Discover the best of Mt Maunganui (Mauao)
Discover the best of Mt Maunganui – not to miss activities, and the best cafes, restaurants and bars for delicious food and drinks.
Mount Maunganui has always been an extremely popular beach town for kiwis’ summer holidays. But its popularity and exposure worldwide has grown since it was added as a destination and stop for cruise ships. These days in summer it is a pumping little town, with new tourists arriving almost daily on cruises, alongside the traditional kiwi holiday maker.
It’s easy to see why it’s so popular. The Mount (as it’s known locally) has plenty to do, and many of the best things to do here don’t cost a cent. That’s the bonus of a destination that has so much natural beauty, and beautiful NZ landscape. Plus, it’s only 2 1/2 hours away from Auckland, so it’s possible to visit on a day trip.
What to do at the Mount
Here are a few of my favourite things to do at the Mount. I’ve spent months here, on many different occasions. These are the same things that my family now also enjoy, and that bring us back time and time again, whether that’s for a day trip, or a weeks break.
Walk around the Mount
3.5kms (2 mi), easy, gravel surface
Walking around the base of the Mount is one way of meeting the locals. I don’t think you can live at the Mount and not have this as part of your morning routine. Why? Because it’s easy, and has the most beautiful views all the way around. I recommend you start in Pilot Bay, and walk clockwise. You’ll have water on your left all the way around, and as you reach the beach side, you’ll be walking with a stunning view of the Mount township and beach in front of you.
If you’re not in a hurry, you can take one of the tracks down to the waters edge. There are a couple of beaches where you could take a picnic and just enjoy watching the harbour activity.
If you take my tip, and walk from Pilot Bay, the beaches on this side make a fabulous viewing point to see a cruise ship depart. It is incredible how close they’ll get to you. And how big they look at that point!
Walk UP the Mount
232 metres (760 ft), approximately 20 – 50 minutes, good level of fitness required
This is not for the faint hearted! But the views at the top will have you forgetting how many stairs you climbed to get there.
There are a few different tracks to choose from, but the two most popular leave from the ocean beach side. One is steeper (but shorter) than the other. There’s good signage there, so choose your poison. I always take the steepest way, then wonder why I do that?!! This is a great workout – no stairmaster needed.
The Mount summit is a popular place to watch the sunrise, or sunset. You have stunning 360 views – down the Mount surf beach to Papamoa and beyond, north across Matakana Island towards Waihi, and of course, the busy Tauranga harbour and city.
If you’re physically capable, I highly recommend doing it at least once.
Swim at the Mount
Sheltered bay, surf beach or hot pools – take your pick!
If you’d like to swim in the ocean, but are not too confident a swimmer, (or if you have littlies with you), then a swim at Pilot Bay will be just the ticket. This is the non surf side of the Mount, and is the calmest spot. Bring a picnic, and enjoy watching the harbour activity from here.
The Surf Beach
The surf beach is just that. This stunning white sand beach delivers on the quintessential kiwi beach experience. If you’re not surfing, you can still enjoy the waves, but make sure you ‘swim between the flags’. The yellow and red flags denote the area that is safest to swim in, and is patrolled.
The Mount Hot Pools
If you’ve climbed to the Summit, a soak in the hot pools may be just what you need to rejuvenate your muscles. The hot pools sit splendidly at the base of Mauao, so not only do you get to enjoy bathing in heated salt water (& all the therapeutic benefits of doing so), but you can then watch smugly as others begin their trek up the Mount. It is also a beautiful spot to sit in at night, under the stars. You’ll melt out of there, and sleep like a baby after.
Like what you’re reading? Then join my VIP group and never miss the best tips.
With all of that walking, you’ll have earned yourself a treat or two. I’ve found that some of the best cafes are a short drive away from the centre of the Mount. They may not have the views some of the other spots have, but they sure make up for it with their food.
Eddie & Elspeth
This is two different businesses, occupying the one space. You’ll enjoy Eddie’s if you’re looking for a full brunch meal. They cater well for those with special dietary needs, so if that’s you, check it out.
Elspeths was my favourite, because this side of the shop is where all the pastries and sweets are! If you’re a lover of beautiful French breads and pastries you also will love Elspeths.
Tay Street Beach Cafe
This is where lots of the locals hang out. It’s a drive along the beachfront, so it doesn’t attract the cruise crowd. They serve delicious food and coffees, and are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The Central Deli
I’m not actually sure I want to share this secret with you. The Central Deli has been a favourite stop of mine for years – because their food is SOOOOO good. It’s near the New World on Maunganui Road in the Central Parade Shopping Centre. It would be very easy to drive past it, but that would be such a mistake. Their counter food will have your eyes watering. It may send you into a conundrum, because how.do.you.choose?! BUT – what really sets this place apart from the others, is the service. It’s a mother and daughter run team, and they go the extra mile to ensure you’re having a good day in their cafe.
Izakai Japanese Restaurant & Bar
If you haven’t gorged yourself already at the cafes, you may be ready to enjoy dinner. If you’d like something a little more upmarket, I’d recommend Izakai.
This is in the Dine section of the Bayfair shopping centre. It’s not traditional Japanese, but it is delicious. Highly recommend you include the wagyu and mushroom gyoza!
The Rising Tide
If you’re looking to eat and drink somewhere a little more casual with a great vibe, the Rising Tide is your spot. Situated in an industrial area, you’ll need a car / uber to get there. If you enjoy a craft beer, you’ll be very happy, as the restaurant combines with the Mount Brewing Company, and offer a great range of beers on tap. They serve dumplings and burgers, all at a reasonable price. We visited on a Friday night, there was a dj playing music, and the place was humming with activity.
If you’ve got a little extra time at the Mount, or if you’ve had a bit too much sun and want a little shade, you may enjoy heading to the Kaiate Falls, for a quick bush walk and change of scene.
It’s about a 30 minute drive into the beautiful Bay of Plenty hills. The walk to the falls is only about 15 minutes, but it is steep in places, and I counted 202 steps to get back up. It’s worth it though, because you are so suddenly immersed in the NZ bush. We had Tui serenading us, and fantails danced from tree to tree above us as we walked. It’s another great stop, and one the whole family will enjoy. As we were driving out of the carpark, we had a pheasant run across the road in front of us.
Hopefully that’s all the tips you need to have an AMAZING time discovering the best of Mount Maunganui.
But – if you’re looking for something else to do not too far away, consider the Te Waihou Walkway.
And before you head away, pin the image below to save this to your travel to do board.
I’m so blown away by how close the cruise ship was to shore at the beach!! So mindblowing. It reminds me of the beach in St. Maarten where you can see the plane fly right above you. This town seems to nice! I’d love to visit more of New Zealand.
It is incredible right! And it’s like a celebration standing there waving everyone off.
Wow, what a thorough guide! The views, the food, the nature – everything looks perfect! Saving this for a future trip!
I’m going to be in NZ next month. I’m pinning this to refer back to!
I’m travelling to NZ next month. Pinning this for a reference to look back on!
Oooh that’s exciting. I’m happy to help with any advice, just pm me.
This place looks so incredible! Thanks for introducing me to it, saved for a future NZ trip!
Great post on Mt Maunganui (Mauao). Never heard of it before. I enjoyed this
Thanks – it’s funny sometimes how prime local spots are not known to tourists. Although that’s changing now that the cruise boats dock there.
It’s great that you share your experience. I am a novice traveler, and for me your blog is an aid in planning my trip. Thanks!
I’m so happy to hear that Victoria – thanks so much. Enjoy your traveling, once you start you’ll ‘get the bug’!