and exotic forests.
Whirinaki Te Pua-a-Tāne Conservation Park is about 1.5 hours by car inland from Whakatāne. This untouched ancient podocarp forest includes a purpose-built 16km mountain bike trail that's perfect for beginner and intermediate riders. For experienced mountain bikers, the park's 35km Moerangi trail is a ‘must do' ride. It climbs 1000m and includes bookable huts for those who'd like to overnight in the magnificent forest.
At Ōpōtiki in the eastern Bay of Plenty, the Motu Trails include three rides that can be enjoyed separately or combined into an epic multi-day adventure. The easy Dunes trail is ideal for families. It offers ocean views with plenty of places to stop for a picnic or a swim. Fit riders who enjoy hills should check out the Motu Road trail and if you're an advanced mountain biker you'll love the 20km wilderness trail known as Pakihi Track.
Wild life cruises, fishing and kayaking
Getting out on the water should definitely be on your list of Tauranga things to do. You can take a cruise to see the local marine wildlife, including dolphins, whales, seals, penguins, seabirds and more. Some cruises even stop at an island for water sports and snorkelling. There are also regular scenic harbour cruises that include the chance to spend time on the beach at Matakana Island.
If catching fish is more your thing, you'll find plenty of fishing trips and charter operators to choose from. They'll get you to the best spots for everything from bottom and reef fishing to big game fish excitement.
With sheltered harbours, beautiful rivers, tranquil lakes and some close offshore islands kayak adventures can be found everywhere in the Bay of Plenty. Self-guided and guided tours are available for paddlers of every skill level. There are even night kayak tours to see glow worms on Lake McLaren. It's one of the top outdoor things to do in Tauranga at night.