View from the top of Mount Maunganui. © Steve Clancy Photography

Tauranga: the perfect blend of city and laid-back lifestyle

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Fast-growing Tauranga is becoming a city to be reckoned with. Although it’s noticeably busier and a little more congested on the roads than a few years ago, it’s easy to see why so many people are attracted to Tauranga and the Mount.

Tauranga is the main centre and thriving hub of the Western Bay of Plenty, located along the picturesque Pacific Coast Highway. While nearby Mount Maunganui has been one of New Zealand’s favourites for generations.

The water is all around us here, the people are friendly and relaxed and there are plenty of great cafes, restaurants and shops to be discovered, and there's a thriving arts and culture scene. Tauranga has it all... and the surrounding areas are pretty special, too.

Since moving here more than 12 years ago, I’m still passionate about Tauranga and the bay. I love the ocean, the hills, the orchards and the stunning parks, but most of all I love the views of beautiful Mount Maunganui from just about anywhere.

Driving around, even during the daily commute in peak traffic, gives me the opportunity to reflect on what a truly amazing place this is. The iconic landmark we know as Mauao dominates the landscape and it’s easy to find a place to have some peace and quiet, a little spot by the water to have a family picnic or just to relax.

The name Tauranga means landing place, safe anchorage or resting place.

It comes from the Māori word 'tau' which means 'to land'. Somewhat fittingly, Tauranga is traditionally known as New Zealand's retiree capital, which is quite likely due to the many sunshine hours. Funnily enough, I’ve never really noticed a large population of elderly people here, while the majority of pensioners that I do know are very active and involved in all that’s going on around town.   

Amazing sunset in Tauranga ☀️ 📷: @thestylejungle

A post shared by Bay of Plenty, New Zealand (@bayofplentynz) on Dec 18, 2017 at 2:21pm PST

The city is now also attracting young professionals and families. A whole range of businesses, both large and small, have made the area their base in recent years and a university campus is planned for the central city. Investments are being made to improve the infrastructure and it’s expected that Tauranga's population will reach almost a quarter of million people by 2065.

It’s no wonder that this centrally located city by the beach, the heart of the region, attracts so many visitors. It's obvious that many people choose Tauranga and its pretty suburbs as their special go-to place to visit, where all that you may want or need is within easy reach.

Tauranga has a lot to offer and we have one of the best beaches in the country – some say in the world – on our doorstep. There’s no arguing with that.

Festivals that celebrate just about anything

Throughout the year, but especially in spring and summer, the city is buzzing with all sorts of events celebrating music, family fun, culture, sports, the arts, food... you name it. They are held at a bunch of venues including Baycourt Community & Arts Centre, the Historic Village, ASB Arena, the Tauranga Racecourse or on the city’s waterfront. In some cases (the best ones) they happen all over town.

The biggest event on the calendar for Tauranga is the National Jazz Festival and Downtown Carnival held every Easter weekend. It includes a Jazz Village at The Historic Village on 17th Avenue West, our own version of New Orleans' French Quarter. The weather doesn’t always play ball but that never stops the thousands of people who come to enjoy it each year.

Another festival that is well worth booking in advance is the Tauranga Arts Festival. Established in 1999 and held every second year since the festival delivers an amazing programme with leading artists and performers that hail from all over the world. Performances and exhibitions are held in the purpose-built Pacific Crystal Palace, at Baycourt and at Tauranga Art Gallery Toi Tauranga.

#artlovesyou #openalllongweekend @squidie

A post shared by Tauranga Art Gallery (@taurangaartgallery) on May 31, 2018 at 7:58pm PDT

Then there is the Bay of Plenty Garden & Art Festival, which is also a biennial event. It showcases the diversity of some of the most amazing gardens in the Western Bay of Plenty alongside the creativity of local and nationally renowned artists. The Lakes, which is a reasonably new suburb in Tauriko, provides a base for this colourful event. 

The Little Big Markets and more... 

I love strolling around market stalls on a work-free morning, usually on a Saturday and occasionally on a Sunday. I enjoy chatting with stall holders about their products, themselves and their passions. I’m fully aware of the fact that they set up their stall before I dragged myself out of bed that morning, working hard to create a friendly, welcoming, yet temporary set-up.  Just for us. For me, it’s all about great conversation.

The Farmers Markets on Cameron Rd on Saturdays and downtown Mount Maunganui on Sundays present fresh produce, free-range eggs, artisanal breads, to-die-for cheese and meats, as well as seedlings, cupcakes and a sausage sizzle or two to raise funds for a good local cause.

The Lions Market, held once a month, is now housed at The Historic Village and wares include food and fresh produce, as well as car boot-style stalls.

But I think the best one is The Little Big Markets. They have been operating in Mount Maunganui for a good few years now and they venture out to Papamoa and downtown Tauranga, too. It’s all original, with a dash of vintage. The markets are arty, edgy, sustainable, and always worth a look. Same goes for the Gourmet Night Market.

Long may they all continue, as the locals really love them!  

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