Best Beaches of the Bay of Plenty

A beachside holiday is perfect when travelling with family, and the North Island’s Bay of Plenty / Te Moana-a-Toi boasts some of the best sandy shores and pristine waters for beach days like no other. From relaxing on the sand to paddle boarding in the water, we’ve listed the best beaches in the Bay of Plenty from Tauranga to Waihau Bay, and how to get there in your Dollar rental car.

Mount Maunganui
Mount Maunganui

Starting in the largest city on the Bay of Plenty, Tauranga is known for its vibrant atmosphere and cultural heritage. The city is popular for tourists visiting the area, with the Waimarino Adventure Park and Adrenalin Forest on many visitors' to-do lists while in town. Less than 10 minutes from Tauranga, discover the iconic beach and volcanic cone of Mount Maunganui. Known as ‘The Mount’, the peak of Mauao sits 232 metres above sea level, offering stunning views of the Bay from the peak. Choose a simple walk around the base of the mountain or, if the family is up for a walking adventure, hike to the summit to see the impeccable views for yourself. On the shore, Maunganui Beach has been crowned one of Aotearoa / New Zealand’s favourite beaches, and with pure white sands and excellent waters for swimming and surfing, it’s easy to see why. Whether you climb Mauao or spend the day relaxing on the shore, a visit to Mount Maunganui is not to be missed while travelling the Bay of Plenty. Plus, Moturiki /  Leisure Island is accessible by a footbridge just a small stroll away from Maunganui Beach. Popular for exploring tide pools and rock formations, extend your visit to Maunganui Beach with a wander around Moturiki.

Papamoa and Whakatāne

Looking for a quieter beachside atmosphere? Head east to Papamoa Beach for its long stretches of golden sand, perfect for building sandcastles and playing beach games with the family. Papamoa Plaza is located just across the road from the beach, making it easy to pick up snacks and anything you’ll need for your beach outing. Looking to swap the sea blue waters for lush greenery? Papamoa Hills Cultural Heritage Regional Park is just a short drive inland offering many walking and tramping tracks. Next, take a scenic drive to Whakatāne, known for its stunning coastal surroundings and proximity to Whakaari / White Island. Just shy of an hour from Papamoa in your Dollar rental car, remember to stock up on food, water, and sunscreen when road-tripping around the Bay. In town, head out on a self-drive tour of the area in a rail cart at Awakeri Rail Adventures or - if visiting in season - pick your own berries at Julian’s Berry Farm. 

Ohope Beach
Whakatāne Heads and Ōhope Beach

While in Whakatāne, take time with family and friends to explore ‘The Heads’, where the Whakatāne River meets the Bay. The Kohi Point Walkway trail starts in town and passes through the stunning Wairere Falls. Take a moment to admire the falls and snap some photos for the family photo album. As you continue on the track, you’ll be blessed with stunning views of Moutohora / Whale Island and the Whakatāne Harbour. On the opposite side of Whakatāne Heads, visit The Lady on the Rock statue which commemorates Māori history. After exploring The Heads, continue East to reach Ōhope Beach. Another one of the country’s most-loved beaches, Ōhope offers safe swimming and water activities like paddle boarding and kayaking for the perfect family-friendly experience. Ōhope and the nearby Ohiwa Harbour are known for their magnificent native water birds including Tōrea, Matuku Moana and Tarāpunga. 

Opotiki Museum
Opotiki and Waihau Bay

Just under half an hour in your rental car from Ōhope, Ōpōtiki is your next beach destination. Visit Waiotahe Beach here for a relaxed atmosphere and stunning views. In town, stop by the Ōpōtiki Museum for a dose of history before dining at a local restaurant for fish and chips by the sea. Before heading back to Tauranga, visit Oruaiti Beach in Waihau Bay. With beautiful scenery and few visitors, it’s the ideal place to relax and spend some family time together. While you’re here, consider a visit to the nearby Raukokore Church, known for its beautiful architecture. On your way back to Tauranga, break up the drive with a stopover at the Kaituna River Mouth for a change of scenery. Travelling with some little adventurers? Add even more excitement to your trip with white water rafting on the Okere Falls before calling it a day. 

From soaking up the best of New Zealand’s sun to exploring unique towns and local establishments, a road trip across the Bay of Plenty’s stunning beaches promises an unforgettable getaway for the whole family. 

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