in the crook of Coromandel Peninsular to the West and East Cape to the
East, the Bay of Plenty is one of those rare, unspoiled marine
playgrounds that enjoy a warm climate and good shelter.
The region was named by Captain Cook, who
found everything he wanted here - plenty of food, good weather and good
shelter. 500,000 modern day inhabitants feel much the same about it now as
he did then.
Tauranga is a full blown
going for it in the 90's city, but very people oriented and with it's own
unique style. A cross between Australia's Gold Coast and a West Coast
shanty town with the odd kiwi bach biffed in for balance. A perfect white
beach stretches from Mt Maunganui to Papamoa. Thirteen miles
of unbroken lying in the sun, splashing in the surf, watching the world go
by perfection in sand.
There is water for every occasion here - salt or fresh, hot or cold, surf
or calm. From whale and dolphin watching to game fishing. From white water
rafting to trout fishing to just lying back in a natural hot pool relaxing
away the stress of the day.
Imagine broad reaching back from Mayor Island on an ocean going
yacht. The sun setting in a kaleidoscope of colour to the west. A blazing
orange sky and the surrounding mountain ranges a deep blue. Dolphins at
the bow and an eighteen knot westerly powering the boat over a flat blue
sea. Schools of fish skittering across the surface and hundreds of diving
gannets working them to a frenzy. Sometimes this area is so beautiful and
full of life it's hard to believe - Diving the marine reserve at
Mayor Island - Trolling for an Albacore and grilling fresh fillets on
board - Friends old and new and tales tall and true over a fresh sea food
dinner served on deck - A still night with the moreporks calling from the
shore. This is the essence of the Bay of Plenty.
12 miles east of Tauranga is Motiti Island - known locally as
Jurassic Park because of the huge fish caught there. The island has
exquisite bays and beaches, excellent fishing and good shelter. Dolphins
and whales are a common sight - Baleen whales are often seen around here
with their calves. Nearby rocks and reefs, including the Astrolabe,
Schooner Rocks and Plate Island offer diving which, under the guidance of
a competent boat man, would be equal anywhere in the world.
Whakatane, 50 miles down the coast, is one of those handy but rare
small ports where excellent cafes, restaurants, bars and services are
accessible on foot from the wharf. In summer when the tuna are running,
people travel from all over the world to fish these waters. Dolphin
watching, ocean kayaking, diving and snorkelling are world class. Four
miles off shore, Whale island is being regenerated and an endangered bird
breeding program is under way there. Visits can be arranged by the
Department of Conservation and several operators provide access.
There she boils! 26 miles off the coast, White Island is New
Zealand's most active volcano. Noisy Nellie and the huge main
crater blast steam and slush hundreds of feet into the air while the
extraordinary landscape and remains of the old sulphur factory will have
you wondering whether you are visiting mars or down town Beirut. White
Island can be dangerous, so it pays to go with an experienced guide.
Between Whakatane and Opotiki, Ohiwa harbour is a large
shallow estuary with extraordinary wetlands that is home to huge numbers
of migrating sea birds. Opotiki is the centre of the Eastern Bay of Plenty
with fishing, wind surfing, kayaking and sailing, on the ocean and the
Motu river providing jet boating and white water rafting through a
pristine primeval forest.
Beyond Opotiki lies the legendary township of Te Kaha. Famous just
because it is, Te Kaha is a coastal icon, the place where snapper fishing
was probably invented. The township does dive fills, dive trips, fishing
trips and great beach parties. A fine pub and an excellent fish and chip
shop have kept Te Kaha up there beside New York on any sophisticated
Further around the coast from Cape Runaway around to Hicks Bay the
coast is rocky and exposed. Road access to this coast is difficult,
meaning that rock based game fishing and diving - especially in the Lottin
Point area - are world class. Hicks Bay, New Zealand's most easterly
settlement, is a loading point for charter boats working the Ranfurly Bank
and during the season a number of charter boats board guests from Hicks
Bay rather than their home ports of Tauranga or Whakatane. The mere
mention of the Ranfurly will set any kiwi fisho drooling - its huge
snapper, kingfish and hapuka are famous from North Cape to Bluff and if
you are serious about fishing, this is the place to go.