I admit that as a Brit, until Tauranga appeared on our New Zealand cruise itinerary last year I had never heard of it!
Tauranga lies on the east coast of the north island and is the most fabulous place to visit. I am sure I am not alone as a regular cruiser often taking a gamble on whether to book excursions or not in certain places or will there be enough to do in Port?
Well let me reassure you that whether you do it whether you don’t, you will not be disappointed. Last February when we sailed on Royal Caribbean’s ‘Ovation of the Seas’ we did opt to take an excursion and we went down to Rotorua when we toured the living Maori Village, followed by a trip to the Polynesian spa and made a stop at a Kiwi Fruit farm on the way back to the ship. It was a great day from start to finished and made us fall in love with Rotorua enough time to book a whole week here this time.
Tragically it was on a latter cruise aboard the same ship the Ovation of the Seas that several passengers lost their lives on White Island when the volcano erupted on 9th December 2019, an excursion which also started from the port of Tauranga. There is obviously a lot more I could write about the tragedy of this event, but for this blog I would like to try and keep things a little more positive. What I will say though is that today we made the road trip from Tauranga down through Whakatene and onto Ohope Beach where you can still see White Island clearly and the drive down the coast with views over the Bay of Plenty was probably one of the most spectacular views I have ever seen in my entire life. Deep turquoise waters framed with layers of blue mountains in the background. Ohope Beach itself a vast expanse of soft powdery volcanic sand which literally sparkles in the sunlight, and shallow crystal clear waters in which to bathe.
But back to Tauranga itself. If you are visiting the port from a cruise ship and not going out on an excursion then will will find more than enough to do. The cruise ships dock in Pilot Bay, a stunning area with a vast array of shops, cafes, restaurants etc to suit pretty much all tastes and budgets. At the far end of the bay sits the majestic Mt. Maunganui. Depending on your fitness level and enthusiasm, you can either take a leisurely walk around the mount which takes approximately 45 minutes, or for the slightly more energetic you can climb it which takes 45-50minutes.
Around the bay itself there is plenty to do, there are harbour cruises and various boats trips, you can try your hand at paddling a double hulled canoe, or hire a stand up paddle board.
Take just a short walk in the opposite direction away from the Bay and you will be at the beach. Once again you will find soft sands and crystal clear waters, and whilst the beach is popular with surfers, when the tide is out then so are the bigger waves, making it fun for little ones to splash around and bigger ones to paddle if you don’t want the fully immersive experience.
If you are like me and warmer water are more your thing, then just near the base of the mount you will also find the Salt Water Hot Pools (a great way to sooth your muscles if you have just climbed to the top of the mount!)
If you do want to venture a little further on your own though, then you will also find a great local bus service.
There are a huge array of excursions available to cruise ship passengers visiting Tauranga, but if you do decided simply to have a day in port then I can assure you there is something for everyone and every ability.
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