A warm, wet Waitangi weekend is in store for Bay residents and holiday-makers.

Metservice has issued a severe weather watch for the Bay of Plenty west of Te Puke for today and Saturday. Rain is expected to become heavy at times from early evening through to late Saturday.

Rainfall amounts could approach warning criteria during this time, especially about the Kaimai Range, Metservice said.

Today's temperature will reach 23C, only dropping slightly to 21C overnight. Tomorrow's high will be 25C and 20C overnight.

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Rain will clear on Sunday with possible cloudy periods and a high of 26C. Metservice are predicting Monday will have cloudy periods and a high of 26C.

State highways in the Bay of Plenty were expected to be extremely busy from 1.30pm today when holiday traffic begins to hit the roads.

New Zealand Transport Agency journey manager Nigel D'Ath said on some highways, such as State Highway 2 between Paeroa and Tauranga, vehicle numbers were estimated to more than double as people raced to relax on the beach.

"We expect traffic volumes to be heavy in both directions, so it is important that motorists are prepared for delays, are patient, and drive to the conditions."