Mount Manganui is one of my favorite places in New Zealand to visit, especially during the summer. With scorching sun, epic surf, and white sand, what else could you want?!
Located along a peninsula in the top half of the North Island, its warm climate and stunning coastal landscape make it a perfect holiday destination. With a chill vibe and lively atmosphere, visit for a weekend getaway or stay for a few weeks.
Whether you seek adventure and are keen to try some of the best North Island hikes or go for a surf or swim at some of New Zealand’s most beautiful beaches (which also rank among the top beaches in the world!), try whitewater rafting or simply relax at Pilot Bay or Mount Hot Pools, Mount Maunganui is the spot.
With so many possibilities, I’ll help you narrow it down! Keep reading to discover some of the best things to see and do while you are visiting Mount Maunganui.
- Things to do in Mount Maunganui
- 1. Hike up Mount Maunganui
- 2. Relax at Pilot Bay Beach
- 3. Moturiki Island
- 4. Day trip to Tauranga
- 5. Relax at the Mount Hot Pools
- 6. Go skydiving
- 7. Explore the Classic Flyers Aviation Museum
- 8. Take a walk on Mount Maunganui Road
- 9. Go whitewater rafting
- 10. Spend the day at Maunganui Beach
- 11. Swim with dolphins
- 12. Enjoy a picnic at Hopukiore (Mount Drury) Reserve
- 13. Cruise the coast with V8 Trike Tours NZ
- 14. Day trip to Hobbiton
- 15. Go surfing
- 16. Enjoy a meal and coffee at Special Mention Cafe
- 17. Play a round of golf
- 18. Have a beer at Mount Brewing Co. Brewery
- 19. Road trip the Thermal Explorer Highway
- 20. Enjoy a meal at Hide Thirst and Hunger
- Where to Stay in Mount Maunganui
- Thanks for reading!
Things to do in Mount Maunganui
1. Hike up Mount Maunganui
Of course, the trek up Mount Maunganui had to top my list! This easily ranks as one of the best hikes in New Zealand because those views from the top are hard to beat.
You’ll sometimes hear Mount Maunganui called Mauao around here – both names refer to the same place. This is an extinct volcano that’s a favorite among locals and tourists to climb because the panoramic views of the Bay of Plenty are stunning.
The hike up Mount Maunganui is called the Mauao Summit Walk and should take about 40 minutes. There are plenty of paths to choose from as you make the climb up. I’d rate it as a moderately challenging climb. It’s not impossible, but if you’re attempting it during the heat of summer, I’d bring lots of water and take some breaks in the shade along the way.
If climbing up Mount Maunganui sounds a little too daunting, you can walk around it instead on one of these other trails in the area. I’ve often wandered down one of these trails and then headed to chill on a beach after – like the one that’s next on my list!
Related read: If you’re traveling as a couple, check out some of the top romantic getaways in New Zealand to plan your trip!
2. Relax at Pilot Bay Beach
For a more private beach that’s still within walking distance of local cafes and shops, Pilot Bay Beach is my pick. It’s right at the base of Mount Maunganui and on the opposite side of busy Maunganui Beach.
Roll out your towel and place it on the golden sand or on the grass under a tree and take in the view of Tauranga Harbour and Mount Manganui. I really like watching the sailboats and cargo ships come and go here.
If you get a bit peckish, it’s just a quick walk down the road to get creamy ice cream or a cold drink.
Pilot Bay is a prime spot to do some kayaking, fishing on the jetty, sailing, and other fun watersports as the water is calm and flat. I also see a lot of families with little ones around here since the waves are gentle and calm. There are public toilets and changing rooms in the area as well.
There isn’t a lot of car parking available, so if you are driving, I recommend arriving in the morning to get a good spot close by.
3. Moturiki Island
Only a 5-10 minute walk from the main beach is Moturiki Island or as it’s more commonly known Leisure Island. It’s right across from Maunganui (there’s a man-made land bridge to walk along) and this is a wild and beautiful place that’s a protected nature reserve.
I really like walking around to the north side of the island to see the blowhole that shoots water high up into the air during big swells and high tides. For kids, there are some cute little rock pools to explore or you can fish here too.
While there isn’t much on the island now, that wasn’t always the case. The Maori people used to live here and then in 1911, it was turned into a stone quarry for the rocks needed to build nearby rail lines. The deep pits created by the quarry were later used for a tourist attraction known as Leisure Island where they were turned into giant swimming pools. While the attraction closed in 1990, the name of Leisure Island stuck.
