Bay of Plenty Area Guide
Sunset over Papatea Bay
and the Bay of Plenty.
The bay was named by explorer Captain James Cook, who found plentiful supplies for the crew of his sailing ship, the Endeavour, when he landed here in 1769. The region is now a major horticultural producer, particularly of citrus fruit and kiwifruit.
The port city of Tauranga, a three-hour drive from Auckland, is the region's main centre, and one of the country's fastest growing cities, with many new residents attracted by the temperate climate. From Tauranga, boats head across the harbour to Omokoroa Beach, or offer trips to the marine reserve of Tuhua (Mayor) Island, or to Matakana Island across the mouth of Tauranga Harbour.
Tauranga's beachside neighbour, Mount Maunganui, takes its name from the volcanic cone that rises from the end of the sandy peninsula. A lovely walk leads around the base of the Mount, or do the short climb to the summit for a stunning, panoramic view of the coast and offshore islands.
The rural town of Whakatane is at the eastern end of the bay, with steaming White Island, New Zealand's most active volcano, 50 kilometres offshore. From Whakatane, there are boat and helicopter trips out to the island to see the other-worldly landscape with its billowing clouds of gas, steam and ash.
The small settlement of Opotiki, 60 kilometres from Whakatane, is the eastern-most town in the Bay of Plenty and the gateway to the East Coast, either by the inland route south to Gisborne, or the scenic coastal road which winds around the East Cape.
Inland, the Kaimai ridgeline forms a mountain backdrop to the bay, stretching 70 kilometres from the Karangahake Gorge near the start of the Coromandel Peninsula down to the broad flat reaches of the Mamaku Plateau near the city of Rotorua, with its thermal springs, geysers, and bubbling mud pools.