Tauranga beach life, coastal fun and fishing
Getting sand under your feet is a big part of the Tauranga and Te Moananui ā Toi (the Coastal Bay of Plenty) holiday experience. It's followed closely by taking to the water - on a surfboard, fishing charter, stand up paddle board, kayak, cruise or harbour boat trip. While Mount Maunganui Beach might be the first sandy paradise to pop into your mind, there are many other Tauranga beaches to discover. Here's our quick guide to making the most of seaside life and coastal fun throughout the region.
Waihī Beach, Anzac Bay and Ōmokoroa Beach
You'll need to hire a car to experience the full range of Te Moananui ā Toi (the Coastal Bay of Plenty) Beaches, but drive times aren't long. In an hour you can be at the western-most end of the bay, where Waihī Beach beckons with a beautiful 10km stretch of surf. To discover a beach that's exactly as nature intended, follow the trail to Orokawa Bay from the northern end of Waihī Beach. There's no sign of habitation at this beach - just fine white sand, crashing surf and beautiful pohutukawa trees.
Ōhope is regularly voted New Zealand's most-loved beach. It includes gorgeous Ōtarawairere Beach, which can only be accessed on foot or by kayak.
At the other end of Waihī Beach is Anzac Bay, a serene place for swims and picnics. From here you can follow the track to Shelly Bay, another gorgeous beach for a swim. On the drive back to Tauranga or the Mount, call into Ōmokoroa Beach. It's an attractive seaside town with sheltered water and beautiful views of the harbour and islands.
Mount Maunganui Beach, Pilot Bay and Papamoa Beach
Until 1910, Mount Maunganui aka 'The Mount' was a sand peninsula with just a sprinkling of holiday cottages. Gradually the town evolved into the stylish beach suburb it is today. On the ocean side of the peninsula is the glorious white-sand surf beach simply called Mount Maunganui Main Beach. Almost anywhere here is good for body surfing, but if you're not confident in the water we recommend you swim in the patrolled area. For surfers, there are beach breaks right along the beach, plus a good right point break off the point at Moturiki (Leisure Island).
Papamoa Beach is a natural extension of Mount Maunganui Beach, stretching all the way to Maketū Estuary. There's a surf lifesaving club here that runs a patrolled swimming area on weekends and public holidays from late October until the end of March. You can have a lot of beach to yourself at Papamoa - it's 16km long.
If leaping and jumping in the surf isn't your thing, Pilot Bay on the inner harbour side of the Mount peninsula has calm water for swimming and paddling. There's also the Mount Hot Pools, which has a collection of spa and swimming pools ranging from 31 to 39°C.
Maketū Beach, Whakatāne and Ōhope Beach
East from Maketū Estuary is one of the bay's best-kept secrets - Newdicks Beach. It's secluded, untouched and magnificent, but access is through private land so you need to pay a small fee. From a surfing point of view, the waves here are punchy and powerful - surf websites give it 8/10.
Maketū Beach on the other side of Okurei Point is popular for fishing, kayaking, kitesurfing and picnics. You can also gather shellfish here. An information panel on the foreshore marks the beginning of a hikoi (walk) that will take you on a history trail around Maketū. This area is where Māori from the Te Arawa waka, an ocean-going canoe for Transpacific migration, first stepped ashore.
Further east is a seemingly-endless stretch of white-sand and surf that includes Pikowai Beach and Matatā Beach. Then around the corner from Whakatāne sunniest city in New Zealand, is Ōhope Beach. Fabulous for long-board surfing, Ōhope is regularly voted New Zealand's most loved beach. It includes gorgeous Ōtarawairere Bay, which can only be accessed on foot or by kayak.
Fishing charters and fishing spots
Fishing is embedded in Te Moananui ā Toi (the Coastal Bay of Plenty) culture. Kingfish are big in the Bay of Plenty, quite literally. It's possible you'll barely be able to hold your catch. Other ocean-fishing targets include albacore tuna, big eye tuna, black marlin, blue fin tuna, blue marlin, mahi mahi, spearfish marlin and striped marlin. The Bay is also known for great snapper fishing, right up to fish that weigh more than 35kg.
When you head out on charter boats and harbour fishing trips, you can trust your skipper to find all the best fishing spots. Local knowledge is everything if you want a successful day that ends with a nice big fillet on your plate.