4. Day trip to Tauranga
Take a day trip to Tauranga, which is only a 10-minute drive away from Mount Maunganui. For entertainment, shopping, and dining, Tauranga is a vibrant city that has it all. Head out in the morning so you have a full day to see and do multiple things!
Make the most of your day and have fun at Waimarino Water and Adventure Park, explore the Tauranga Art Gallery and get in some retail therapy at boutique shops in The Historic Village.
If you are keen to head out a bit further from the city center, I would highly recommend checking out Mount Tutu Eco Sanctuary or Lake McLaren. Both are spots to see glow worms in New Zealand and are less than a 30-minute drive away.
5. Relax at the Mount Hot Pools
Located near the base of Mount Manganui, Mount Hot Pools is one of the popular hot pools in NZ for visitors and locals seeking a relaxing, hot soak. There are three outdoor pools, three indoor private pools, and two outdoor spas.
With free parking, wheelchair-accessible amenities, a children’s pool, and the fact that it’s only a short 10-minute walk from local shops and the cruise ship terminal, Mount Hot Pools is suitable for all.
Pop on your togs, head on into your desired pool and simply close your eyes and relax as you soak in a heated pool containing natural water straight from Pilot Bay. There is even the option to enjoy a luxurious massage if you feel called to enjoy some extra pampering.
Depending on your age and if you want admission to the general or private pool or all-day VIP access, prices vary between $20-$32 NZD for an adult. However, there are family passes and discounts for seniors as well.
If you prefer to avoid the beach or are visiting Mount Maunganui on a cooler day, I definitely recommend heading down to Mount Hot Pools and treating yourself to this fantastic experience.
6. Go skydiving
One of the top things to do in New Zealand has to be jumping out of a plane. Yup, if you’re up for an epic adrenaline rush like no other and views that will take your breath away, skydiving in New Zealand is for you!
I’ve done tandem jumps before and honestly, once you jump the nerves go away and you get crazy beautiful panoramic views. Nothing blocking your way up here that’s for sure!
There are a few different options depending on how high you want to jump from. This 15,000-foot tandem skydive or the 12,000-foot skydive are both incredible picks. Each includes a 20-minute flight over the Bay of Plenty to take in the scenery as you climb up to the altitude for your jump.
Then it’s time to freefall! The tandem jump means your instructor will pull the parachute, but if you’re feeling brave, they will hand the controls over for the glide to the ground! Both options are around $400 NZD and you can book the 15,000-foot flight here or the 12,000-foot skydive here.
Related read: Keep that adrenaline rush going by trying out some of the epic spots to bungy jump in NZ. This is the home of bungy jumping after all!
7. Explore the Classic Flyers Aviation Museum
Consider yourself an aviation enthusiast? If so, you have got to check out the Flyers Aviation Museum. A super cool place to see classic aircraft, old-school engines and training items, models, and more.
The museum is encompassed by a large, open structure, so I found that there was plenty of room to walk around and explore at my own pace. An entry fee for an adult is $15 NZD which is really reasonable to see these unique aviation pieces.
I spent a few hours wandering the five different display areas and sitting down sipping a coffee at the in-house cafe, AvGas Cafe & Bar. Before you leave, there is a gift shop if you wish to take home a souvenir.
Situated only a 2-minute drive away from Tauranga Airport and open Monday to Sunday, you should set aside a couple of hours to explore this interesting historical museum that aims to protect New Zealand’s aviation past.
8. Take a walk on Mount Maunganui Road
Mount Maunganui Road also known as “The Mount Mainstreet” is a vibrant place to take a stroll. Starting at the base of Mount Manganui, the road runs all the way down to the highway.
It’s filled with quirky local shops, and great cafes and often there is live music playing, market stalls set up, and other events happening.
One time there was a stall set up offering hair braiding and I got mine done. It was a spontaneous, fun, beachy thing to do while on holiday!
Running right through the center of the city, Mount Maunganui Road is a super convenient road to access the beach, accommodation, and more. It would take almost an hour to walk the whole street but just wander down as far as you want to.
Browse Mount Surf Shop, enjoy brunch at Gusto, get your nails done at Majestic Nails, pop into Dairy 264 to pick up a cold drink, and then spend the afternoon at Maunganui Beach!
9. Go whitewater rafting
While there are so many gorgeous waterfalls in New Zealand, you can actually raft over one if you’re brave enough! Tutea Falls is iconic – it’s the highest commercially rafted drop in the world at a staggering 7 meters (23 feet).
The tour includes that amazing drop over Tutea Falls along with other different sections of rapids as you pass through a jungle canyon. It’s no wonder that this is one of the top rafting tours in New Zealand!
