An Inspiring Day in Tauranga

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An Inspiring Day in Tauranga: Rediscovering Old Friends

We had a fun and memorable day in Tauranga, New Zealand, as Bob and I planned to reconnect with a dear friend, Judy, whom weBob-Judy-Marilyn in Tauranga - An inspirational day in Tauranga hadn’t seen in almost two decades. Our friendship began on a Mediterranean cruise when we met Judy and her husband, Bob. We spent several days exploring Europe together.  The allure of  Bob and Judy’s tales about her picturesque hometown of Tauranga stuck with us over the years. The excitement peaked as our cruise ship sailed into the enchanting Bay of Plenty on February 5th, 2024.

The reunion had been a long time coming, with life’s twists and turns keeping us apart. Tragically, Judy’s husband, Bob, had passed away, reminding us of the importance of seizing the moment. It was a good reminder not to let the chaos of life hinder the joy of living.

Exploring the Natural Beauty: A Hike Around Mount Maunganui

Tangaroa - God of the sea - inspiring day in TaurangaThe day unfolded with perfect weather – clear blue skies, calm waters, and temperatures in the 80s. As we disembarked, the crescent-shaped beach and moored boats welcomed us, setting the scene for our adventure. Our eyes were immediately drawn to Mount Maunganui, or “The Mount,” a lush green volcanic hill protruding into the sea that was the focal point of the bay.

Opting for a hike, I chose the base path around The Mount, a 3.4 km trail with captivating views of the ocean, volcanic rocks, and lush greenery. Along the way, I discovered a statue of Tangaroa, the Māori god of the ocean, guarding the bay. The trail revealed stunning tidal pools and volcanic rock formations, eventually leading to a beautiful sandy beach with the sun shimmering on the water.

Bob walked around the town and discovered a larger beach area on the peninsula’s north side.  The main street of the beach village area was lined with cute shops and cafes, all catering to cruise ship tourists and others visiting on vacation.

A Love Affair with New Zealand:

The hike reinforced my newfound love for New Zealand, a land that felt sacred and magical. The natural beauty, rich with MāoriVolcanic Cove - An inspiring day in Tauranga-min Legends, left an indelible mark on my heart. My journey was a visual feast, filled with “oh wow” moments and countless photos capturing the essence of this enchanting place.

Friendship Renewed: A Tour with Judy:

Reuniting with Judy was a joyous occasion. Recognizing each other immediately, we embraced the familiarity that time hadn’t altered. Judy took us on a tour of Tauranga, showcasing the main town, north shore beaches, and her breathtaking beachfront home. Nestled atop high dunes, her beautiful beachfront home offered panoramic views of the ocean with one of the world’s longest beaches accessible with a short walk down through the dunes.

The conversation flowed effortlessly as we explored the city and enjoyed lunch at a beachfront café with Judy’s friends.  Her friends were fun and engaging to chat with.  Two were originally from Great Britain, and one had been working on restoring a French Chalet, which Judy planned to visit in September.  Bob and I wished we could have spent more time getting to know each other better.

Saying Goodbye, But Not Forever:

Tauranga Yellow tugs - helping us on our wayBefore ending our memorable day in Tauranga, Judy drove us to the central part of the city, which showcased more beautiful shopping areas, restaurants, and marinas.  However, our 3 p.m. back on-board time was quickly approaching, and it was time to say goodbye again.  The visit was too short, but we were grateful for our time visiting the extraordinary place and reconnecting with Judy.

Back on the ship, as we sailed away from Tauranga, the collective sentiment among many passengers was a shared desire to return for an extended stay and, if possible, make New Zealand home. The allure of this enchanting land had captivated us all, leaving us with a profound admiration for Tauranga and its people.

Contemplating a New Beginning: Retirement in New Zealand?

As we navigated south towards Napier, the idea of retiring in New Zealand lingered. A quick Google search revealed that it might be more than just a whimsical dream – retirement in New Zealand seemed plausible, requiring financial stability and a commitment to contribute to this beautiful country.

