The Best Beach In New Zealand Has Everything A Traveler Could Want

When you think of a top-rated beach, what comes to mind? Soft sand, clear water, facilities like restrooms, and maybe surfing or paddleboarding. You probably wouldn't think of hot saltwater pools and a hike to the top of a dormant volcano. If your ears just perked up, wow, do we have a beach for you! Welcome to Mount Maunganui Beach, a unique New Zealand experience you must encounter in this lifetime. It's got everything you need for a perfect beach trip, plus far more than most beaches will have. 

Tripadvisor lists it as the No. 1 best beach in New Zealand, which is no small thing for an island nation. Mount Maunganui Beach (you may hear it called "the Mount" by residents) is a mere 3.8 miles from Tauranga and about 143 miles from Auckland (around 2.75 hours). There is much to see and do, even outside the stretch of soft white sand and sparkling water. You will find dolphin-spotting tours, plenty of cafés, restaurants, and bars just across from the beach on Mount Mainstreet, and water that can get up to 70 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. Let's take a look at Mount Maunganui Beach and everything you can do there.

Mount Maunganui Beach and hot pools

Mount Maunganui Beach sits right at the base of Mauao, as you can see above. The beach stretches for 3.7 miles and isn't very crowded. It's watched by lifeguards in the summer (and remember that New Zealand's summer is opposite of ours) and volunteers during the rest of the year. There are some waves here, so pay attention to any beach flags indicating where to swim. Those waves are usually perfect for surfing, and Mount Surf School will teach you via group or private lessons and rent you gear to use. There are also restrooms and beach parking available. 

If you are traveling with kids or tentative swimmers, visit Pilot Bay Beach on the harbor side of the peninsula, where the beach and volcano sit. The waves are smaller, and it is a great place to try stand-up paddleboarding. That's where the big cruise ships come in, which you can watch with your little ones. 

For something very different, Mount Hot Pools has heated saltwater pools. It's right at the base of the volcano as well. Temperatures are adjusted for the weather, and you can see the current temperatures on the site. There is a spa pool, a relaxation pool, a children's pool, a hydrotherapy pool, and private spas. It may not be possible to get any more relaxed than you'd be after a beach day and a hot salt water soak. Then you can summit that volcano.

Mauao summit hike and dolphin tours

Can Mount Maunganui Bay get any better? Surely not, you say. Well, it can! Hundreds of pods of common and bottlenose dolphins are in the bay. There are different tour types, including a charter to watch whales and dolphins that start around NZ$160 and a diving charter to see dolphins and seals between NZ$130 and NZ$160. The best time to see them is November through April. 

Mauao, the dormant volcano, is at the end of the peninsula, as you can see above. It rises 761 feet from the base, giving you the most incredible view of the Bay of Plenty. You can walk around the bottom of the Mauao Base Track if you don't want to climb. If you do, you need to be in pretty good physical condition. The hike up is steep and takes about 40 minutes. Mauao means "caught by the dawn," and a popular activity is climbing to watch the glorious sunrise. 

There are two tracks that both start on the ocean (not the bay) side of Mauao. The first, Oruahine, goes up the northern and western sides and gives you a view of Katakana Island. The second, Waikorire, is steeper and takes you up the eastern side. There are restrooms before you start, at the Pilot Bay base and the surf lifesaving club, as well as a water fountain. It can get hot, so bring water and snacks, and don't forget sunscreen. Pack in and out as well.