It’s been a long time coming, but new projects and initiatives are bringing vibrancy back to Tauranga’s CBD.
Of course, it’s hard to compete with bustling Mount Maunganui so close by, and locals favoured newer and more convenient shopping areas where parking is free and there is a better mix of food and retail outlets. But the tide is finally turning for Tauranga’s city centre, thanks to some cool initiatives from forward-thinking retailers and hospo folks.
Okay, finding a spot to park is still an issue, but things are happening in downtown Tauranga, especially on Wharf and Willow Streets. The area has a fascinating history, dating back to the late 1800s when business was booming and expectations for the town were high. These two streets are again leading the way for all that’s new and exciting in this city.
In July 2018, Our Place Tauranga replaced the old council building that was riddled with asbestos on Willow Street. It has created a heart for the city where the ugly old structure once stood. Our Place is focused on supporting and engaging the community, offering affordable rents to social enterprises and start-ups, plus providing cool event spaces and public areas.
It’s all collected into a colourful array of shipping containers. Our Place is temporary but so good!
On the corner of Wharf and Willow streets, you’ll find Tauranga Art Gallery toi Tauranga. This relatively small but sensational public art gallery has pushed the boundaries in the past few years. It brought Banksy to the Bay, showed interactive exhibitions, immersive experiences and challenging performance art. The gallery has always something new to discover, and while donations are most welcome, entry is free.
If you have little kids, or if you’re a grandie, aunty or uncle, make sure to pop into Little Trooper opposite the art gallery. The store is filled with the most amazing things for children. Toys and clothes, but not like you know it. The focus is on New Zealand-made and sustainable materials, but above all, it is about individuality and style for little humans.
Next door you’ll find the Nourished Eatery. It’s a plant-based café that uses locally sourced ingredients and produce where possible. Owner Sharna believes in creating goodness without using animal products. She is a baker by trade, so you will no doubt be tempted to indulge a little.
If you feel like eating Indian food as in India, head to Bikaji Plaza. Everything you can pick from the menu is delicious and it is all vegetarian. For American-style food served with creole seasoned fries, there’s Rye Bar & Grill, and The Dry Dock Café has the best coffee in town.
If craft beer is your thing or if you have a taste for quality whiskey, make sure to visit The Barrel Room. You can move through lagers, pale ales, IPAs and dark beers lovingly created by small, independent New Zealand breweries, or choose a special scotch or fine wine. The food they serve is not too shabby either, as is their quirky steampunk décor.
Speaking of beer, an old English pub may not sound all that interesting. Until you visit The Crown & Badger. Under new management, they now do degustation dinners, organise quiz nights with a difference, and have live music on the weekend.
They are even making Bingo cool again.
Tauranga’s most amazing jewellery designers are based on Wharf Street, too. Considered one of the best jewellery workshops country, Peet Jewellers are renowned for large, quality diamonds and coloured gemstones. Harry and his team can design and manufacture unique pieces and they offer amazing customer service.
There’s plenty more to discover in Tauranga’s central city, and make sure to also check out the revamped waterfront when you visit next. You can even bomb off the jetty on a nice day if you feel like it.