Today, only a little over 5 million people live in New Zealand, most of whom live on the more temperate northern island.  No place is perfect, but it appeared to us that New Zealand was making a genuine effort to preserve its land and oceans while working hard over the last few decades to make amends for the sins of the past to the Maori natives with a conscious effort to respect their customs and include their cultural heritage into everyday life.  Many of the signs I saw had English and Maori written.

With the golden glow of Tauranga fresh in our memories, we couldn’t help but wonder: Could we live here? The thought lingered as we sailed towards new adventures, carrying the magic of Tauranga with us.  However, leaving our children behind in the U.S. would be nearly impossible.

Tauranga Excursions

Scenic Bay of Plenty Duration: 3.00 Hours

Rolling Farmland and Kiwifruit Orchards — Meet your guide and board your motor coach as you set off through Tauranga, crossing the city’s harbor to Te Puke. Pronounced “tay-pookey,” this is New Zealand’s premier region for producing the nation’s namesake fruit. During your panoramic ride, you will learn more about the orchards that pepper the surrounding landscape. At a local village community hall, enjoy refreshments and a taste of locally picked kiwi, along with free time to browse for kiwi-inspired products and souvenirs at a boutique marketplace. Members of the local Maori tribe will welcome guests and provide entertaining insight into their culture. Before returning to your ship, reboard your coach for a drive along Marine Parade, with panoramic views over Ocean Beach and the Bay of Plenty.

Ancestral Lands of the Maori Duration: 8.00 Hours

Traditions and Rituals of the Indigenous New Zealanders — In the small township of Murupara, discover the history and culture of this serene corner of New Zealand. At Rainbow Mountain, your local Maori guide will welcome you into the tribal lands of the Ngati Manawa (Eel People). Hear fascinating tales about the Maoris’ ancestors, settlements, and spiritual connections. Depending on the weather, you may explore hidden ancient Maori rock art, then discover how the Ngati Manawa’s ancestors secured their tribal boundaries and protected a land rich in resources. At the lakeside lodge, you will be welcomed by a Maori family for a traditional ground-cooked hangi meal and an afternoon of activities. Learn about the family’s engagement with local children and the positive effect of your visit on this community before returning to your ship.

Discover Maori Life

Arts, Crafts, and Traditions of New Zealand’s Early Settlers — Gain an introduction to Maori culture on this immersive tour as you learn about tribal customs and crafts. Set off by coach and cross the Tauranga Harbor Bridge on a scenic drive to a local Ngati Ranginui Maori marae—a real-life working Maori meeting place. Learn how the island’s endemic population lived before the arrival of European settlers. You will witness a traditional warrior challenge and enjoy a warm welcome ceremony, or powhiri, as members of the tribe greet you. See how Maori tribe members traditionally greet one another—by pressing noses. The elders of the tribe, or kaumatua, will invite you to join them as they enter the marae and to learn about their tribal lives, from local carvings to arts and crafts. Enjoy light refreshments followed by a Maori concert where you will witness lively performances of song, dance, and the famous haka war dance.

Geothermal Rotorua Duration: 6.00 Hours

Natural Phenomena and Maori Heritage — Journey through the scenic countryside toward Rotorua. Its Te Puia Thermal Reserve is home to the renowned spouting Pohutu geyser, a wonderland of silica terraces, pools of boiling mud, and dramatic steam vents. Your guide will explain this fascinating geothermal phenomenon. Enjoy a traditional Te Puia Maori cultural performance featuring a spine-tingling were—a challenge by a Maori warrior to ensure that visitors come in peace—followed by a powhiri or welcome ritual. Then, visit the Maori Arts & Crafts Institute for an introduction to skills such as carving, weaving, and creating flax skirts and patterned bodices. Pause to see a replica of the Maori village; after lunch, you will have time to browse a gift shop for traditional handicrafts before returning to your ship.

Kayak on Lake Rotoiti Duration: 6.50 Hours

Explore a Hidden Glowworm Cave and Thermal Pools — Paddle along the glistening waters of Lake Rotoiti and explore a glowworm cave and thermal hot pools. Board your motor coach for a scenic drive to the water’s edge, where you will receive a safety briefing before your kayaking outing begins. Climb into your kayak and follow your guide as you glide across the clear waters through expansive scenery and hear tales of Maori legends. As you head toward the entrance to a hidden cave, you will observe an abundance of local birdlife. Keep your eyes peeled at the cave’s entrance for its enchanting residents—an array of glowworms adorn the walls, creating alluring green-and-yellow hues. Next, you will paddle to the Manupirua thermal hot pools. Enjoy a well-earned dip in the refreshing waters before your picnic lunch.

