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If you want to visit one of the most beautiful beach towns in New Zealand, check out my list of the best things to do in Mount Maunganui…
Affectionately known as “the Mount” by locals, Mount Maunganui is actually a beach suburb of Tauranga but it’s pretty much like its own town. It is named for the dormant volcanic cone also known as the Mount, or Mauao in Māori.
This cool beach suburb is laid back, fun, and absolutely stunning. Seriously, Mount Main Beach is one of the best beaches in the whole of New Zealand.
I can’t believe it has taken me so long to write a post about Mount Maunganui because I went to high school in Tauranga and my Mum still lives in the area (in nearby Papamoa) so I have spent SO much time there over the years. It is a special place and one of the few places that really feels like home to me.
When I was hiking the Pouakai Circuit a few years ago, one of my bunkmates from somewhere in Europe said he didn’t bother visiting the Mount because it was “boring” and there was nothing to do there. I couldn’t believe it because Mount Maunganui is anything but boring. Only boring people get bored anyway.
There are actually so many things to do in Mount Maunganui and it is 100% worth visiting if you love good vibes and beaches because the Mount is rich in both.
Here are the very best things to do in Mount Maunganui by a pseudo-local and Mount aficionado…
12 Best Things To Do in Mount Maunganui
Check out my interactive map for the best things to do in Mount Maunganui including accommodation.
1) Take a Surfing Lesson
The Mount is known for its surfing and it is one of the best places to do so in the country. Whether you are a seasoned surfer or if you want to learn, Mount Main Beach is great for beginners and experts with clear, warm water and soft rolling waves.
If you do want to do surf lessons, South Pacific Surf and House of Surf Surf School are two of the most highly rated surf schools. You can also rent a surfboard and a wetsuit if you already have experience surfing.
2) Hike Up or Around Mauao
Mauao is the Māori name of the actual dormant volcanic cone that the suburb of Mount Maunganui is named for, and if you don’t hike either up it or around it during your visit, I don’t know if you can really say that you visited the Mount.
I recommend doing both, it’s a workout to get to the top but the stunning views over the coastline make it so worth it. It is around a 45-minute one-way hike to the summit and there are a couple of different paths to the top. I recommend taking one up and another down to mix it up.
Walking the Mount base track will give you a more gentle experience with lovely coastline views as well as giving you the chance to possibly see seals hanging out on the rocks. There are a couple of pretty and quiet beaches along the way too so you can stop for a refreshing dip.
This hike is shorter as well as easier than hiking the summit and it takes around 45-minutes total to hike the base track.
3) Relax at the Mount Hot Pools
If you are a hot springs fan like me, don’t miss soaking at Mount Hot Pools right by Mauao. The three outdoor pools are filled with heated saltwater which is said to have beneficial properties for your skin.
Along with the outdoor pools, there are private pools and a variety of massage services.
4) Eat an Iconic Copenhagen Cone
The best thing to do once you are relaxed and rejuvenated after soaking in the hot springs? Grab a delicious ice cream from Copenhagen Cones across the road. This place is an institution and has been fueling ice cream fans in Tauranga for over 35 years.
It is one of the most popular ice cream shops in the country and they make waffle cones onsite. You can choose from a wide range of ice creams and frozen yogurts as well as having the option to add fresh cream, nuts, and sauces (so worth the extra money!)
5) Swim at the Mount Main Beach
You can’t go to the Mount in summer without swimming at the beach. Mount Main Beach is gorgeous with soft white sand and super clear aquamarine water and it’s generally safe to swim there, especially if you swim between the flags.
Take a picnic and spend a few hours swimming and enjoying the sun. For a quieter experience, head further down the beach away from Mauao – there is an 8km stretch of beach all the way to Papamoa so you are bound to find a quiet spot to lay your towel.
6) Walk For Miles Along the Beach
As I mentioned above, there are eight kilometers of beach that stretch from the base of Mauao all the way to Papamoa, a neighboring beach suburb, which then has another 16 kilometers of beach. That’s a lot of beach!
One of my favorite things to do in Mount Maunganui is to spend an hour or two just walking along the beach, people-watching, checking out what has been washed up along the shoreline, and enjoying the fresh sea breeze.
It’s hard to beat a good beach walk.
7) Try Some Local Brews
If you love beer, don’t miss trying the brews at Mount Brewing Co, the Mount’s signature brewery that has been brewing beer and cider since 1996.
Grab an outdoor table at The Rising Tide, their brew bar and restaurant, and enjoy the buzzy environment and delicious drinks. I love trying their different seasonal offerings, and their feijoa gin and tonic can’t be missed.
