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Bay of Plenty – Guide for Backpackers

Talman Madsen Photography

Plenty of sand, sea, kiwifruits and geothermal activity!

The Bay of Plenty is a beach bum’s paradise. It is clear to see why New Zealanders choose the region’s towns for their seaside breaks. The long stretches of sandy beaches bring activities such as swimming, kayaking, surfing, diving and fishing.

As well as “golden” sand beaches there is a “gold” theme in the historic gold mining town of Waihi. Plus, see where the “gold” kiwifruit are grown in the kiwifruit capital of the world! We think we got the most out the word gold there… Seasonal work opportunities are also plentiful, so find out more in Picking Seasons in New Zealand and Working a Fruit Picking Job in New Zealand.

The Bay of Plenty region is also New Zealand’s most geothermal area, with the famous city of Rotorua containing four different geothermal parks. You can also walk on an active marine volcano off that coast of Whakatane, White Island.

Things You Can’t Miss in the Bay of Plenty

  • Feast your eyes on the giant gold mining pit of Waihi
  • See poetry etched into the boulders on the Haiku pathway in Katikati
  • Swim with dolphins off the shores of Taunga
  • Hike Mt Maunganui
  • Get a picture with the giant kiwifruit in Te Puke
  • Take a ferry from Whakatane to the active volcano of White Island
  • Explore the geothermal wonders of Rotorua
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Waihi and Waihi Beach

Known as “the town with the golden past”, the remains of Waihi‘s gold-mining history is a popular site. Stand over a 200m deep mining pit or walk down the vintage railway.

11km east of Waihi is the vast Waihi Beach: a mecca for surfing and fishing. The beach stretches over 8km all the way to the Tauranga Harbour where fun activities include kayaking, swimming, aqua bikes and some scenic walks. Don’t miss either sunrise or sunset on Waihi Beach as both are known to cast spectacular colours across the sky.

Pseudopanax at English Wikipedia


Katikati is worth the visit for its colourful main street. You will see straight away why Katikati is named the “mural town”. Not only that, but open-air artwork and sculptures are scattered around the town centre.

The millennium project of the Haiku Pathway is a collection of boulders with poems carved into them. The pathway is also a good chance to enjoy the town’s gardens and tranquil stream.



Off the coast of Tauranga are fantastic diving opportunities. Explore the reefs, shipwrecks, volcanic islands and you could even swim with dolphins.

A ferry trip to Tuhua/Mayor Island will bring you to some excellent walking tracks around the dormant volcano.

For the adrenaline junkies who like hanging around in trees, the high ropes course of Adrenalin Forest, complete with flying foxes, is a 30min drive from the city.

Learn more about the city in our Tauranga guide as well as our 10 Free and Cheap Things to do in Tauranga and Mt Maunganui.


Mt maunganui

Mauao is one of the most popular walks in the Bay of Plenty and for good reason. The extinct volcano is Mt Maunangui town (and the region’s) best vantage point. The walk to the summit takes you past remote beaches and cliffs rewarding you with the view of stretching white-sand beaches on both sides of the resort town.

Taking to the sea is not a bad place to surf, kite-ski, windsurf, water-ski and kite surf. On land is a great place for a shopping spree in the Bayfair Shopping Centre and Mount Mainstreet. There are plenty of bars to hangout at such as Major Toms, Rosie O’Grady‘s and Latitude 37.

Learn more about that good stuff in our Mt Maunganui guide, as well as some Cheap Eats in Tauranga and Mt Maunganui.


Te Puke

Many towns in New Zealand claim to be the capital of the world for something. For Te Puke it is being the “Kiwifruit Capital of the World”, which is commemorated with a giant kiwifruit – one of 20 BIG things in NZ.

If you are really into your kiwifruit (who isn’t?) then you can take a tour of the orchards. An alternative way to see the kiwifruit country is by horseback.

There are a wealth of seasonal work opportunities in the area. Have a look at Picking Seasons in New Zealand and Working a Fruit Picking Job in New Zealand to find out more.



From Whakatane you can catch a ferry to White Island, which is a top dive location and a place to go swimming with dolphins. Plus, walking on a active marine volcano is a definite NZ must do!

Visit New Zealand’s most travelled marae, Mataatua Wharenui. Over 130 years the Maori meeting house has been taken to Australia and England and is now back in its original place.

A nice place to relax is Ohope Beach, with safe swimming and sometimes surfing. A nice place not to relax are the mountain bike tracks in the area such as Onepu Mountain Bike Park and Rawhiti. Find out more about biking in Whakatane in Mountain Biking in Whakatane and The 3 Eastland Motu Trails.



The most inland city of the Bay of Plenty hardly needs an introduction. Rotorua is a geothermal wonderland which is obvious from the moment the sulphuric smell hits your nostrils. Take a look around the 5 Insane Geothermal Parks in New Zealand You Won’t Believe Exist.

Rotorua also has a significant Maori heritage where you can do most of the 10 Places to Experience Maori Culture in New Zealand. Watch a compelling Haka and eat the traditional Hangi meal.

Natural hot pools, hikes, mountain biking and more can be done in Rotorua, so take a look at Rotorua – Guide for Backpackers to find out more.

If you have extra time in the Bay of Plenty

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Where to stay in the Bay of plenty?

For more budget accommodation options, check out our Accommodation Guide to Rotorua and Where to Camp in Rotorua.

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