Rock Spring Dairy Farm & Red Barn

Hands-On Experience in an Important New Zealand Industry — New Zealand is one of the world’s leading dairy producers, with dairy cows outnumbering citizens on this island nation. Embark on a scenic drive through the countryside, passing pastures full of sheep, horses, cattle, and cows. Upon arrival at the Rock Spring Dairy Farm, take a guided tour to learn about its production process and the history of New Zealand’s dairy industry. Afterward, travel to the nearby Red Barn, where you will be welcomed with a refreshing beverage. Participate in a hands-on butter-making lesson, then sample the final product with fresh bread and tea. Enjoy free time to explore the park-like grounds and take a picture with “Bertie,” a vintage tractor, before returning to your ship.

Maori Life & Sustainable Living

Immerse Yourself in the Customs and Traditions of a Local Tribe — Upon arrival, receive a warm welcome from the leader of
a small Maori tribe residing on the beautiful Bay of Plenty coast. You will then explore the area and enjoy an introduction to Maori traditions. Watch a fishing demonstration and see how eels are caught in the Waitahanui stream. You will then take your spot in the dining area for a presentation on cooking techniques before savoring a delicious sit-down lunch of local delicacies in the wharekai (traditional dining hall). After lunch, engage with tribe members to learn more about pastimes and customs before coming together to plant a manuka tree. Your legacy will leave a lasting impact, providing a sustainable environment for honeybees to produce manuka honey for generations.

More About Tauranga

History of Tauranga, New Zealand:

Tauranga, located on the Bay of Plenty in the North Island of New Zealand, has a rich history shaped by both Maori and European influences. The region was originally settled by the Maori people, and evidence of their presence can be found in various archaeological sites and pa (fortified villages). The name “Tauranga” is Maori and translates to “resting place for canoes.”

In 1769, Captain James Cook arrived in the Bay of Plenty, marking the beginning of European contact with the area. However, it was not until the early 19th century that European settlers, particularly missionaries, began to establish a more permanent presence. The signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 between the British Crown and Maori chiefs formalized the establishment of British sovereignty in New Zealand.

Tauranga played a significant role in the New Zealand Wars of the 1860s, with the Battle of Gate Pa (Pukehinahina) being a notable conflict. The town continued to develop over the years, becoming an important port and agricultural center.

Geography of Tauranga, New Zealand:

Tauranga Bay - an inspiring Day visiting TaurangaTauranga is situated on the east coast of the Bay of Plenty, surrounded by stunning natural landscapes. The region is known for its beautiful beaches, such as Mount Maunganui Beach, which is renowned for its white sand and excellent surfing conditions. The iconic Mount Maunganui, a volcanic cone, provides panoramic views of the city and the bay.

The Bay of Plenty region is characterized by a temperate climate, making it favorable for agriculture, horticulture, and viticulture. Tauranga’s port is one of New Zealand’s busiest, handling both export and import activities.

Culture of Tauranga, New Zealand:

Tauranga’s cultural fabric is a blend of Maori and European influences, reflected in its art, festivals, and local traditions. The city hosts events throughout the year that celebrate its diverse heritage. The Tauranga Arts Festival showcases local and international talent, while the National Jazz Festival attracts music enthusiasts.

The Maori culture is honored and preserved through various initiatives, including the establishment of cultural centers and the incorporation of Maori language in local education. Tauranga also boasts a vibrant arts community, with galleries and studios contributing to the cultural landscape.

The city’s diverse population is reflected in its culinary scene, offering a range of international cuisines alongside local specialties. Tauranga’s residents often participate in outdoor activities, taking advantage of the region’s natural beauty for recreational pursuits like hiking, water sports, and exploring the nearby islands.

In summary, Tauranga’s history, geography, and culture form a dynamic tapestry that reflects the intersection of Maori and European influences, creating a unique and vibrant community in the Bay of Plenty.