Tauranga is a port city located on the eastern Bay of Plenty, at the head of a big harbour protected by Matakana Island. Tauranga is also the cruise port to Rotorua - a major tourist travel destination (both domestically and internationally) with the region's largest industry. Rotorua is best known for its geysers and geothermal hot mud pools. The cruise port is approx 86 km (53 mi) from Rotorua where tourists can visit Te Puia (Thermal Reserve).
The city's name comes from Maori, roughly translated to "sheltered anchorage". Tauranga is the centre of a vast citrus and sub tropical fruit-growing area. It is also a favourite base for deep-sea anglers. In the 1830s an Anglican mission was established in Tauranga. The community then developed as a shipping port and also a defence post against the indigenous Maori people. In 1864 it was the site of the Battle of Gate Pa during New Zealand Wars (1845 - 1872).
Region's cargo port (Mount Maunganui Port, on the above photo) is located across Tauranga Harbour, where cruise ships dock. It's also the prime overseas outlet for North Island's timber industry. Mt Maunganui features hotwater salt pools, excellent surf beaches, shops, and walks up the Mount - all within easy walking distance.
Tauranga City is not quite interesting for tourism, unlike Greater Tauranga - a very popular lifestyle and travel destination, with numerous natural attractions (beaches, mountains, waterfalls, lakes). Among the city's best known tourist attractions are Tauranga Art Gallery (inaugurated in 2007), Classic Flyers Museum, Moturiki Island, many parks: (including Memorial Park, Yatton, Kulim, Fergusson, Tauranga Domain, Te Puna Quarry).
Among the most popular outdoor activities are golfing, hiking, mountain biking, white water rafting (on the rivers Wairoa, Kaituna and Rangitaiki). Bay of Plenty coastline's beaches (swimming, surfing, fishing, scuba diving, seakayaking, kitesurfing).
The above photo shows Tauranga Harbour with its yacht marina and the Mt Maunganui Port. Among the most-popular ex-Tauranga cruise shore excursions are the boat tours to White Island (Whakaari volcano) located approx 90 km (55 mi) to the east.
Tauranga cruise terminal
Cruise ship to Tauranga dock in the city's cargo port area (Mt Maunganui Port) located in Bay of Plenty. The distance between the cruise port and downtown Tauranga is approx 7 km (4 mi). From the port to Rotorua is approx 80 km (48 mi).
Within a short walking distance from the cruise terminal are located two beaches - gentle beach (in the inner harbor) and surf beach (on the ocean side). Shuttle busses to downtown are not complimentary (provided by the cruise ship company). Taxi travel time from the port to the city is around 10 min. Also available at the dock are mini vans and car rentals.
Royal Caribbean's ship Ovation of the Seas docked in Tauranga during a Christmas cruise in 2016. Ovation OTS became the largest cruise vessel (GT tonnage 168660 tons) ever to visit this NZ port. The liner docked at 6:20 am on December 26th and was welcomed by thousands of spectators on Mauao and Pilot Bay. The ship rounded the Mauao's corner, bellowing its horn twice in greeting the people who waved and cheered as it passed.
There was a plan for building a port gateway to allow cruise ship passengers to go directly onto Coronation Park (into the planned visitor centre at Mt Maunganui Port's wharf). The project's cost was estimated at USD 5 million. It was proposed by Tauranga City Council and Tourism Bay of Plenty. However, due to safety concerns, it was not approved by the port authority as it would have meant passengers to walk through an operating area.
Earlier in 2017, the city council agreed to put USD 4 million to fund most of the cruise terminal/s / tourist info centre's construction. The preferred site was Maunganui Road (Coronation Park's Nikau Cres corner). However, the Maunganui Rd site is no longer an option as it is too far away from Salisbury Ave gate - the only viable for cruise passengers. The commercial lease on the old visitor info centre (Salisbury Ave) expired in 2019.
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