Home to a volcanic island
Bay of Plenty

Named by Captain James Cook for its abundant resources and settlements in 1769, the Bay of Plenty continues to live up to its name with an abundance of fruit, wine and seafood, and plenty of sunshine. Unsurprisingly, this makes it a popular summer holiday destination for kiwis and tourists alike.

Tauranga is the main centre in the region and currently one of the country’s fastest growing cities with an urban population of around 140,000. Known for its coastline which offers hundreds of kilometres of beaches, harbours and islands, the region has something for everyone, from surfing and sea-kayaking to big game fishing. Or you can just kick back and soak in the sun on popular Mount Maunganui beach. And on those occasional days when the sun isn’t shining, you can relax in heated seawater pools.

Tauranga is around three hours drive from Auckland and makes a good base from which to explore this upper eastern section of the North Island. Here are approximate travel times and distances to and from some of the more popular destinations.

Drive times from Tauranga

  • Auckland: 200 km / 124 miles – 3 hours
  • Hahei (for Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach): 150 km / 93 miles – 2 hours 20 minutes
  • Matamata (for the Hobbiton movie set): 50 km / 31 miles – 50 minutes
  • Rotorua: 79 km / 49 miles – 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Whakatane (for White Island): 89 km / 59 miles – 1 hour 10 minutes

Travel times can vary significantly, particularly in popular areas during peak visitor months (December – February). For current travel times and updates on delays, roadworks and road closures, use the NZ Transport Agency journey planner before travelling. It’s always a good idea to allow extra time for photo stops and, when travelling longer distances, rest stops.

Note that there are two toll roads around Tauranga but they can be avoided via free alternative routes. You can find out more about all of New Zealand’s toll roads on the New Zealand Transport Agency website.

Flight times
Tauranga Airport is a 15 minute drive from the city centre and the main airport for the area, with domestic flights operating regularly.

  • Auckland (AKL) to Tauranga (TRG): 40 minutes
  • Wellington (WLG) to Tauranga (TRG): 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Christchurch (CHC) to Tauranga (TRG): 1 hour 50 minutes
  • Tauranga (TRG) to Whangarei (WRE): 1 hour 45 minutes

Whakatane also has a airport with daily flights between Whakatane and Auckland provided by Air Chathams.

The coastal Bay of Plenty region is known for its mild climate and for having some of New Zealand’s highest sunshine hours.

Spring (September – November) temperatures are mild but gusty winds from the south or south west can cool things down and bring showers. Daytime temperatures are around 24 °C / 75.2 °F, dropping to 5 °C / 41 °F overnight.

Summers (December – February) are warm and dry with an average high of 23 °C / 73.4 °F and an average low of 14 °C / 57.2 °F. Temperatures can reach the upper twenties on hotter days.

Autumn (March – May) tends to be the wettest time of the year but temperatures remain mild at around 21 °C / 69.8 °F during the day, dropping to 4 °C / 39.2 °F overnight.

In winter (June – August) the average high is 15 °C / 59 °F and average low is 6 °C / 42.8 °F although it can drop as low as 1 °C / 33.8 °F overnight.

Check current conditions and get the latest Tauranga weather forecast on MetService.com.

Top things to do in the Bay of Plenty

Looking for ideas to help you plan the ultimate New Zealand outdoor adventure? Here are some of the top things for active travellers to see and do in the Bay of Plenty region.

Climb ‘The Mount’

Mount Maunganui or Mauao, to give it it’s Māori name, is often referred to as just The Mount. This lava dome which formed two to three million years ago, sits at the entrance of Tauranga Harbour. It shares its name with the bustling seaside suburb situated on the sand bar connecting the mount to the mainland. No visit to Tauranga would be complete without climbing The Mount to enjoy the spectacular views and there are a number of tracks leading to the 232m summit.

Mount Maunganui view - Photo: Magann/Bigstock.com

Visit Whakaari (White Island)

If you only have time to do one thing in the Bay of Plenty region then a visit to White Island has got to be it. Situated approximately 50 km / 31 miles off the coast, this is New Zealand’s only active marine volcano. Depending on the status of the volcano, which is carefully monitored, it’s possible to go on a guided walk amongst steaming fumaroles and boiling mud pools. Tours can be arranged by boat through White Island Tours or you can choose to fly in with Kahu NZ or Volcanic Air. Read about our experience on White Island.

White Island - Photo: Frontier Helicopters

Experience an evening glow worm kayak tour

Glow worms are a unique and popular attraction in New Zealand, found mostly in caves such as Waitomo and Waipu. As far as we know, there are only three places in New Zealand where you can experience glow worms while kayaking. One of them is on Lake McLaren, just south of Tauranga. Waimarino Kayak Tours offers a fully guided experience which includes pre-paddle refreshments before hitting the water at twilight and then a paddle by torchlight to a glow worm filled canyon.

Waimarino glow worm kayaking