“Hey instead of spending the day here do you wanna go to Tauranga instead? And we can go to Mount Maunganui like you wanted?”
My friend Gemma and I were sitting having breakfast at Nandos in Rotorua (I know, right, who knew Nando’s did breakfast?!) and were considering leaving the Gondolier and Luging we could do in Rotorua until a trip to Queenstown we were also planning.
Did I want to go to Tauranga on this trip or wait until another time? I weighed up the options.
We didn’t have to have our rental car back in Auckland until 5pm. I knew that I’d seen everything I wanted to see in Rotorua. I knew that, what with getting bitten to death in a pub and getting woken up at 6am in probably the wierdest hostel I’ve ever stayed in, I was kind of over being here.
Tauranga was kind of the way back, with Mount Maunganui sitting right beside it. A slight detour would have to be taken. But I was sure that it’d be worth it.
And the idea of being by the sea, knowing I could have sand between my toes in a matter of hours did sound appealing.
“Ok” I said, finishing my pancakes and coffee, “let’s go to Tauranga, I’ve been dying to see Mount Maunganui.”
A couple of hours later, once we’d negotiated the winding roads of the countryside and parked the car on one of Mount Maunganui’s side streets where holiday rentals and up-market apartments lined the pavement, I knew we’d made the right decision.
A little after that, I had my feet in the sand.
Mount Maunganui is in the city of Tauranga in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty region on the east coast. It’s a popular sea side destination for people living in Auckland or Hamilton and you can definitely see why.
It’s perfect for surfing, has a sheltered bay area where the waves are smaller and, let’s face it, I could spend all day just laying on that white sand reading a book, listening to the sea.
The extinct volcano towering above the surf beach is where the town takes its name from. Its official Maori name is Mauao but most of the locals, and the rest of New Zealand, know it as The Mount.
We walked from one end of the beach to the other, dipping our toes in the water, watching the surfers, marvelling at how we could have missed this if we’d stayed in Rotorua.
I’ve always thought I was a city girl. I like convenience. I like big, towering buildings. I like restaurants that stay open late and bars for every taste in music. I like the feeling I get when I’m crossing an intersection with 100 other people, rushing to get to the other side before the buzzer stops.
But then I visit Tauranga where, despite there being chain stores and restaurants and bars just like in the city, there’s a small town feel. People are open and friendly. Everything is clean.
I drive 5 minutes from Tauranga to Mount Maunganui where I know I could quite happily live over the Summer months. Where I would run on the beach in the morning and sunbathe in the afternoon. Where living in my bikini would be normal. Where I could work in a cafe like I did in Melbourne and see the same people every day.
But then the day’s over all too quick and I’m driving back to Auckland and returning the car to the rental company and Gemma and I are walking home to our separate apartments.
I realise that, while living by the beach would be perfect in summer, keeping a job in the winter in a town that relies heavily on tourism would be difficult.
I’m sitting on my balcony (let’s face it, it’s where I do most of my thinking nowdays) when I promise myself a weekend in Mount Manganui instead of just a few stolen hours and fall asleep later that night to the sounds of the city I know and love.