Tauranga, NZ

New Zealand’s natural bounty is always on display at the Bay of Plenty. It was Captain James Cook who in 1769 aptly named this bay, thanks to the prosperous Maori villages of the region. Tauranga, the chief city, is a bustling port, an agricultural and timber center and a popular seaside resort. Tauranga is also the gateway to Rotorua – a geothermal wonderland that is the heart of Maori culture. A 90-minute drive from Tauranga, Rotorua is New Zealand’s primary tourist attraction.

Whakarewarewa – The Living Maori Village

Meeting House at Whakarewarewa

Located on a geothermal plateau, Whakarewarewa is an iconic destination offering authentic cultural insights as well as geothermal wonders. Discover an enviable way of life where locals utilize the earth’s forces for everyday use. Your guide, a descendent of generations of guides from the region, will greet you when you arrive and educate and delight you with stories of Maori history, the powers of the geothermal valley, and how the village adapted after a devastating volcanic eruption. You’ll also be entertained by the sweet sounds of a Maori cultural performance, which includes the world-famous haka.

Te Puia Thermal Reserve

Geyser at Te Puia Thermal Reserve

Featuring 148 acres of geothermal wonders, Te Puia is home to the internationally renowned spouting Pohutu geyser and boasts silica terraces, pools of boiling mud and dramatic steams vents. The reserve also features a fascinating re-creation of an early Maori village. Follow a Maori guide on a fascinating tour of this natural wonder considered to be a sacred place by the Maori people.

Te Puia’s Maori Arts & Crafts Institute

For 45 years, the institute’s mission has been to preserve the ancient skills and rich culture of the Maori. Young people from across New Zealand are selected as apprentices and learn skills ranging from carving to weaving, and creating flax skirts and patterned bodices. After admiring their handwork, you’ll be treated to intricate hand games that are used to train young warriors and a lively Maori concert, which includes the world famous haka, a war dance designed to frighten an enemy.

When visiting Te Puia, discover New Zealand’s culinary roots with a menu that includes Maori favorites including creamed kumara and watercress soup; salads; pasta tossed with chargrilled mushrooms; potato with garlic aioli, avocado oil and horopito; green salad; watercress kinaki and chili oil mixed with parmesan and kanuka smoked pine nuts; salsa made with spices such as horopito and harakeke dukkah; traditional rewana bread; traditional hangi with chicken, pork, lamb, potato, pumpkin, kumara, hot green vegetables, watercress, karengo (seaweed); and a dessert buffet with trifle, steamed pudding, custard and cream, ice cream, fresh fruit salad, and kiwi Pavlova.

Mount Maunganui or Mauao

View from Mauao

No trip to the township of Mount Maunganui is complete without scaling Mauao. Reaching the top of the summit will reward you with an incredible panorama of the wider Tauranga Harbour. Mt Maunganui or Mauao is actually smaller than many of New Zealand’s famous mountains, meaning the climb won’t be as intimidating. The journey still requires an adequate level of fitness, but if you aren’t that keen on walking all the way up, there are tracks that will lead you around it.

At the summit, focus your lens on the panoramic views of the beach, the inner harbor and port, Matakana Island, and ships and boats coming and going through the small harbor entrance.

Hairy Maclary

Dame Lynley Dodd enchanted young minds from New Zealand and abroad with her Hairy Maclary stories. The author has called Tauranga home since the 1990s – so it would only be fair that her most famous book characters be given a special honor along the city’s waterfront. The Hairy Maclary and Friends statues were unveiled in 2015 – these life-sized sculptures were made by Brigitte West, the lead sculptor at Peter Jackson’s Weta Workshop.

Elms Mission Station

Elms Mission Station, Tauranga NZ

Completed in 1847, the Elms Mission House is one of New Zealand’s finest Georgian houses and one of the oldest historic buildings in the country. It was built for the Reverend Alfred Nesbit Brown, who came to New Zealand with his first wife Charlotte in 1829 as a missionary for the Church Missionary Society of England.

The house is constructed from kauri logs that were rafted down from the Coromandel Peninsula to be pit sawn on site. The building is in original condition except for the roof, which was originally shingled but is now clad in corrugated iron. An interesting collection of items used in the early days of the mission is also on display.

Next to the house is New Zealand’s oldest free-standing library. The library contains more than 1,000 books which belonged to Reverend Brown. Many are on religious topics; others contain practical information related to survival in an isolated settlement.

 Hobbiton Movie Set

Hobbiton Movie Set (Photo newzealand.com)

Nestled in the iconic rolling hills and lush green pastures, the Hobbiton set from “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy sits in a 1,250-acre sheep farm in the tiny farming community of Matamata. Experience the mythical world of Middle Earth, explore the magnificent film set, and admire original props from the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies. You will see iconic sites such as Gandalf’s cutting, Bag End, and the Green Dragon Inn. While there, enjoy a Hobbit-themed lunch at the Shires Rest Café.


One of the many sheep at the Agrodome

Set in the heart of 350-acres of lush farmland, the 40-year-old educational sheep and beef farm offers a fun-filled family tour that showcases sheep dogs in action, a sheep shearing demonstration and displays featuring 19 breeds of sheep. The farm theme park, majority-owned by Christchurch-based Ngāi Tahu Tourism, was founded in 1971.

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