The Mount Maunganui walking tracks, whether it's from the exertion of climbing or the stunning scenery, tend to leave one breathless. Pristine white sands? Tick. The requisite turquoise sea? Tick. Ho hum, how boring huh? Not even!
My niece Kerry had included, "walk up Mt Maunganui" on her bucket list so together with my brother Dean, we set off to do exactly that one fine, hot summers day. Did I mention hot?
Now before we get into it, this page is quite long, with detailed instructions on the tracks and getting to the Mount towards the end. If you're feeling tired, it might be better to bookmark it and come back later.
Okay, so, a one hour(ish) trip from Rotorua leaves plenty of time to walk up The Mount (or around the Base Track) plus... plus... you get to eat, swim and explore afterwards. How's that?
To make a complete day of it, we'll do a round trip.
As the road begins to drop down, stop off at Four14 Espresso for a delicious breakfast or morning tea. (They roast their own coffee.) Look for the sign on the left. If you do this, you'll be well fuelled and ready to hit the track running. Joking.
Mount Maunganui is a small seaside town jammed into a narrow peninsula, and I mean jammed. It's a popular spot so come the Christmas, New Year period, there is barely room to move let alone breathe (and that's why I avoid it).
On one side of the peninsula you have panoramic views of an oftentimes wave-thumping ocean and on the other, a rather more restful Pilot Bay (perfect for families). Apart from the ships entering the Port of Tauranga harbour that is. Both sides are built out; mainly apartment buildings with only the odd private house left as a reminder of bygone times.
Marine Parade is where it all happens in summer. And don't I know it. Guess where I used to spend each New Year's Eve when I was in the police force? You got it, on Marine Parade. Think, 5am on the 1st of the year. Police officers standing shoulder to shoulder the width of the road. A carpet of broken glass crunching underfoot as the line slowly shunts the last revellers off to bed. And only then heading back to Rotorua. (Maybe you remember those days?)
This was one of the major hot spots in the country (falling down drunkenness and general debauchery - you know how it goes) but in recent years, the powers that be have managed to make it a whole lot more family friendly.
As for the Mount Maungani walks, you have a choice. You can either walk around the base of the Mount (Mauao) 45mins or, up to the summit 40mins, with a couple of routes to get there.
The next two pics (from the information boards) detail the Mount Maunganui walking tracks plus the map key with distances and times. I couldn't find any pics online with the level of detail shown here so, bad as my photography is, everything you need to know is included. Feel free to pin or copy if you want to familiarise yourself offline.
Walking Time: 45min
This track is suitable for all levels of fitness and for strollers too - I presume that would mean wheelchairs as well.
The track undulates around the base of The Mount in a circle. Even though it's the base, you still have to be careful because the track is relatively high at times. Enough to cause major damage if you fall onto the rocks below. Or scary enough if you fall into the sea.
Aside from that, it is a lovely walk that is well used by locals and visitors alike.
Distance and Walking Time: See pics below
Kerry used Map My Walk on her phone so the following pics show our route.
As you can see, we started where we would eventually exit. The walk actually begins beach-side on the Base track. From there we switched onto the blue marked track.
At the intersection where you have to decide whether to take the shorter steep Waikorere track (green & yellow) or the longer supposedly easier Oruahine track (lavender & red), a kindly gentleman had this advice to give.
"The steeper track has a lot more stairs but is far better if you're fit enough. The longer route climbs gradually at first but it sucks you in because it ends up being just as bad." Say no more, steep it was - God help us!
Map my walk up
Map my walk down
Tip: Don't walk up around lunch time on one of the hottest days of the year - just because we did. Silly fools!
A good part of the Mount Maunganui walks are out in the open so the sun burns you to the bone and sucks the very life out of you. Ask me, ask Kerry, ask Dean. Oh, the blessed relief when you come to shady sections. (There were people running up and down too - shirtless. How the heck does that work?)
Other kindred souls found the heat a struggle too. We came across one tired young woman with her equally tired small daughter (5-6ish), taking a breather in a spot of shade. We joined them and chatted. The little girl, looking very woebegone, said she wasn't having a very good birthday which had us commiserating with her. I do hope her day improved.
We've taken children up in the past on the longer, (easier) track, and some didn't like that over much either. Maybe think again if you're contemplating the walk up with children. The base walk might be the better option.
Tip: Getting out on various walks for Rotorua Travel Secrets, I've begun to notice that quite a few children don't enjoy the hill/mountain walks, at all, and can get quite distressed. I know when the children in my extended family were smaller we assumed that they would like the walks, because we did, or that they would be good for them and dragged them along anyway. Literally. Go figure. Just something else to consider.
By the time we got to the top of our Mount Maunganui walk, our water bottles were being used to pour water on our heads in an effort to cool down. I think I've only ever done that once before and that was on a hot, hot, marathon walk.
The views? Totally worth it. All the way up. You'll find yourself spending time at the summit wandering around to soak in the different aspects. And to take lots of photos too.
As you can imagine, walking down Mount Maunganui was a heck of a lot easier. The majority of it was on the 4WD road if memory serves me correctly.
Once at the bottom, you can opt to visit one of the numerous cafes, take a dip in the ocean waves or Pilot Bay, wander along the boardwalk or have a swim at the Mount Hot Pools (Salt).
You can also jump in your car and head into Mount Maunganui proper to check out the numerous boutique stores. (Get onto Maunganui Rd again. When you get to the roundabout with Burger King on the left, park anywhere. It may require going around the block - a few times).
Driving Time: 1hr 10mins
Driving Time: 1hr 6mins
One of our readers, Mahmoud, asked me if there was public transport between Rotorua and Mount Maunganui so here goes.
There is a bus service named Tauranga & Te Puke (Twin City) that leaves Rotorua first thing in the morning (6.20am) at a current cost of $10 one way with a 20% discount if you have a Smart Card. It goes as far as Bayfair shopping centre where you can catch the Tauranga Bayhopper right to the Mount Hot Pools, 16 mins and $3.20 one way. This service runs half-hourly. If you have a Smart Card, see if you can use it on that ride too.
To return, the Tauranga & Te Puke (Twin City) ride leaves Bayfair at 5.30pm.
If you check out the links provided you can download the schedules on the right-hand side of the Baybus website.
Take with you sunscreen, sunglasses, hats, wet weather gear, sturdy walking shoes, swimwear, towel, a camera, and a change of clothes in case you get too sweaty.
Showers and and toilets are located beach-side where you begin your walk and at the exit point too.