New Zealand’s Mount Maunganui – How to live here this winter

Would you spend a North American winter living in New Zealand? Within the travel industry, the word we have for long-term apartment rentals is called ‘long-stays‘, and for me at least, I can’t help but instantly picture the thousands of “snow-birds” who flock to Florida from January till about April or May – but where else can you escape winter? There’s places in Mexico, in Ecuador, Panama. Large sections of Australia’s east coast, especially around Brisbane are full of long-stay apartments. One South Pacific Island, Cook Islands is now known as ‘the longstay island’, with people renting apartments for months at a time on an island which takes about 2 hours to circumnavigate! But as we see it, the most active, outdoorsy, town with a good food scene to spend a few weeks or months might just be in New Zealand.

Located on New Zealand’s North Island in a region known as the Bay of Plenty is the town of Mount Maunganui, otherwise known as “The Mount”. It’s a beach town which sits on a massive sandbar peninsula at the southern end of Tauranga Harbor. The ‘beach’ has two sides, with a wonderful surf beach on the ocean side and a well sheltered bay on the harbor side. It’s important to remember that while this is certainly a beach town, the temperature and climate is never as hot and humid as Florida or Australia.

But there’s certainly more to do than sit on a beach. To give you a sense of how you might spend your time over the days or weeks living here, here’s a quick run-down of local activities and attractions:

Mount Maunganui seen from the beach and town
Mount Maunganui seen from the beach and town

1. Tramping (New Zealand lingo for ‘hiking’)
The New Zealanders, or Kiwi’s, are a nation of hikers and there are tracks everywhere. They’ve just finished the final sections of the ‘New Zealand Trail’, which is 3000km long, and literally runs from the top to the bottom of the country. But around the ‘Mount’ is a dormant volcano which actually gives the town it’s name, Mauao, 230 meters above sea level. For hikers there is a choice of tracks leading to the summit, ranging from beginner to expert. Breathtaking views of the harbor, Pacific Ocean, and beach make the hikes well worth the effort. Mauao itself is of national significance, with a large fort on the top of the mountain. A Maori legend speak of Mauao trying to escape to the sea running from an unrequited love, resulting in its lonely position at the edge of the peninsula.

Mount Maunganui Beach  NZ Downunder 559628472. Beaches and Surfing
Mount Manganui is in the Bay of Plenty and the area is home to some of the best (if not the best) beaches in the country. Manganui surf beach is safely patrolled by lifeguards all throughout the summer (during the North American winter). The liveliest section of the beach is closer to Mauao, you will find a more secluded spot of the beach if you so choose to walk eastward toward Papamoa.

The beach’s reputation recently moved up a level in regard to its ability to attract surfers due to the addition of an artificial reef situated perfectly in order to produce consistently perfect waves. The reef is located about 250m offshore and is not visible above water as it sits 0.4m below the lowest tide level. This reef produces the perfect waves for competent and experienced surfers (and some great spectating for those of us that don’t surf).

3. Golfing
The Mt Maunganui Gold club is located in the Bay of Plenty region of New Zealand. Mt Maunganui is New Zealand’s favorite summer destination, with a white sandy beach and sheltered inner harbor. The Golf Course offers a challenge for all golfers no matter which level you are.  After your game there is always a chance to relax and have a drink, snack or meal from the café in the beautifully designed club house which offers a 180 degree view of the course.
The course has been host to may top amateur as well as professional events, including, the 1970’s and 80’s PGA sanctioned tour events, 2002 Asia Pacific Championship and more recently the 2012 New Zealand Men’s and Women’s Amateurs.

The town of Mount Maunganui
The town of Mount Maunganui

4. Eating and drinking

The main street of Mount Manganui is the prime hub for shopping and dining. It is located between the spectacular ocean beach and beautiful inner harbor, it’s a convenient 5 minute walk from the Port of Tauranga where about 80 cruise ships dock each season. The downtown area, nicknamed ‘Downtown the Mount’ by the locals is an all in one destination to play, shop, and live. A wide range of discoveries await the traveler, with a great café culture, local art and fashion scene, wonderful dining and entertainment, there’s something for just about anyone. While a small town, there are over 60 quality dining establishments to choose from, we suggest frequenting all of them! Renting a car is easy, but there’s no need to worry about parking: it’s free and widely available – most people walk anyways. Every Sunday morning a Farmers Market provides an alternative to dining out.

Some top restaurants we can recommend are:

  • Slowfish is an award winning, eco-café, and is all about local fine food. Although this café may be quite busy it is worth the effort to get a seat. The free-range eggs and ham, Greek salads and counter selection are all made on site and not to be missed.
  • Zeytin, has earned a following from its slow-cooked tagines, spanakopita and moussaka. Bright colours, arabic lanterns, a fun atmosphere and live jazz every other Wednesday makes this place totally worth frequenting.
  • Mount Bistro is an unpretentious fine-dining experience set at the foot of Mauao. With quality meats (fresh fish, lamb, beef, crayfish, chicken and duck) wonderfully worked into classic fare like braised lamb shank or seafood chowder, consider this as one of the nicer places to eat.
  • Kwang Chow is an all you can eat local favorite for a bargain meal that still has tasty flavors rather than resorting to a bland mashup. It has a cavernous interior with refreshing little gold, crimson mirror festooneries.

While there’s of course much more to say about what you could do here, this list hopefully gives you a sense of how you could spend a few glorious, sun filled weeks this winter!

For more information, checkout this page on long-stays in the Bay of Plenty

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Carolyn Weppler
Carolyn Weppler

VP of Sales at Goway Travel -
Carolyn Weppler has tracked gorillas in Rwanda, been proposed to in Paris (she accepted, naturally!), and travelled to 70 countries, counting Uzbekistan, Lebanon, Russia, Sri Lanka and even Afghanistan among her travel memories. Originally from Hong Kong, Carolyn lived in the UK before settling in Canada. A self-professed ‘foodie’ traveller, her favourite destinations are Nepal, Peru, Uganda, and anywhere else where she can roam local markets and experience new flavours.

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