Coastal Bowentown. © pbkwee 

Loved by the locals: Western Bay of Plenty

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1. Te Puna Quarry

If you like an easy walk that offers amazing views of Tauranga and the wider Bay of Plenty, I recommend Te Puna Quarry Park. Sculptures lovingly created by local artists feature throughout the park, which makes the walk even more interesting.

The Resident Dragon created by Roger Bullot out of Hinuera Stone is my favourite. With its specialty plant gardens, a natural amphitheatre and butterfly house, the Quarry is also the perfect place for a family picnic. The children and I also make sure not to miss the annual Te Puna Quarry Fest.

 2. Athenree and Bowentown

Stunning views, peaceful surroundings, and lovely natural hot springs can be found at Bowentown and nearby Athenree. If you love the water, you can choose from two fabulous beaches.

There is a great surf beach where the adventurous can play and have fun, as well as a secluded calm bay for a more relaxed experience. 

There is plenty of early settler history to explore in the area as well, and I highly recommend you walk the 8km-long white-sand beach from Bowentown to Waihī Beach. Whatever you do, make sure you take your time to take in the absolutely beautiful sights and sounds. 

3. Ōtānewainuku Forest

Walks like no other can be found in this tranquil, unspoilt bush in Ōropi. A volunteer trust helps to conserve the wildlife here, and it's my number one place to rest and relax. It's a kiwi sanctuary, full of native birds, and a place which is steeped in legend.

Māori legend says that Tūtānekai, lover of Hinemoa, leapt off Mount Ōtānewainuku to escape his Rotorua enemies. Both Ōtānewainuku and Mauao (Mount Maunganui) were in love with the beautiful mountain Pūwhenua. When she chose Ōtānewainuku as her lover, Mauao decided to drown himself in the sea. A sad story but so lovely, too.

#whataroafalls #otanewainukuforest #nz

A post shared by j_maka (@j_maka) on May 21, 2017 at 2:23am PDT

4. Kaimāī spring water

I actually feel a bit silly telling you this but it literally took me years to figure out why so many people stopped and crossed the road near the summit of the Kaimāī Ranges. Then one day, a friend told me about the spring water and we stopped to fill up our bottles.

The water is fresh, cool and pure all year round and whenever I can while driving that way, I will stop to have a taste.

The spring is about 30m from the ‘Welcome to the Western Bay’ sign so although this may officially be in the Waikato, it’s on the Tauranga side of the range so I think we can rightfully claim it.

5. Papamoa Hills

Just passed Papamoa on the way to Te Puke, you'll find the Papamoa Hills Regional Park (Te Rae o Papamoa). It's one of the more popular walks in the area but it's one of my top three firm favourites. 

The best-known walking track is from the car park, located on Poplar Lane (off SH 2 between Tauranga and Te Puke) but I prefer to enter from the other side at Summerhill. Walking through farmland and carefully avoiding the many sheep droppings, you'll be rewarded with the most amazing panoramic coastal views.

We can travel the world over to discover that sometimes there is beauty in our own backyard - NZ never fails to stun and surprise

A post shared by Backpackfullofdreams (@backpackfullofdreams) on May 13, 2017 at 3:52am PDT

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