Adorably named The Mount by Kiwis, Mount Maunganui (and Tauranga) are amongst NZ’s best beachside destinations.
The soul of the city is defined by the main street – lined with incredible shops, bars and eateries – that is wedged between a towering mountain and an endless beach.
Between hiking up Mauao, soaking up the sun on the beach, eating your way through town and heading out to the attractions, there are loads of incredible things to do in Mount Maunganui and Tauranga.
Read on to find out our top picks!
Things to Do in Mount Maunganui and Tauranga
Mount Maunganui is found on the coastal edge of Tauranga, just a 3-hour drive from Auckland. Most tourists opt to stay here due it’s fun vibe and high concentration of attractions. It’s the perfect place to set up ‘base’.
From here, you can easily soak in the vibe whilst still being central enough to explore Tauranga and the neighbouring activities.
1. Climb Mauao by hiking the Mt Maunganui Summit Walk
You can’t visit The Mount without climbing to the top of it. Mauao is the name of the mountain located in the heart of Mount Maunganui and is the reason for its name.
Summiting Mauao isn’t as hard as it sounds – it’s achievable for most people of varying fitness levels. A leisurely stroll to the top will take around 1-hour, but fit travellers will be able to reach the top in about 30-minutes.
The best spot to start is at the base of the mountain by the beach. Finding a park is the hardest part, your best bet is to park at one of the nearby side streets then walk along the beach to the starting point. You’ll see locals and other travellers all heading there so it should be easy to find.
Once you start the path will fork into a short and long route. The short route will be quite a bit quicker but expect a lot of stairs. The longer route takes a bit longer but offers a different view of the harbour.
We recommend trying both if you have the time.
Either way, both routes take you to the top where you’ll find epic views over Mount Maunganui town and the sea. If you’re motivated enough (we weren’t unfortunately), the best time to make the hike to the top is sunrise. The sun rises over the sea directly to the East where the view looks out to.
2. Check Out the Mount Maunganui Restaurants
For such a small place, Mount Maunganui punches well above its weight for the quality of the eateries. Whenever we visit, we struggle to choose from the countless incredible places to eat here.
If you’re into food (who isn’t?) then aim to try as many as you can. But most people only visit The Mount for a few days, and that only leaves a few meals.
For Vietnamese with a great vibe, Rice Rice Baby is impossible to beat. The food here is mostly authentic with a bit of a fusion twist – we spent months in Vietnam so we know when restaurants are posing. The Banh Mi and Cha Gio (spring rolls) are delicious and authentic. Don’t skip the pate either, it was the best we’ve had.
Barrio Brothers has really fresh and delicious mexican food. The vibe here was quite family-oriented and they have hats the kids can wear – though this is arguably cultural appropriation so I’m not sure where to sit on this fence. Their sangria pitchers are awesome and only $10 on Sundays.
Palace offers typical burgers and chips with sides of potato totters and fried chicken – sounds pretty great? They’re the best burgers in Mount Maunganui – probably.
On top of everything in The Mount, you can venture over to Tauranga where there are tonnes of other incredible restaurants, including The Chook Nook and the Our Place food centre.
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3. Visit Papamoa
Just down the road from Mount Maunganui is the suburb of Papamoa. It is the largest residential area in Tauranga with attractions including Papamoa Hills Regional Park and Kaiate Falls.
The beach here is beautiful and stretches endlessly. If you’re after a quieter beach, this is your spot, plus you might spot some kite surfers on a windy day. If you’re into kitesurfing then this is a great spot.
4. Skydive Over Mauao
Tauranga doesn’t have a lot to appeal to the extreme travellers, but there is one thing. Skydiving.
You can take a scenic flight with Skydive Tauranga for 20-25 minutes, before skydiving from up to 15,000 feet above Mount Maunganui. From this high you’ll get to see as far as Ruapehu, White Island and Rotorua’s lakes, as you descend towards Mauao below.
Prices are from $375, check it out here.
5. Go on a Street Art Tour
We believe art ads character to any city or urban space, so we love it when cities allow and encourage street art.
It’s very common to walk around a corner to see a full wall sized mural painted on it. There’s a lot of impressive street art painted around Tauranga, which makes exploring the streets much more enjoyable and adds to the culture of the entire city.
As you explore the restaurants, attractions and streets, keep an eye out and take a moment to look at the artworks, maybe even snap a few pics – they make great photo opportunities.
