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- 09 Dec 2019, 3 nights
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Head to Tauranga for the laid-back harbour, historic buildings – and dolphins. There are hundreds of these playful creatures and sometimes even orcas in the warm waters of the bay. With stunning scenery and lots of natural resources, it's no wonder this part of New Zealand is called the Bay of Plenty. Tauranga has vibrant bars and relaxed waterfront hang-outs: ideal for a chilled day by the waves. The area's also known for its hot saltwater pools and New Zealand's only active volcano, on nearby White Island.
You can stay in a Tauranga hostel with an outdoor terrace and views of the sparkling ocean. There's also an arty hostel decorated in bright tones with colour pops on furnishings. Or you can go for a hostel with private rooms, a decked terrace and a very comfy lounge with beanbags. Tauranga hostels have a sociable vibe, with welcoming communal areas and shared kitchens where it's easy to meet new people. Some also have bikes for exploring the area on two wheels.
Tauranga's harbour area is an open space of waterside cafés and bars, all of which offer lovely views. In addition there's a bunch of artworks and sculptures to admire or photograph. Just a stroll over the bridge is the laid-back beach town of Mount Maunganui, which has white sand beaches and lots of walking paths. Tauranga's modern city centre is full of shops and boutiques selling jewellery and artwork. There's also an art gallery, and yet more tempting bars and restaurants.
There are lots of foodie attractions in Tauranga. Have a wander around the Farmer's Market for fresh loaves, cheese and great pies. Or head to Mills Reef Winery just outside the city centre to taste some of New Zealand's finest grape varieties. For amazing views, Mount Maunganui is where it's at – you might even spot sunbathing and surfing seals. Fancy an adrenaline rush? There's a kart-racing track at the Mount, too.
Tauranga City Airport is 4km from the city centre on the other side of the harbour (the Mount Maunganui end). There are buses that get you from here to the city in about 25 minutes. If you're heading to Tauranga from Auckland Airport, it's around a five-hour journey by public transport. Coming by bus from Auckland? The journey is just under four hours. Once you're in the city, hop on one of the yellow buses that take you to most areas.