Other great bars to try local brews are Astrolabe Brewbar and Brew Co – both centrally located on Maunganui Road.
8) Explore Leisure (Moturiki) Island and See the Blow Hole
Lovely Leisure Island juts out right from Mount Main Beach and is more of a peninsula these days than an island as a rocky land bridge was added in the past twenty years.
Leisure Island (Moturiki in Māori) was once a marine park but now it is a quiet place with a small forest and a rocky headland where there is a blow hole and great views over to Mauao.
9) Dine Out at One of the Mount’s Best Restaurants
The restaurant offerings at the Mount weren’t very exciting when I was a teenager but these days there are so many delicious and diverse options.
I love the delectable sweet and savory cafe fare with sea views at Sidetrack Cafe and Deckchair Cafe, Rice Rice Baby for delicious Vietnamese dishes, and classic Kiwi fish and chips best enjoyed on the beach from Mount Fish & Chips.
Other great options include Bombay Brasserie for Indian fare, Osteria for Italian dishes, Fish Face for drool-worthy seafood, and Dui’s for Thai cuisine.
10) Go Paddleboarding in Pilot Bay
While Mount Main Beach may be known for its surf, Pilot Bay on the harbor side of Mount Maunganui provides calm and protected water that is perfect for paddleboarding.
Rent paddleboards as well as kayaks and catamarans from Mt Cats and Yaks in Pilot Bay and enjoy a relaxing few hours in the peaceful waters of the harbor.
11) Explore the Waters Around the Mount by Boat
Life in Tauranga and the Mount is all about getting out on the water to fish and explore. There are numerous fishing charters and boat cruises you can book to fish, see dolphins and orcas, or just enjoy the sights and sounds of the harbor.
If you are lucky enough to have a friend with a boat, do a day or overnight trip to Mayor Island. You can explore the stunning coastline and beach, see the ruins of an abandoned boat club, and spot native kakas flying around the forested interior of the island.
12) Meet the Locals at the Little Big Markets
A popular local market established in 2009, the Little Big Markets is a great place to get a sense of the local community while sampling international and local food, buying locally-made artisan crafts and products, and listening to live music.
There are 150 stalls to browse with everything from local art and jewelry to teas and candles. It’s a great place to grab some unique local gifts to take home with you.
The market is held every Saturday from October through April at Coronation Park in downtown Mount Maunganui or at the Papamoa Pony Club. Check their calendar for dates and locations.
Plan Your Trip to Mount Maunganui
Where To Stay in Mount Maunganui
There are a number of options for places to stay in Mount Maunganui no matter your budget.
The most budget-friendly option is to camp and there are two campgrounds in Mount Maunganui – Mount Maunganui Beachside Holiday Park and Cosy Corner Holiday Park. There are also two hostels in Mount Maunganui with dorm rooms, Mount Backpackers and Pacific Coast Backpackers Lodge.
The best choices for centrally located hotels and apartments in Mount Maunganui are The Mission Belle Motel, Baywatch Motor Inn, The Reef Beachfront Apartments, and Cutterscove Resort Apartments.
There are also some great options if you would prefer a vacation rental. These are all reasonably priced, highly rated, and centrally located:
- One Bedroom Little Blue Bach by Beach
- Spacious One Bedroom Apartment on Mount Main Beach
- Light and Spacious Executive Studio in Central Location
- “The Little Blue Penguin” Stylish Two Bedroom Suite
- Chic and Modern Two Bedroom Apartment
How To Get To and Around Mount Maunganui
The best way to get to Mount Maunganui is by taking your own vehicle or renting a car as there aren’t a lot of public transport options once you are there. Alternatively, you could take a bus to Tauranga or Bayfair Shopping Centre in the Mount from Auckland (4 hours) or Hamilton (1.5 hours) or even Wellington (10+ hours) with Intercity.
Once you get to Bayfair or Tauranga, you can catch the bayhopper bus to get to downtown Mount Maunganui.
A lot of these things to do in Mount Maunganui are easily reached by walking if you are staying in downtown Mount Maunganui or along the beach. For anything further afield, you could take an Uber or taxi, or bus.
The Best Insurance For Your Mount Maunganui Trip
Make sure you get travel and health insurance before your trip, just to be on the safe side. Safety Wing is my go-to and they are cheap and easy to claim with.
Safety Wing also allows you to sign up when you are already traveling, unlike a lot of other travel insurance providers.
If you liked this post, check out some more of my North Island New Zealand content:
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- Hiking the Tongariro Northern Circuit: One of New Zealand’s Great Walks
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- Exploring Hobbiton: My Dad’s Home Town