The entire experience lasts around an hour and all the gear you need is included. It’s also suitable for beginners, so if you’ve never picked up a paddle before, don’t worry! You can book your spot online for $115 NZD.
Related read: If rafting over a waterfall isn’t for you, try ziplining over one! One of the best ziplining tours in New Zealand takes you right over Okere Falls!
10. Spend the day at Maunganui Beach
Maunganui Beach is a very popular beach for surfing, swimming, relaxing, walking, and playing some beach sports. It’s also known to be one of the best beaches in the whole of New Zealand! When you arrive, you’ll definitely understand why.
This large, beautiful, clean beach is situated along Marine Parade and is only steps away from excellent cafes, ice cream parlors, and shops. It has all the amenities I look for when I’m planning a beach day from showers and changerooms to lifeguards in the summer.
Walk along the soft, white sand as you jump into the ocean for a surf or as you head over to the walking tracks on Mount Maunganui. Spread your towel out and get your tan on under the scorching summer sun or take a break under the pohutukawa trees to get some shade.
End your beach day by watching the orange sunset, and listening to the waves crashing against the shore. I recommend grabbing some food from Mount Fish & Chips to do one of the iconic NZ activities of eating fish and chips on the beach!
11. Swim with dolphins
If swimming with wild dolphins sounds like a dream come true, you can make it happen while you’re visiting Mount Maunganui.
This dolphin cruise leaves from the nearby Tauranga Bridge Marina and will have you out on the water looking for wild dolphins. Then once your boat crew finds a pod, you get to jump in and swim or snorkel alongside them. I have to say this seemed surreal while I was doing it!
The entire tour is 5 hours long, so you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the experience. Plus, all the wetsuits and snorkeling gear you need are included. I really liked the guides on this cruise too. They’re passionate about the dolphins here and have plenty of fun facts to share.
If your heart is set on booking this tour, make sure you plan to visit Mount Maunganui during the summer months of November-May as this is a summer-only experience. Tickets are $150 NZD and can sell out quickly!
12. Enjoy a picnic at Hopukiore (Mount Drury) Reserve
For an ideal picnic spot, head over to Hopukiore Reserve, also known as Mount Drury Reserve. It’s a more secluded spot away from the busyness of the beach and streets nearby.
Located right across the road from Maunganui Beach, sit on a ridge and enjoy a panoramic view of the harbor, Moturiki Island (Leisure Island), and Mount Maunganui to your left. This beautiful reserve is a wonderful natural spot to eat, drink, and relax at.
There’s a wide-open field of lush grass, sloping hills, established native shady trees, a playground, toilets, and benches, so all you need is the picnic lunch!
If you are up for a walk after your picnic, take an easy 5-minute walk up a cobbled track that leads to the top of Mount Drury. (Walking up via the beach side is easier than the town side).
13. Cruise the coast with V8 Trike Tours NZ
Explore Mount Maunganui in a totally unique way by cruising down the coast on this V8 trike tour!
Slap on your sunscreen and pop on your sunnies and enjoy this one-of-a-kind adventure. Cruise along the scenic route, passing by the popular Maunganui Beach and driving around Mount Maunganui, a key feature in the area.
From $200 NZD per group (up to 4) head out on a 25-30 minute riveting adventure on a sweet ride. Buckled up in a V8 trike, going at a maximum of 50 kph (31 mph), get driven around by an informative driver, and immerse yourself in the leisurely automotive experience.
This tour is a fun way to take a break from walking and treat yourself to a thrilling ride along this terrific stretch of coast.
14. Day trip to Hobbiton
Calling all Lord of the Rings fans, visiting Hobbiton is one of those must-do activities while you’re in the area. I even brought my family along when I went – it’s such a fun place to explore and feel like you’ve stepped into Middle-earth.
Hobbiton is located on a working farm in the small village of Matamata in New Zealand’s Waikato region, which is about an hour and 20 minutes away from Mount Maunganui.
You’ll need a tour to explore Hobbiton though as it’s not a place you can just wander through. I recommend booking one like this Hobbiton movie set tour. It takes you to all those amazing places you saw on the big screen like hobbit houses, the tree where Bilbo’s birthday party was and you can grab a drink at the Green Dragon Inn.
This $185 NZD tour leaves right from Mount Maunganui and includes all your transportation to the movie set and back. It’s perfect for LOTR fans or anyone who just wants to see one of the most iconic movie sets ever made.
If you have a rental car and want to drive yourself, that’s a great option too. Just remember you’ll still need to have a tour booked once you arrive, so I liked having a tour all arranged beforehand.
