Mount Maunganui Mauao – The gem in our backyard

Rochelle Sewell Published 09:16, Jun 16 2020

​Mauao stands at the end of the spit. Like a crowning glory, perched at the tip of one of Aotearoa’s most spectacular beaches.

She keeps watch over the curved stretch of golden beach as the ant colony of busy people, scuttle about below.

The maunga has had a chance to breathe during lockdown, freed of people walking, running and climbing up its walls. We’ve craved our return to Mount Maunganui. But with our new normal we’re here to treat this precious environment with respect.

The Beachside Holiday Park is one of a small number of council-owned campgrounds in a prestigious waterfront location. We hope this means it will never be sold and carved into slender sections, covered in all-encompassing seaside mansions.

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The view from the top of Mt Maunganui.
BROOK SABINThe view from the top of Mt Maunganui.

We’ve stayed here in tents, hired their retro caravans, hunkered down in the cabins with young babies, and returned with our small camper. Our children felt so sorry for missing our Easter stay here that they built a paper mâché model of the campground during lockdown. Bringing our tūrangawaewae to our bubble at home.

Sitting on a spit, Mount Maunganui offers safe swimming and a chance to paddle board in peaceful Pilot Bay, so named because it’s where you can watch the enormous container ships being piloted out of Tauranga’s busy port.

Mount Maunganui’s surf beach on the east side is a delightful contrast. It has a shallower incline that neighbouring Papamoa, and offers waves for boards of every shape. The new surf lifesaving club stands proudly on the waterfront. Members clad in purple and pink lycra peel out from its basement with a mix of boards and boats.

Mount Maunganui is a place to be active. The well-maintained boardwalk runs along the waterfront, lined with sturdy timber bollards, looped together with a curving chain.

The maunga has had a chance to breathe during lockdown.
DOMINICO ZAPATA/STUFFThe maunga has had a chance to breathe during lockdown.

This boardwalk is a constant hum of mothers with prams, runners moving at pace, families and friends strolling toward the maunga in their leisure wear and windbreaker jackets, and in another life, tourists pouring from the cruise ships docked in Pilot Bay.

The cafes offering excellent coffee, cakes and trendy raw gluten-free baking sit opposite. The strip is peppered with gelato shops selling gourmet ice creams, which balances the healthy activity all around. Socially-distanced tables with punters sipping coffee and reading their newspapers.

The main street offers an urban experience too. The eclectic mix of dollar shops, restaurants, surf shops and high-end homewares make for retail therapy for the most reluctant of shoppers.

A stay in the campground means we can continue to avoid cars. The strip is a short walk from campers and those in the towering apartments next door. From the latest David Trubridge light shades, to bargain solar showers, you can buy anything here. A special shout out needs to be paid to Rice Rice Baby for excellent casual Vietnamese cuisine and the unforgettable goat curry from the Bombay Brasserie, an institution on the strip.

Back Your Backyard: Your Aotearoa adventures

Saving the best for last. Built atop a natural mineral spring, the Mount Hot Pools are located next door to the campground and are popular with locals and tourists alike.

The larger outdoor pool sits at a comfortable 34 degrees Celsius. The warmer relaxation spa is closer to 40C. With benches for seating and curved facets to pour warm water down your back, this spa makes you feel like you’ve been through a healing and therapeutic transformation. For those wanting something extra, there are private spas and massage therapy on offer too.

Mount Maunganui tops our post lockdown bucket list. Get out there Kiwis and enjoy.

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