Tauranga, New Zealand
a 3 day visit
Tauranga New Zealand, a 3 day visit
A large city in the northern corner of the Bay of Plenty, East Coast North Island, New Zealand. In recent years, Tauranga’s population has risen dramatically to around 140,000 today in the urban area.
13th century settlers were of course, Maori, with the earliest Europeans being missionaries arriving in the first quarter of the 19th century. In these very early days, flax was the main attraction with flax fibre exchanged for muskets. Probably not such a good idea in hindsight! The famous land wars battle of Gate Pa took place in 1864 and was a devastating defeat for the British.
International trade is very much in evidence, with the Port of Tauranga at Sulphur Point continually busy with massive container ships, a great line-up of container cranes and huge stacks of containers, both on the port area and off site. Some of the vessels visiting are known as mega ships and have required the harbour to be especially dredged to allow access. Throughout this area heavy trucks abound creating problems for other road users. Clogged main roads mean ‘Auckland like” travel times from Papamoa Beach and Mt Maunganui . On the whole, however, the Tauranga district is very pleasant for a few days visit, with many excellent restaurants and cafes. There are also several shopping areas throughout the district so retail is well represented.
The large harbour is Tauranga’s most notable geographical feature with a couple of volcanos also visible. Mt Maunganui, Tauranga’s well known landmark, is dormant but a little further down the coast and offshore is White Island – very much active.
The climate could be described as sub-tropical with high summer humidity, making the white sand beaches of Mt Maunganui and Papamoa very popular with visitors during the summer months. This aspect of the Bay of Plenty along with reliable rainfall makes the district ideal for horticulture with the deep soils suiting Kiwifruit (Chinese Gooseberry) and Avocado. This is the home of New Zealand's Kiwifruit industry, now worth in the billions of dollars in export earnings, but started from small beginnings in a small rural town just south of Tauranga - Te Puke. The Kiwifruit (Actinidia Chinensis) is loaded with vitamins and remarkably will keep off the vine, under 4C refrigeration for about 6 months, making it one of the few fruit in the world able to be sea shipped long distances. Kiwifruit is exported worldwide with early markets through the 1980s being Germany, UK, France and Italy. More lately Japan, China and other Asian markets have many times overtaken these first export efforts.
Our recent 3 night visit was spent very comfortably at LuLu Cottage, just across the road from the beach. Papamoa’s white sand ocean beach faces the Pacific Ocean. Reasonably calm during our stay, huge ocean rollers can provide some spectacular surf scenery from time to time. Lots of cockle and tuatua shells, hinting at good shellfish numbers down at tide level, are really the only beach debris, making Papamoa a great dog friendly place. Our little pal loved being off lead for a bit. We were very vigilant for a start being well aware of several quite poisonous sea creatures which could be washed up occasionally but there was nothing like this to worry about.
A breakfast at Henry & Teds café is recommended and our experience certainly confirmed the quality and professionalism of this busy modern café about 2 kms further south from our accommodation. On day 2 of our visit we travelled north through Tauranga, but on the new link which ends up taking you through the port area anyway, hence back into all the heavy Sulphur Point traffic. Once through Bethlehem , we turn right down Snodgrass Road to investigate the waterfront . With the tide more or less full this is very pretty. A grey heron standing a few metres off shore, shows the water level is just over its toes indicating that at low tide the water would recede into the far distance leaving not so nice mudflats. Our next stop north is Omokoroa, an area of intensive orcharding. We were concerned to see a lot of obviously orchard land being bulldozed in preparation for new housing. It is sad to see this permanent loss of productive land to residential , here and in many other parts of New Zealand . We had decided lunch at The Talisman Hotel in KatiKati might be good and it is. A traditional ‘bistro’ type dining room with plenty of space offering a wide ranging menu with lots of choice for us. The Talisman has quite a history , opening in 1896 with the rural town of Kati Kati growing around it. The Talisman has provided hospitality to early settlers to the area as well as the many commercial travellers visiting local businesses and horticulturalists. Kati Kati itself is not such a pleasant environment being right on SH 2 resulting in numbers of heavy vehicles rumbling through the town centre. We very much enjoy the many large wall murals depicting early days dotted through the town’s shopping area.
We are sorry to leave the Tauranga district on our final day but home commitments call. Tidying Lulu Cottage, a final walk on Papamoa Beach and we are away north, Tammy safely tucked up in her California bed. Timing is perfect for an earlyish lunch in Tauranga CBD just off Cameron Road at Café Elizabeth, on Elizabeth Street. The modern café is situated on the ground floor of the ANZ building and caters to a wide range of tastes. Already busy, we find a table in the sun on the covered outdoor terrace where we can relax with Tammy at our feet. After a very pleasant and satisfying hour, we are west across the Kaimai range then north to Auckland.
Striking the southern motorway at about 4 pm, Auckland traffic soon ensures stop start and several complete stops, resulting in 2 hours of driving to get from Takanini to Mt Eden. We are well ready for a glass of pinot, a few minutes after opening our front door.