6. Walk to Moturiki Island (Leisure Island) and See the Blowhole
It’s not often you get to walk to an island – it kind of defeats the point of an island being an island. But Moturiki Island in Mount Maunganui has a nicely constructed walkway from the main beach to the island.
Interestingly, despite it being a 5-10 min walk from the beach, standing at the top of Moturiki Island really feels like you are on an island in the sea.
In windy weather, the waves crash at the base of the island, exploding up a blowhole that can be viewed from the top of the walkway.
Standing on the boulders at the top and front of the island offers expansive, uninterrupted views out across the ocean.
From what we could tell, Moturiki Island is accessible at all times regardless of the tide, but in stormy weather at high tide the waves may cross the walkway to the island. It’s also 100% free.
7. Visit the Tauranga Art Gallery
Tauranga Art Gallery is pretty small but offers a few high quality and interesting galleries at any time throughout the year.
If you’re in Tauranga’s CBD, it’s definitely worth popping in for a cultured stroll through the building.
With just four galleries, you will only need 15-30 minutes to look around and entry is free for all visitors making it a great, free thing to do in Tauranga.
8. See the Incredible Kaiate Falls
Kaiate Falls is a series of scenic waterfalls found just a 30-minute drive from Tauranga in Papamoa.
Take a short, but steep, stroll through native bush to the top of the cascading falls. Then wander down to the base where there is a picnic park and a water hole. It’s the perfect Summer destination to cool off, and in Winter the rainfall brings the falls to life – though swimming in Winter would only be for the brave.
9. Head on a Day Trip to Hobbiton & Rotorua
Tauranga is conveniently located just a short drive from both Hobbiton in Matamata and Rotorua. If you didn’t get a chance to stop off here on your way to Tauranga, consider making it a day trip.
Check out this Hobbiton and Rotorua Geysers tour as a super easy and convenient way to tick off two of NZ’s must-see attractions, all in one epic day trip from Tauranga.
10. Stroll Around the Tauranga Historic Village
Tauranga Historic Village is an interesting little village near Tauranga’s CBD. If you’re heading into the city centre then it’s worth making your way down here for a short browse.
There are a few cafes and a couple of shops, but overall the stores were a bit underwhelming – but the historic buildings were actually really cool to take a look at.
Well worth stopping off here if you’re in the neighbourhood, even just for a 10-minute look-a-round.
11. Drink Your Way Through the Happy Hours at Night
One of our favourite things to do in mount maunganui at night is to bar hop our way through the happy hours. Some start as early as 3pm, but most run from 4-6pm with deals running all through the night.
We’ve checked out a bunch and our favourite was definitely Hide in Mount Maunganui. Down a short alleyway, Hide is unassuming and easy to miss from the street. Despite this, the ambiance in the bar is great, the staff are friendly and it’s dog friendly – incase you want to bring a friend along.
Or, if you’re like us, you can have a few drinks and pat all the good boys. The drinks are $6 for beers (full pint size) and wine for happy hour with $10 espresso martinis.
Rice Rice Baby is also a great spot if you’re wanting a bite to eat and some happy hour drinks at the same time, with $6 beers – but they were on the small size!
12. Browse the Mount Maunganui Shops
Dispersed amongst the restaurants and bars on Mount Maunganui’s main street is an eclectic range of shops that is likely to appeal to anyone.
We checked out Lululemon and some surf stores with really good ranges. There are also a few high quality homeware stores with beautiful products, including The Paper Plane Store.
13. Swim at Mount Maunganui Beach
How convenient! Mount Maunganui is located right next to the beach. Wherever you choose to stay here, you are most likely within walking distance of a truly stunning beach.
In Summer, it’s a great way to cool off and the surf can be good fun for kids. In Winter, well you may not want to hang on the beach but we still found it nice to go for a stroll.
14. Go Swimming With Dolphins
We have so much incredible wildlife in New Zealand, including epic marine animals such as… dolphins!
There are quite a few operators to choose from in the Bay of Plenty as there are a lot of dolphins in the region. This tour from Seafaris Tauranga is $150 and includes a pick up and boat ride out to see dolphins.
You’re pretty much guaranteed to see dolphins due to how many there are here, and the opportunity to jump in and swim with sounds truly magical. Make sure to look out for operators who are ethical and don’t disturb the dolphins.
