Tauranga and Mount Maunganui aren't simply summer destinations - there are many reasons to visit in the off-season too, writes Jamie Troughton
Get out and about
Tauranga Moana is basically aquatic heaven, with so many ways to sample some saline therapy or get some river revival. Start at the Waimarino Water & Adventure Park, where four-time Olympian Luuka Jones first learned to paddle, and radiate outwards. Boating, fishing, surfing, rafting - it's all there, ready to quench your H2O fixation.
If you're more adventurous, grab a kayak and head around (but don't land on) Motuotao Island, just off the Mount Maunganui coast. It's a wildlife sanctuary, with soaring cliffs and crystal-clear water. Surf life-saving tip: don't attempt this trip on an inflatable swan or unicorn, using jandals as paddles. Don't try to swim out to impress your mates and don't... yeah, you get it. Just don't.
For an incredible dolphin day on the briny, check out Orca Wild Adventures - in season, you get to snorkel at either Tuhua or Motiti Islands, with an astonishing array of wildlife on the way. Dolphin Seafaris also have the odd mid-winter photography excursion, on those incredible glassy days where horizon and ocean seem intertwined.
Foraging for your food
There's a special place in surf lifesaving hearts for Sidetrack Cafe, tucked under the shadow of Mauao, equally because of the beautiful brews and Petra-lee's amazing ability to warmly greet seemingly every customer by name.
Breadhead in Tauranga does a mean jalapeno stick, Flaveur and Rise are both bakery bliss, while it's a massively tough call to choose between Henry and Ted or Spongedrop for the best cheese scones in the known universe.
Once the evenings start cooling, head down to Rice Rice Baby on the main drag of Mount Maunganui for a Vietnamese taste explosion. Bar Centrale in Tauranga has some pretty cool old Post Office ambience, while Miss Gee's has a ridiculously strong gin game.
If you're the hunter-gatherer type and like to go the extra mile for your cuisine, chase down the Endorffiene food trailer for some home-cooked deliciousness, or Pac Pac for authentic Japanese on the move.
Hikoi for the hills
While Mauao is the main attraction for most Bay day-trippers, there are some hidden hilly gems around the wider city. From the top of Papamoa Hills, you can see from Coromandel to the East Cape, with the added bonus of the Summerhill Park tucked in behind for bush walks and mountain biking.
A trip up the Minden is always good for a vista, while the Otanewainuku Forest features stunning waterfalls, a kiwi sanctuary and superb views from the top. Architect fans should head past the new Zespri head office, with its curvy lines and lush green appeal.
And to get the most out of your wanderings, download the Arataki Cultural Trails app. Founded by Lee Timutimu, this proximity-activated storytelling platform allows you to hear Māori myths and storytelling in real time as you venture past local landmarks. It's a truly beautiful concept, which every local and visitor alike should experience. As the city moves forward, it's exactly this kind of idea which will add richness, turning stark white bread into nutritious, fibre-and-seed encrusted gold.
Jamie Troughton is a journalist and lifeguard, and appears on reality series Bay Patrol, Wednesdays at 7.30pm on Three