Our cruise ship pulled into the wharf at Tauranga. Passengers could disembark and walk just one block and find themselves right in the centre of pubs, cafes, restaurants and shops. Locals call this area "The Mount" after the nearby Mount Maunganui (Mauao). It is the large lava dome of an extinct volcano. There is a base track of 3.4 kms that will take walkers around 45 minutes to circle the mount.
A 40-minute walk up to the summit will give those looking for a more challenging climb a vigorous work out. The breathtaking 360-degree views from the top are worth the trek. Views look out over the Bay of Plenty and Matakana Island as well as the city centre. Population of Tauranga in 2022 was 158,000 people.
As passengers disembark, they can visit the tourist information centre handily located on the wharf. It is housed in a converted shipping container. Various local tours can be purchased here.
A full day tour (8.5 hours) will take you to Hobbiton and Rotorua. You will get to enjoy a two-hour tour of the Hobbiton movie set and then a guided tour of Te Puia geothermal park. At the park you can see geysers, bubbling mud, kiwi birds, Māori culture and crafts. This is the home of the famous Pohutu Geyser, the largest geyser in the Southern Hemisphere. A cultural performance includes a traditional welcome, cultural songs and the world-famous haka.
The intricately carved meeting house (Wharenui) resembles the human body. The spine is represented by the large beam running down the centre of the roof, with the roof rafters representing the ribs. On the rooftop at the front of the house is the carved figure of a head - (tekoteko). Guests are welcomed by the wooded arms of the front boards (the maihi). The Maori are a most inviting people. Their welcoming ceremony (Powhiri) involves being met by a warrior who will greet you to see if you are friend or foe. They will dance or chant and lay down a branch at your feet. Yourself, or one of your group nominated as your tribe leader, will pick up the branch to show you come in peace!
A hangi is a traditional way to cook large quantities of food for special occasions. Guests take part in this feast on various tours. The meat and vegetables are cooked using heated rocks buried in an pit oven (umu). It takes between two and four hours to cook the meal. If you get a chance to taste the delicious food in a hangi, definitely take the option.
Another option to enjoy Tauranga is the sightseeing hop on hop off bus. The all-day ticket departs every half hour and stops at the Mount Maunganiu hot pools, a shopping mall, aeroplane museum, The Elms Mission House, the art gallery and the historic village.
The Hot Pools complex has three outdoor pools of varying temperate, two outdoor spas and three indoor private pools. Various ship passengers attended the pools and absolutely raved about the therapeutic benefits of the waters.
There are many options of activities to enjoy in Tauranga. It is difficult to choose just one. This is the benefit of cruising to various ports for just one day each- it gives you incentive to come back for a much longer visit.
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