After acquiring a housesitting placement for the first time, we headed east from Auckland to Tauranga. We felt much more at home than we had during our workaways and consequently stopped being tourists for a while! There were some little adventures, though, so continuing my run of “places we saw a little of, but not enough to warrant a long narrative”, here’s 3 things to do in Tauranga, New Zealand…
1. CLIMB MT MAUNGANUI (MAUAO) FOR SUNSET
It would have been absurd to be living near this beautiful extinct volcano and not to see it up close. It’s called Mauao in maori – a name I love, but with so many vowels as to make me pause and frown before trying to pronounce it! It means “caught in the light of the day”, which is so poetic. The myth behind it is actually a really sad one of unrequited love between two mountains, but I think the name itself remains really beautiful.
Once we’d put so much effort into getting to the mount, we couldn’t help but climb it too. It was pretty exhausting to do so, but reaching the top felt worthwhile. Especially as the sky was washed with gold at sunset. The views overlook the town of Mt Maunganui to the south east, the pristine forest on Katakana Island to the north west, and the expanse of viridian sea in between…needless to say, it’s breathtaking.
Note: If you’re not such a keen walker, Mt Maunganui can easily be appreciated from nearby beaches, as in the header image for this post.
2. CULTURE WITH HAIRY MACLARY AND THE TAURANGA ART GALLERY
Have you ever read Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy? It’s a famous, well-loved series by Kiwi author Lynley Dodd. (Luckily I had read this last Christmas, when my niece received it as a present!) As the author is from Tauranga there’s a sweet collection of sculptures on the seafront depicting the marvellously-named dogs and cats from the books. (Bitzer Maloney, Bottomley Potts and Schnitzel von Krumm to name but a few.) I was mostly excited to take pictures to show my niece and nephew, but they are accomplished sculptures in their own right. Well worth stopping to admire if you’re strolling the boardwalk here.
If that gets you hungry for more culture, I’d recommend a look around the delightful Tauranga Art Gallery. There’s free entry, which never goes unappreciated when you’re travelling on a budget! When we visited there was a good range of different types of art on display. Comic book-style illustration, medal work, even pieces from a kiwi guy who had spent his life pastiching biblical and mythological narratives into some bizarre-yet-impressive results. From the look of the website, they rotate their exhibitions on a regular basis and are always showcasing a good mix of styles.
3. ROBBINS PARK AND ROSE GARDEN
Often Ben and I struggle to remain enthusiastic for city life for long. Parks and gardens are always a sanctuary in these instances, and Tauranga was no exception. The rose garden in Robbins Park was particularly pretty, but there was also a small greenhouse full of tropical plantlife that really transports you to another climate. When you’ve enjoyed meandering through the flowers, there are some benches facing the sea beneath heavy hedgerow arches. They make a good spot to sit and relax and let the water carry away your thoughts.