The Bay of Plenty occupies the huge bite between the Coromandel Peninsula and the East Cape, backed by rich farmland famous for its kiwifruit orchards. Its western end centres on the prosperous and fast-growing port city of Tauranga and its beachside neighbour Mount Maunganui. These amorphous settlements essentially form a single small conurbation sprawled around the glittering tentacles of Tauranga Harbour. A combination of warm dry summers and mild winters initially attracted retirees, followed by telecommuters and home-based small businesses.

Both towns have a thriving restaurant and bar scene, and a number of boats help you get out on the water to sail, or swim with dolphins. On land, make for Tauranga’s modern art gallery, or head inland to picnic beside the swimming holes at McLaren Falls or paddle to see glowworms. With all this, it comes as no surprise that the area is a big draw for Kiwi summer holidaymakers.

Heading southeast along the Pacific Coast Highway (SH2), the urban influence wanes, the pace slows and the landscape becomes more rural, with orchards and kiwifruit vines gradually giving way to sheep country. You’ll also find a gradual change in the racial mix, for the eastern Bay of Plenty is mostly Maori country; appropriate since some of the first Maori to reach New Zealand arrived here in their great waka (canoes). In fact, Whakatane is sometimes known as the birthplace of Aotearoa, as the Polynesian navigator Toi te Huatahi first landed here. Whakatane makes a great base for forays to volcanic White Island or the bird reserve of Whale Island. Further east, Opotiki is the gateway to the East Cape and to Gisborne, as well as trips on the remote and scenic Motu River.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

New Zealand features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

The most beautiful country in the world – as voted by you

The most beautiful country in the world – as voted by you

There's nothing like an amazing view to inspire you to book your next trip, whether you're drawn by rolling countryside, isolated islands or soaring mountain …

30 Aug 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
24 breaks for bookworms

24 breaks for bookworms

1. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas In 1971, fuelled by a cornucopia of drugs, Hunter S. Thompson set off for Las Vegas on his “savage journey to the heart of …

02 Mar 2017 • Eleanor Aldridge camera_alt Gallery
How to find the right New Zealand for you

How to find the right New Zealand for you

While it may not loom large on the world map, New Zealand feels incredibly vast and imposing on the ground, especially to those who try to visit the North and S…

23 May 2016 • Eric Grossman insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook