Tauranga (Photo:Tomas Sykora/zShutterstock)
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Cruise Critic Editor Rating

Cruise Critic
Cruise Critic Staff

Port of Tauranga

A cruise ship visit to Tauranga (pronounced "Tao-ronger") is like getting three port calls for the price of one: Tauranga, Mount Maunganui and Rotorua. Situated in the Bay of Plenty, Tauranga deserves a half-day or more of exploration. The busy city has several historical highlights (like the Elms Mission Station, said to be the oldest building in the Bay of Plenty), interesting architecture (check out the Brain Watkins House, built with local kauri wood) and tasty seafood-focused dining at the restaurants and pubs along the revitalized waterfront.

Shore Excursions

About Tauranga


Pro

A beachside town with nearby mountains, thermal pools, geysers and waterfalls

Con

With so many options for things to do, passengers are only limited by time

Bottom Line

Rotorua mud pools are a fascinating excursion, but Tauranga is a lovely place to admire the Bay of Plenty


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Cruise ships actually dock in the nearby town of Mount Maunganui, which is also worth visiting. There, visitors can embrace nature and the outdoors at the surfing hotspot of Mount Beach, with easy to strenuous hiking at Mount Maunganui, and in soothingly hot or warm saltwater pools at the mountain's base. Urbanites can also find lots of shopping and restaurants on busy Maunganui Road.

Finally, there's a third option that's also quite popular as a shore excursion: the town and region of Rotorua, about 75 minutes from the port. The area is a center for geothermal activity (including historic thermal baths) and Maori culture. Shore excursions to Rotorua will typically visit a geothermal park like Te Whakarewarea, Hells Gate or Waiotapu, which features the Lady Knox geyser, a natural phenomenon that erupts every day at 10:15 a.m. Other highlights may include bubbling mud pools, steaming springs, more geysers, spas, waterfalls, visits to one of the region's dozen pretty lakes, and the city of Rotorua proper. The trip is not for the nasally sensitive, as the hot springs and geysers are often accompanied by an ever-present sulphurous "rotten egg" smell.

Sadly, cruise travelers usually do not have enough time to visit all three destinations in one port call. Most choose to either stay in the neighboring Tauranga and Mount Maunganui or take the long shore excursion to the Rotorua area. Whichever way you go, you will not be disappointed.

Where You're Docked

Ships dock at Salisbury Wharf at the Port of Tauranga, which is actually in the town of Mount Maunganui.

Port Facilities

There is a helpful i-SITE tourist office just 150 feet or so from the dock where visitors can pick up information, book tours or be directed to a nearby bus to Tauranga's center. Another 150 feet away is the center of Mount Maunganui, which also features shopping, dining, ATM's, post offices and a host of typical city amenities.

Good to Know

Uber-friendly locals will stop to ask anyone perusing a city map if they need help, so don't be afraid to take advantage of their assistance. Also, remember that New Zealanders drive on the left side of the road, an important safety note when crossing the street.

Getting Around

On Foot: All of Mount Maunganui's attractions are within a 10-minute walk of the port.

By Bus: Although some lines arrange for free buses, the only option on our visit was a city bus with direct service from Mount Maunganui to Tauranga. Leaving relatively frequently from the i-SITE office at the port, the bus costs a few New Zealand dollars per person one-way, and it takes 20 minutes to get to the middle of the commercial district of Tauranga. The bus drops passengers off at the convenient Tauranga i-SITE office and, from there, all of Tauranga's top attractions, shopping and dining options are within a 15-minute walk.

By Taxi: Taxis are available at the i-SITE office at the port, but if you are just heading into Tauranga, the city bus is the way to go. If you are going to Rotorua, a taxi or shore excursion would be your best bet.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

The local currency is the New Zealand dollar. For current currency conversion figures, visit XE.com. ATM's and banks are plentiful in both Tauranga and Mount Maunganui and are usually the cheapest way to get New Zealand dollars. Credit cards are widely accepted most everywhere.

Language

English, with a distinct Kiwi accent, is the predominant language in Tauranga and all of New Zealand, although you may hear some Maori being spoken there.

Many British-isms have found their way into the language -- like "brilliant" or "loo." However, the most unusual is the local use of "sweet as" -- meaning good or cool. It's generally used when something pleases the speaker, such as a local responding, "It's sweet as," when asked about a particular hike, wine or local beer.

Food and Drink

Tauranga and Mount Maunganui both feature a variety of restaurants for those out and exploring during lunchtime. Seafood is, of course, a specialty. The revitalized waterfront area of Tauranga and nearby streets, as well as walking-friendly Mount Maunganui, make it easy to find the fresh catch. Most shore excursions to Rotorua or other full-day tours -- like those to Waitomo Caves -- will include lunch.

For a killer waterfront view, Slow Fish on the beach at Mount Beach focuses on organic, free-range and slow food. Its all-day BIG breakfast menu is to die for, or, for lunch, check out the Slowfish Cakes served with arugula and chili jam. (Shop 5 Twin Towers, Marine Parade, Mount Maunganui. Open daily, 6 a.m. to 4 p.m.)

Satori Lounge serves up sushi prepared to order. The warm sushi rolls are all the rage, and the cocktails are creative. (309 Maunganui Road, Mount Maunganui. It's open Tuesday through Sunday, noon to 2:30 p.m., 5:30 to 9 p.m.)

For the fish & chips fanatic, Fresh Fish Market lives up to its name with just-off-the-dock fresh fish battered and fried right before your eyes. For something different, try the seafood kebabs. Come hungry, and be prepared to wait. It's well worth it! Enjoy your takeaway at a dozen picnic tables out front overlooking the dock. (Open 8 to 7 p.m. daily)

Shopping

Genuine Maori arts and crafts -- including pottery, local paintings, jade jewelry or carvings -- make great souvenirs. The highly recommended Pohutukawa Gallery (138 Mounganui Road) in Mount Maunganui is within walking distance of the ship.


Tauranga Awards

Cruisers’ Choice Destination Awards

2018 Top-Rated Australia & New Zealand Destinations
2017 Top-Rated Australia & New Zealand Destinations
2016 Top-Rated Australia & New Zealand Destinations