Related read: Another Lord of the Rings filming location that has to be seen to be believed is the incredible Tongariro National Park!
15. Go surfing
Whether you are new to surfing or a pro, Maunganui Beach has you covered! Besides being an absolutely beautiful beach, the waves here are consistent too.
Because of this, it’s become one of the top places in New Zealand to learn to surf.
For surf lessons, Hibiscus Surf School is my pick. They have a couple of locations in Mount Maunganui including right on the Main Beach. A 2-hour lesson is $79 NZD or you can book a private lesson for $159 NZD. There are even lessons for kids too!
If all you need is a board, you can also rent one from them too for an hourly rate of about $20 NZD.
If you’re in Mount Maunganui for a few days and want to surf, I recommend booking a surf lesson first and then renting a board to practice those skills!
16. Enjoy a meal and coffee at Special Mention Cafe
Situated along Oceanbeach Road, Special Mention Cafe is my go-to cafe for the most delicious breakfasts and lunches right across the road from Arataki Beach.
Whether you want to sit down inside or in the courtyard and enjoy a cooked meal or are keen to grab a coffee and date scone to go, it’s the perfect cafe. They offer a great selection of food and cater to all dietary needs.
The atmosphere at Special Mention Cafe is relaxing and homey, and the staff provides excellent service. Can’t go wrong with the Scram and Ham for brekkie or their BBL Gonz Burger for a midday meal. I’m getting hungry already!
17. Play a round of golf
Mount Maunganui is home to two fantastic golf courses for you to play a round of golf at. They both provide great golfing experiences and have cafes and bars on the premises to enjoy after your game.
Mount Maunganui Golf Club is conveniently located super close to Omanu Beach and Arataki Beach. You can choose between 18 holes or 12 holes or less, or even have the option of playing unlimited holes if arriving after 3:30 pm.
Green fees cost between $35-$95 NZD for adult non-members, depending on what you choose to do. Simply hire some clubs and any other golfing gear that you need and have some fun on the beautiful greens and well-maintained course.
Omanu Golf Club has a beautiful course with a great layout and friendly staff. It almost resembles a parkland. The fairways do have some undulation to them but are mostly flat. Being close to the airport, you may see some planes flying overhead while you play.
Tee times are available all day every day. If desired you can plan ahead and book online. Choose between 9 holes costing $45 NZD or 18 holes costing $75 NZD and if needed, hire clubs, or a cart.
18. Have a beer at Mount Brewing Co. Brewery
Stop off at the locally-owned Mount Brewing Co. Brewery for one of the best craft beers in Mount Maunganui. With a large selection of top-quality craft beers, expect to pay around $9.50 NZD for a full beer or $6 NZD for a half and try some different ones.
I popped in after a busy day exploring and loved the relaxed vibe in their tap room known as The Rising Tide. Drinking their cold Sea Beast IPA and Golden Hour Hazy XPA was an absolute pleasure. Even better if you pair a cold one with a burger, dumplings, or a bowl of curly fries.
If you want to get a feel for the breweries in the area and have a designated driver along the way, this craft beer tour is the way to go. You’ll explore multiple popular breweries in the Tauranga Region. You’ll sample a variety of beers and even get a behind-the-scenes tour at one of the breweries to see how they make their signature lagers and ales.
This is a small group tour you can do with friends or you’ll end up making friends with whoever you’re with. You get transported via a minibus and enjoy specialty food and beer tasting over a period of 4.5 hours. It’s a nice laidback way to spend an afternoon for $170 NZD, which includes all the drinks and lunch too.
19. Road trip the Thermal Explorer Highway
The highway starts south of Auckland and crosses the entire island to Napier on the coast. This 457 km (284 mile) route is too much to drive in one day, but you can easily drive a small section of it from Mount Maunganui.
You can make the 1-hour drive over to Hamilton and start there or my favorite route is Rotorua to Taupo. You’ll start about an hour from Mount Maunganui in Rotorua and follow the small section of the Thermal Explorer Highway to Taupo.
The highway follows lake edges and winds through some of the most incredible landscapes. This is the geothermal heart of the island, so there are some neat places to stop to take in bubbling mud pools, geysers, and natural hot springs.
Near Rotorua, make sure to stop at Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. This otherworldly landscape is on the side of a collapsed volcano crater. It’s home to the largest mud pool in the country and the Lady Knox Geyser that shoots water 10-20 meters (33-65 feet) in the air!
While its name might not be the most appealing, I promise you don’t want to miss out on swimming in Kerosene Creek! These natural hot springs are totally free and the temperature averages around 30°C (86°F), which is pretty warm. You can sit in the shallow waters and soak, but I will warn you the sulfur smell makes things a little stinky!
