Mount Maunganui is known as one of the most beautiful beach towns in New Zealand, and it’s easy to see why! This east coast paradise is popular with both locals looking to escape Auckland for the weekend, as well as travelers hoping for sun and fun in Mount Maunganui. While most people come for a quick trip, we spent an entire month in this hip beachside town. Join us as we breakdown our favorite things to do in Mount Maunganui, where to watch the sunrise and even the best surf spots!
PLANNING A VISIT TO MOUNT MAUNGANUI NEW ZEALAND
Situated in the Bay of Plenty, this small but booming beach town is a must-visit for any ocean lover. Its clear blue water and close proximity to other popular North Island towns make for the perfect vacation getaway. Here are a few things to know before you go to beautiful Mount Maunganui!
Driving: Mount Maunganui is 2.5 hours drive from Auckland, an hour from Rotorua, and just a short trip from the Coromandel Peninsula.
Flight: From the center of Mount Maunganui town it’s only a few minutes drive to Tauranga Airport. Here you can find connections on Air New Zealand to Auckland, Wellington, Queenstown, and other cities on both islands.
Bus: When booking a bus to Mount Maunganui there are two options depending on the company you use. Some will drop you directly in Mount Maunganui, while often the cheaper and more direct buses will let you off in nearby Tauranga center. From there you can hop on a local bus, or hire a taxi to take you the rest of the way.
WHAT MAKES MOUNT MAUNGANUI THE BEST BEACH TOWN?
Mount Maunganui beach is hands down one of the most gorgeous in the country. Yet, it isn’t only the stretch of sand that makes Mount Maunganui the best beach town in New Zealand!
The backdrop of the dormant Mount Maunganui volcano is the undisputed star of the show. It’s the first thing you’ll notice when you arrive and the town and the hike to the top are filled with stunning views of the coastline.
Still, this isn’t the only side of Mount Maunganui to take in on your visit! You can also quickly walk from Mount Maunganui beach across to Pilot Bay. Here you’ll find a waterside park, calm water, and beautiful boats that fill the harbor.
This combination of nature, cute shops and restaurants, and the ocean are what make Mount Maunganui so special. This beachside surf town draws a mix of younger party lovers as well as older wealthy families… And somehow it all meshes together perfectly! Below we breakdown some of our favorite things to do in Mount Maunganui that you shouldn’t miss out on.
MOUNT MAUNGANUI BEACH
While there are many amazing beaches in New Zealand, there is something that separates Mount Maunganui from the rest. Most days you’ll see surfers tearing up the waves right underneath the mountain, while others the water is still and crystal clear!
On a nice afternoon, you could literally walk for hours and hours along the beach as the Bay of Plenty seems to stretch on forever. Eventually, if you keep heading south it will turn into Papamoa Beach which is also a phenomenal stretch of sand.
HIKE MOUNT MAUNGANUI
For the best view make the steady climb up to the top of the mountain that sits above the town. Nicknamed “The Mount” by locals, the giant green mound is actually a dormant volcano! The different hiking trails will lead you to incredible views of the coast and neighboring Tauranga.
There are half a dozen paths that take you up, over, and around the town. Check out our hiking guide below before you go, and be sure to take in a Mount Maunganui sunrise one morning!
MOTURIKI ISLAND (LEISURE ISLAND)
Set to the right of the main Mount Maunganui beach is the famous Moturiki Island. What used to be a small oasis of natural pools for vacationers in the 1980s has now been transformed back to its natural state. Although you can’t soak in these plush pools anymore, the area is actually a breeding site for little blue penguins!
The island jets out into the water with a small slice of land connecting to the shore. Exploring Moturiki won’t take more than 20 minutes, but don’t be in too much of a hurry. There are several viewpoints and cut downs that offer views of the beach with Mount Maunganui behind it. It’s also one of the best places to watch the surfers on a wavy day!
HAPPY HOUR HOP ON MAUNGANUI ROAD
As soon as the Mount Maunganui sunrise comes up the town explodes with energy! Specifically, in the summer, it’s packed with fun bars and restaurants that offer some really great happy hours. From $6 beers and $9 cocktails to taco deals and more, it’s easy to find something for everyone. So in the late afternoon stroll the several blocks that make up the heart of the town and enjoy some tasty drinks and food.
PILOT BAY BEACH
On the opposite side of Mount Maunganui beach, you’ll find another small sandy area called Pilot Bay. This is a nice switch up from the wavy ocean and showcases a different side of town. Take a leisurely stroll along the bay, or have some lunch overlooking the boats. This is also a popular area to go wind or kite surfing in if you’re looking for a little more adventure!
One of our favorite nights in Mount Maunganui was when we had a sunset picnic on the water here. Pilot Bay Fish & Chips is right on the harbor, or our favorite place for takeout (Mount Fish & Chips) is located a few blocks away. We ordered the fresh snapper, wedges, and octopus balls for a sunset seafood feast!
SURFING AT MOUNT MAUNGANUI BEACH
As we mentioned before, the most popular surfing spot is directly under the mountain at the main beach. The best part about surfing at Mount Maunganui beach is that most of the time it caters to an easy to intermediate skill level. There’s plenty of more challenging places to surf in New Zealand, but Mount Maunganui is a good place to learn!
Swing by one of the several surf shops in town where you can rent a surfboard and wetsuit in the winter months. Also on the weekends or summer season, you can hire a teacher for an introductory lesson.
CIRCLE THE MOUNT MAUNGANUI BASE TRACK
We’ve talked about hiking to the top of Mount Maunganui for the best views, but don’t miss out on the base track either! This lovely 30-40 minute stroll literally circles the bottom of the mountain on a well-maintained path. On a hot day make sure to pack your swimsuit as there are several cut downs and crystal clear swimming spots.
MOUNT MAUNGANUI SUNRISE & SUNSET
If there’s one thing that’s an absolute must on your visit it’s catching the Mount Maunganui sunrise! Jump out of bed one morning bright and early, and make the steep climb to watch the town light up before you.
When we set off for our Mount Maunganui sunrise hike there were many others on the trail with us. While some were trying to catch the sunrise, many were also getting their early morning workout in!
For sunset head to Pilot Bay, the base track on the back of The Mount, Moturiki Island, or go for a drive down the coast. Wherever you decide to go, the long stretch of sand that makes up the Bay of Plenty will rarely let you down for sunset.
Have any questions about this guide, or want to share more of the best things to do in Mount Maunganui? Let us know in the comments below!
WHERE TO STAY IN MOUNT MAUNGANUI NEW ZEALAND
Ultra Luxury (High End) – Pavilion Beachfront Apartments – Gorgeous beachfront apartments with balcony views of the Pacific Ocean. Each unit is self-contained and includes a spacious living room and a full kitchen.
Fun Vacation (Mid Range) – The Pacific Apartments – Just a 5-minute walk from the town center, and 2 minutes to the base of the Mount Maunganui hike. Pool, hot tub, and fitness center are just some of the great amenities you’ll get at the Pacific apartments.
Longterm Travel (Upscale Budget) – Seagulls Guesthouse – Located just outside of town across from beautiful Blake Park. Seagulls have a family-friendly feel and a wide range of private room options.
Hostel Life (Budget) – Mount Backpackers – Situated right on the end of the main street in town, and around the corner from the Mount Maunganui summit walk. The best bars and restaurants are steps away from Mount Backpackers. Bicycles, surfboards, and skateboards can be rented at the front desk as well.
By: Brigitte & Jake