Habitually sun-kissed in summer, Tauranga’s neighbouring beach resort, MOUNT MAUNGANUI, huddles under the extinct volcano of the same name, a modest cone that’s a landmark visible throughout the western Bay of Plenty. It was once an island but is connected to the mainland by a narrow neck of dune sand (a tombolo) now covered by “The Mount”, as the town is usually known. The sprawl of apartment blocks, shops, restaurants and houses isn’t especially pretty but is saved by the 20km-long golden strand of Ocean Beach, itself enhanced by a couple of pretty islands just offshore and lined by Norfolk pines. It’s wonderful for swimming, surfing and beach volleyball, and there are good restaurants and bars nearby where everyone gravitates for sundowners. Naturally, it is a big draw for Kiwi holidaymakers, some of whom give it a party-town reputation, especially at New Year when the place can be overwhelming and accommodation hard to come by.
The grassy slopes of the Mount (Mauao in Maori) rise 232m above the golden beach and invite exploration. A mostly level walking track loops around the base of the mountain, offering a sea and harbour outlook from under the shade of ancient pohutukawas. The base track links with a hike to the summit that is tough going towards the top but well worth the effort for views of Matakana Island and along the coast.