To have the trip planned and driven for you (forget the need to read a map!), this Rotorua highlights tour takes you around the best spots along the route. You’ll visit an authentic Maori village, see the Okere Waterfalls and the impressive Pohutu Geyser to name a few. The tour is 7.5 hours so you’ll cover a lot. It’s a pretty reasonable price too at only $169 NZD per person.
Related read: Not on the North Island for long, but still want to road trip? Check out the top South Island road trips for more ideas!
20. Enjoy a meal at Hide Thirst and Hunger
Hide Thirst and Hunger is the restaurant to be at when you just want to enjoy a good meal! Located in the heart of Mount Maunganui, sit out in the courtyard or indoors and savor a meal at this much-loved restaurant.
Open for dinner only on Wednesday and Thursday and open for lunch and dinner Friday to Sunday, enjoy dishes made from fresh local produce combined with international flavors that will fill your belly.
Their mains cost around $30-$50 NZD and the pizzas are around $30 NZD. There are also small plates, side dishes, and desserts available. I would hands down order the Margherita pizza and herb-crusted lamb backstrap again!
Where to Stay in Mount Maunganui
With so much to do and see in and around Mount Maunganui, it’s worth sticking around for a few days. I recommend staying at least 2 nights and a couple more if you’re planning day trips in the area. I could easily spend a week here!
Luckily there are a ton of places to stay – but with so many, it can be hard to narrow it down. Let me help with my top 3 picks for all price ranges.
Pacific Coast Backpackers Lodge – $
For a budget-friendly place to stay, Pacific Coast Backpackers Lodge tops my list. It’s in a good location that’s within walking distance of beaches, bars, and restaurants. Just look for the giant mural on the building and you’ll know you’re in the right place.
You get free access to surfboards which is a huge plus with amazing waves nearby. If you’re planning a working holiday, this hostel also helps guests find job placements and even has a van for transport. You can get a cheap bed in a dorm room here (around $40 NZD) or opt for a private room.
The Mission Belle Motel – $$
Don’t let the word “motel” fool you, The Mission Belle Motel feels like a little European escape with incredible views of Mount Maunganui. It’s a Spanish-style building that has been renovated into huge guest rooms that are bright and airy with gorgeous windows that actually open!
It’s right next to the main strip downtown and only a 10-minute walk from Mount Maunganui itself. With a limited number of rooms available, book a room at this gorgeous property on Booking.com quickly!
The Reef Beachfront Apartments – $$$
If you want more space and budget isn’t an issue, treat yourself to a stay at The Reef Beachfront Apartments. It’s right in the name – this hotel is oceanfront so the views are spectacular.
It’s as simple as walking out the door to take in a beach day or opting for a beach view from your balcony or the heated pool. The rooms are super spacious with two and three-bedroom apartments available all with fully-equipped kitchens. Confirm your room here by booking a stay online.
Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand
Let’s face it, you’re going to need wheels to get around New Zealand. Although a small country, buses between destinations are infrequent and expensive. Plus, some of the best experiences you can have in NZ are on road trips!
You have three options when it comes to getting wheels in New Zealand; a car, a campervan, or a motorhome. Here’s what you need to know about each and where to get them:
- Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to book a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
- Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It is what most budget backpackers get for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping! You can easily compare campervans, prices, and book on the website Motorhome Republic. We also have a 5% discount code (DTRAVEL5) with Mad Campers, which you can use at checkout.
- Motorhome – A motorhome is larger and more comfortable than a campervan. Many motorhomes will comfortably sleep 6 or more people – perfect for a family visiting New Zealand. Motorhomes are the most expensive option, but with one, you won’t ever need to stay in a hotel and you’ll save money that way. Motorhome Republic is my suggested website for booking a motorhome in New Zealand simply because they are a reliable company and the website is super easy to use! We are also partnered with Kiwi Motorhomes, which is well known as the top motorhome rental company in New Zealand. You can get 5% off using the code Queen5. For more detailed info, read my complete guide to renting a motorhome in New Zealand!
Thanks for reading!
With its stunning beaches, epic hikes, and views that look like they belong on a postcard, it’s easy to see why Mount Manganui is one of the best places to visit on the North Island. There’s nothing quite like a beach day here or hiking to the top of Mount Manganui. I hope you’re excited about your trip here and your itinerary is full of things to do!
If this post about all the things to do in Mount Maunganui was helpful, make sure to check out some of my other blogs about all the amazing places to visit in New Zealand!