Information on the Tauranga Region
Welcome to the coastal Bay of Plenty – one of New Zealand’s favourite holiday destinations and fastest-growing regions in the country.
This area is steeped in culture and history and is renowned for its surf beaches, sunshine, fertile land and friendly people.
Maori first settled here around the 13th Century when three waka (canoe) that formed part of the original migration from East Polynesia (Hawaiki) to Aotearoa (New Zealand) landed along the Bay of Plenty’s shores.
The Western Bay of Plenty was settled by the iwi of Ngati Ranginui, Ngaiterangi and Ngati Pukenga who arrived here on waka named Takitimu and Mataatua. Meanwhile, the Te Arawa waka landed at Maketu – its descendants still live in the Eastern Bay of Plenty and further inland around Rotorua today.
These original inhabitants gave names to many of our towns, rivers and landmarks. Tauranga means ‘safe anchorage’ or ‘resting place’. While our iconic mountain, Mauao, means ‘caught by the dawn’. This refers to the Maori legend where a love-sick mountain was dragged from the inland hills down towards the sea so he could drown himself. But the sun rose before he could do so, and the mountain was frozen in place at the entrance to Tauranga Harbour where it remains standing today.
More than 400 years passed before the Bay of Plenty was given its European name by Captain James Cook who circumnavigated New Zealand in 1769. Cook was impressed by the abundant resources he saw on both land and sea – something which our region still enjoys access to today.
European missionaries and traders began to arrive here in the 1830s but settlement was hindered by conflict. The Battle of Gate Pa was one of the most famous clashes during the New Zealand Land Wars of the 1860s. This battle is well documented at the Elms Mission House in Tauranga where you can learn more about our region’s early history.
Throughout the 20th Century dairy farms, forestry and kiwifruit all developed into thriving industries here. But New Zealanders’ growing desire to live close to the beach has really seen our population boom over the past 25 years. Around 170,000 people now live right across our coastal region – with Tauranga anchoring the Bay of Plenty’s economy in the west, and Whakatane becoming the major hub in the east.
Today the Port of Tauranga is one of the biggest in the country and Mount Maunganui is a favourite stop for cruise ships sailing around New Zealand. Papamoa has developed into a major residential area and our smaller towns of Waihi Beach, Katikati, Te Puke and Ohope are popular places to live and play.
Holidaymakers of all ages love coming here to swim in our warm ocean waters, relax on our white sand beaches and explore our many outdoor, artistic and cultural treasures.
Today, the Bay of Plenty is the perfect mix of beach resort and cosmopolitan city living. We look forward to welcoming you too.