The Mount Maunganui suburb of Tauranga and the town of Whakatane are two gorgeous places on New Zealand's Bay of Plenty. Vacationers love Mount Maunganui for its white-sand beaches and scenic hike up the extinct Maunganui Volcano. Whakatane is famous for being the sunniest town on the North Island. Both locations offer scenic flights over the bay during which passengers can see one of the country's most active volcanoes, White Island, or Wakaari. This volcanic island is just one of the many tourist attractions in the area.
Mount Maunganui is home to New Zealand's top beach resorts. Originally, it was an independent town, but today, it is a neighborhood of Tauranga. In the 1980s, the government built a bridge connecting it to the larger port city. This shortened the drive from the historic center of Tauranga to Mount Maunganui to around 15 minutes. Not long after, Mount Maunganui officially became a suburb of Tauranga.
Mount Maunganui's geography makes it uniquely beautiful. The neighborhood occupies a sand-bar peninsula with an extinct volcano at its tip. That means two beaches flank it. One faces the bay and the other provides a view of Tauranga's port. At its narrowest point, the suburb measures just a few blocks wide with the ocean on either side.
The extinct volcano at the tip of the peninsula, known as Mauao, has walking paths wrapping around it. Visitors who reach the peak enjoy an incredible view of the Bay of Plenty, the city of Tauranga, and the Kaimai Mountain Range.
Travelers here can pick from a range of helicopter tours of the Bay of Plenty. These tours often include White Island on their itineraries. Tourists also enjoy diving and dolphin-watching adventures. Of course, the main attraction is simply relaxing on the beach, soaking up the sun.
Whakatane, also on the Bay of Plenty, is famous for having the highest number of sunshine hours per year in New Zealand. Visitors can find this town just an hour and a half drive to the southeast of Tauranga. Fishermen pull more bluefin tuna from the nearby waters than anywhere else in the country. Viewing wildlife is a popular pastime in Whakatane. Travelers often see seals, dolphins, sea birds, and whales off the shore. Like Mount Maunganui, this town has beautiful beaches for tourists to enjoy and their leisure.
Daily scenic flights leave the Whakatane Airport. These small airplanes fly directly over White Island, giving tourists the best view of the volcano. They also get to observe the beautiful landscape of the Bay of Plenty and its numerous islands.
White Island and Other Volcanic Attractions
Until 2019, White Island was a huge tourist attraction. Adventurous travelers could ride a boat to its shores and hike to the crater. Hikers loved seeing boiling mud, steam vents, and other unusual formations.
Unfortunately, the active volcano erupted without warning. Flying stones and lava harmed several tourists, and, for some, it was the last place they'd visit. Currently, operators do not offer on-land tours of the island. It's their way to show respect for the people and families who the volcano impacted in 2019. Helicopters and small planes still fly over so that people can see the island, though.
Luckily, thermal and volcanic formations dot the region around the Bay of Plenty. Anyone interested in seeing steam vents, geysers, boiling mud, and colorful landscapes should include alternative sites in their travel plans.
Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley, near the town of Rotorua, is about an hour inland from either Tauranga or Whakatane. This area will interest travelers interested in the geology of the region as well as Maori culture.
The park's natural features include several active geysers, boiling mud, and thermal pools. On Google reviews, some visitors compare it favorably to Yellowstone National Park. Pohutu, the most famous geyser, erupts several times a day and sometimes reaches 20 meters high.
Around 20 traditional Maori families live together near the town of Rotorua. They own and manage the geothermal park. Tourists can visit their village to learn more about their culture through culinary, musical, and educational events.
Travelers will find Waimangu Volcanic Valley nearby. This park includes the Frying Pan Lake Crater and Inferno Crater. Visitors can also take a boat tour of Lake Rotomahana and see steaming cliffs.
The Bay of Plenty
The North Island's Bay of Plenty region offers tourists the experience of a lifetime. From enjoying beaches to kayaking in the bay, there are ample opportunities for active visitors. Those interested in the unique natural features of the area will love visiting geothermal parks, waterfalls, and forests. Animal lovers can see marine animals like seals, whales, orcas, and dolphins. The Bay of Plenty is a must-visit destination.