Seafaris’ tour is safe for both you and the dolphins and provides all the gear you require for an unforgettable 6 hours out with the dolphins.
15. See McLaren Falls
When we first visited McLaren Falls it was a stop off on the way back home to Auckland, so we didn’t expect too much.
We were quite wrong. The park is huge! And it’s also incredibly well maintained, with roads and footpaths through the park, as well as an information centre, picnic benches, a cafe and toilets.
When you first arrive, there is a powerful multi-layered waterfall that cascades down a river and under a bridge. This is an awesome spot to stop and take some photos – even more so if you have a camera that can take long exposures!
Further along the road is another track that takes you to a second waterfall. This one is secluded, quite small, but still easy to get to. This track is also home to some glowworms, but you’ll need to visit at night if you want to see them.
We missed the glowworms, but we’ve seen them elsewhere and they’re always super cool.
16. Relax at the Saltwater Hot Pools
In Summer, our pick would always be the beach or a great waterfall, but the Saltwater Hot Pools in Mount Maunganui are a great option for Winter or on a rainy day.
These pools are located at the base of Mauao, conveniently within walking distance of town and a lot of accommodation options. Entry is $18 for adults.
17. Shop at the Mount Maunganui Market
If you’re in The Mount on a Sunday, a great attraction in Mount Maunganui to visit is the market. To be honest, it is small, but it has what you’d expect to find at your typical kiwi market.
There’s no shortage of fresh produce, as well as a couple of stalls selling food / drinks, then some interesting crafts and potential gift ideas.
Perhaps don’t run out of your way to check it out, but if you’re already in town it’s worth a stop!
18. Walk the Mauao Base Track Walk
The Mauao summit walk is where it’s at – obviously, with epic views looking out over Tauranga and the ocean. But the Mauao Base Track Walk is still a nice walk, it just sits in the shadow of something more spectacular.
It’s a really lovely walk that takes around 45-minutes to stroll around the base of Mauao, an extinct volcano, with views of rocks, white sandy beaches and the ocean.
Consider wandering off track as well to hang on the beach, climb on the rocks, take some photos or dip your toes in the water.
19. Mount Maunganui Events
Mount Maunganui and Tauranga is home to many of NZ’s largest events. The town is conveniently located and set up perfectly to host some epic shows.
Perhaps the most renowned is the Bay Dreams festival at the start of every year, one of NZ’s biggest and most popular music festivals with an impressive lineup every year.
Aside from Bay Dreams, concerts are held often with top artists touring NZ making a stop in Tauranga to perform.
Our Place Tauranga is a small venue with a bunch of awesome eateries. It also hosts events year round so make sure to check out their calendar.
20. Play at the Waterfront Playground and Waterpark
Adults can play on playgrounds too. I think. Well this one might be best for the kids and those with kids. Tauranga’s waterfront playground and waterpark is an epic playground and a great activity for kids.
Make your way down here and let your kids loose. It’s free and can keep them entertained for a while as you relax by the waterfront.
21. Eat a Banh Mi at Hello Banh Mi
Vietnam is one of our favourite places in the world, so we take every opportunity we can get to try a banh mi outside of Vietnam. The biggest issue we’ve found is they always buy their baguettes.
They’ll often have the right sauces, cook the meat correctly and include some herbs and pate for good measure, but we had never found a place in New Zealand that had the right bread. It sounds petty, but it really makes a banh mi a banh mi.
Hello Banh Mi is the first place we’ve found that makes their bread from scratch – in the traditional Vietnamese style. And wow. It was perfect. So if you want to try a beautifully delicious Vietnamese banh mi, make your way to Hello Banh Mi in The Mount.
Oh, and it’s only $11. And don’t forget to order a Vietnamese iced coffee while you’re at it.
Mount Maunganui Accommodation
The best place to stay in Mount Maunganui is between the beach, Mauao and the main town. For us, we prefer to stay as close to the town as possible so we can head to the restaurants, bars and shops without having to drive, but being within walking distance to the beach is also handy as parking can be sparse.
In terms of accommodation options, you’ll be spoilt for choice from Booking.Com and AirBnB. Make sure to book early, though, as Mount Maunganui is one of the most popular destinations for Aucklanders – especially during long weekends, so plan accordingly.
We stayed in a great AirBnB a 15-minute walk from town, you can find it here.