For future travel…Beach towns in New Zealand don’t get much better (or more popular) than Mount Maunganui. Just a couple of hours from Auckland, Mount Maunganui attracts big summer crowds with its seemingly endless beach and iconic mountain hike. Throw in some great eating and drinking options, and some other short walks, and you’ll see why it’s such a popular place. I’ll show you all the best things to do in Mount Maunganui, and also give you some tips on making the most of your trip.
The Best Things to Do in Mount Maunganui
Mount Maunganui is right next to Tauranga (it’s essentially the same city) and is home to a very popular beach. There are also some nice walks and other scenic spots – keep reading for my full list of the best thing to do in Mount Maunganui!
Hiking up Mount Maunganui
The most famous, and probably the best, attraction in Mount Maunganui is the mountain which gives the town its name. It looms over the downtown beach area and does look a little intimidating, especially if it’s a really hot day! It’s pretty easy though and the views from the top are well worth the effort. I wrote a full post about this hike so check it out for more details.
Hiking Around Mount Maunganui
If you don’t have the stomach (or you have too much stomach) for a walk to the summit, you can walk around the base of the mountain instead. I really enjoyed this walk and the variety of views on offer trumps that of the summit walk. The little rock pools just past the end of the main beach are cool, and the other side (Pilots Bay Beach) is a bit quieter than the popular side.
It wouldn’t be a beach town worth visiting without a world-class beach, so luckily Mount Maunganui does that part right. The beach is really long and you’ll easily find a slice of sand for yourself. There isn’t a lot of shade though, so you might want to hang out under the trees behind the beach from time to time. My favourite part of Mount Maunganui Beach is the section closest to the Mountain. There are rocks at that end of the beach and it’s probably the most photogenic part.
Pilots Bay Beach
This side of Mount Maunganui is calmer but the beach is nowhere near as good. You’ll see when walking the track around the base of the Mount, but there isn’t too much to see there otherwise. Maybe I’m being too harsh – it’s a decent enough beach, just not compared to the way better one a few minutes’ walk away.
This tiny island, joined to the mainland by a causeway, used to be called “Leisure Island” and was home to a small theme park. That’s long gone, but you can still walk around the island and see some cool views back towards the beach. We saw a few people fishing there too, so that could be something worth looking into.
Hang out in Town
Mount Maunganui is a fun town to explore by foot. The main part of town, where you’ll find most of the shops, cafes, bars and restaurants is a cute little place and you can easily waste a few hours in one of eating or drinking establishments. We really liked the outdoor area at Astrolabe Bar, although the food wasn’t amazing, and had a great Frappuccino at Luca. There is also some street art scattered around town which is worth checking out.
There are a few cafes and restaurants closer to the beach. You’ll get a nice ocean view (assuming you get a good table) and you’re only a stone’s throw away from the beach.
Mount Drury Reserve
This park sits right behind the beach and is a good spot to escape the sun for a bit. We setup our beach towel there for a few hours while waiting for a bus back to Auckland and it was a very relaxing spot. From the top of the hill you can see over the other side of Mount Maunganui.
Learn to Surf
Mount Maunganui is the perfect place to learn to surf. The waves generally aren’t massive and there are a few different companies doing lessons. I can’t say I’ve ever considered learning to surf (not really a water person) but it could be a good option if you’re looking for something adventurous to do in Mount Maunganui.
Do a Boat Tour
Again, we didn’t do this, but it does seem to be a popular Mount Maunganui attraction. Boats take you out into the harbour where you may see dolphins, or you can take a trip further out to … Island.
Check out Tauranga
Tauranga is a short bus ride away from Mount Maunganui and there are a few things of interest (especially if you like pies). We took a trip into town one afternoon and spent some time at …, which is a cool open-air museum with a nice café.
From there we journeyed to Tauranga Crossing Mall to eat a pie. Now, I’m not generally one to go out of my way to try food (I refuse to queue for food), but we’d heard that Patrick’s Pies are the best in New Zealand. We’re big pie fans, but honestly, they weren’t the best we’ve tried. Don’t get me wrong, they were excellent pies, but the best in New Zealand? Not in my opinion (I’d give that title to Fairlie Bakehouse).
When to Visit Mount Maunganui
Summer is high season in Mount Maunganui, especially the “holiday” season between late December and mid-January. Throw in some cruise ships and you get some very crowded streets. Outside of that it should be fairly quiet and accommodation prices will be lower.
Where to Stay in Mount Maunganui
Check out some of these places to stay in Mount Maunganui!
Getting to Mount Maunganui
It takes around 2.5 hours to drive from Auckland to Mount Maunganui, although that could severely increase during the holiday period. It’s a nice enough drive – you’ll go through the Karangahake Gorge, where you’ll see some historic railway stuff and decent views. Also check out Owharoa Falls which is nearby. Mount Maunganui is also close to the Coromandel Peninsula – definitely plan a trip there if you’re in the area (check out my posts about Cathedral Cove / Hot Water Beach and New Chums Beach).
If you don’t have your own transport the bus is a good option (we used Intercity to get there from Auckland). It’s what we did on our last trip (our car was down in Dunedin) – it takes 4 – 5 hours on the bus and it’s comfortable enough.
Did this post inspire you to visit Mount Maunganui? Let me know in the comments below!
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