Mount Maunganui is an extinct volcano crowning the tip of a peninsula at the mouth of Tauranga Harbour in the Bay of Plenty Region of New Zealand. The mountain has stunning sea views from its base all the way up to the summit, so it is a delight to hike. Next to Mount Maunganui, a beach city with the same name covers the flat part of the peninsula between sandy strips and is a popular spot for summer visitors.
Mount Maunganui, also called Mauao or just the Mount, boasts several scenic tracks. Mount Maunganui tops out at 232 meters (760 feet) and the walk begins near sea level, so you’ll find 230 meters (755 feet) of elevation change on any ascent.
- For an easy and picturesque circuit around the bottom of Mount Maunganui, take a hike on the Base Track, which is 3.4 kilometers (2.1 miles) round trip with 20 meters (65 feet) of elevation change.
- For a bigger outing, put in 3.1 beautiful kilometers on Base Track and then ascend to the summit. Pair Oruahine Track with 4WD Track for a moderate ascent that has exceptional cliffside views.
- To form a loop on the summit, descend the steeper Waikorire Track. Combining Base Track with the tracks to the summit creates a trek of 6.8 to 7.3 kilometers (4.2 to 4.55 miles).
The narrow peninsula connecting to Mount Maunganui is just 325 yards wide where it meets the mountain. It has an oceanfront beach to the northeast and a harbor-facing beach to the southwest. Base Track links to streets by the beaches on both sides of the peninsula. Oruahine Track and Waikorire Track climb the east side of the mountain. To get to these tracks after a walk on Base Track, begin from the opposite side (the harbor side) and walk 3.1 kilometers around the bottom of the mountain. From the intersection of Adams Avenue and The Mall, go west up Pilot Quay and quickly get on the start of Base Track, a wide and well-maintained track overlooking Pilot Bay. Turquoise water rolls gently up to the shore to your left. Beyond that, you’ll spot large ships in Tauranga Harbour.
After fifty meters on Base Track, come to the first junction. 4WD Track ascends to the right. This route to the summit is wide enough for maintenance vehicles to drive up. Bear left to stay on Base Track. In another 150 meters, pass through the first of three gates on Base Track. These gates are for livestock, and you may spot sheep grazing around the bottom of Mount Maunganui.
An unmarked split comes 400 meters from the start of Base Track. The main track continues to the right as a narrower track descends about 80 meters to the left to a rocky beach where large boulders break up the sand. The beach has views of Tauranga Harbour and Matakana Island, which you’ll see even better just ahead.
Base Track crosses a grassy slope around a small sandy beach. Look out across a channel toward a long forest-lined beach on Matakana Island. This island runs directly to the northwest and forms a protective barrier for Tauranga Harbour. Base Track clings to the coast, gently rolling in and out of trees past several benches. Proceed a kilometer up the coast to a rocky point at the northwest end of the peninsula, 1.5 kilometers from the start of Base Track. From a bench positioned here, you can gaze out over the channel and bay.
Base Track continues along the coast below the mountain, passing over short, uneven sea cliffs. The track stays close to the water’s edge and is often just a meter above the bay. As you round the north side of the peninsula, a second livestock gate interrupts the track, 2.25 kilometers from the start. To your right, you may spot sheep on grassy slopes below the sheer cliffs on this side of Mount Maunganui. The shoreline remains rugged and beautiful as you reach the east side of the peninsula. Pass a picnic table in another 250 meters and enjoy views across Mount Maunganui Beach toward Moturiki Island, a narrow rock and tree-covered piece of land that connects to the popular summer beach.
Go through the third gate on Base Track, three kilometers from the start. The track goes along the side of the beach for another 100 meters and comes to a critical junction. Straight ahead, you could pass through a gate and enter Mount Maunganui Beachside Holiday Park, which you might walk through to get to Adams Avenue on the edge of the city. If you’re only interesting in hiking the loop on Base Track, without ascending to the summit, your more scenic option is to turn left on a ramp or steps down to a boardwalk that goes along the beach to Marine Parade, a street just behind Mount Maunganui Beach. From the end of the boardwalk, you can take Adams Avenue across the peninsula back to the start.
To ascend to the top of Mount Maunganui, turn right off Base Track, following signs for the summit. Flights of stone steps ascend 30 vertical meters up a draw in the grassy mountainside. At the top of this tiring 100-meter long track, reach a wider track that provides a more moderate ascent. To the left, the bottom of this track heads south toward the city (this is a return route for later). Turn right to keep heading up the mountain.
As you head ever higher, look over your shoulder for perspectives down grassy slopes, out toward Mount Maunganui Beach, and across the blue ocean beyond. Pass through a gate and come to another important junction, half a kilometer above the Base Track and 3.6 kilometers from the start. You now have a choice between two routes to the top. Waikorire Track makes a difficult ascent to the left and can be used to climb 140 meters over 0.8 kilometers to reach the summit (or 460 feet in half a mile). Oruahine Track provides a moderate route to the right that you can take for a 1.25-kilometer long ascent. Oruahine Track might also be the most impressive track on Mount Maunganui, crossing cliffs with panoramic views.
Staying to the right up Oruahine Track, you will go along cliffs on the north side of Mount Maunganui. You are directly above the mid-section of the Base Track, crossing the steep mountainside you looked up at earlier. Vertical rock walls extend above and below the track as you make your way around the mountain. The steep terrain presents wide-open views. Look out across the ocean or northwest up Matakana Island toward the Coromandel Peninsula.
After 500 meters of exceptionally scenic hiking across exposed cliffs, you will enter dense forest and pass a steep path down to Base Track (that may be closed). A short distance farther and 550 meters from the previous junction, come to the end of Oruahine Track where it meets 4WD Track. To the right, this wide dirt road descends toward a junction near the start of Base Track. To reach the summit, turn left.
Hiking up 4WD Track, you will go up around a horseshoe bend to the right. On the left, walk out to a nice perch on a section of cliffs where you can have a seat and look out over Matakana Island. Proceed a short distance up 4WD Track to another junction, 4.5 kilometers from the start of the trek. To the left, 4WD Track keeps climbing toward the summit, passing through overlooks on the north side of the mountain before reaching the true summit after 500 meters. Waikorire Track presents a second route to the summit, breaking off to the right. This track is not as wide as the dirt road and is more pleasant to walk on, reaching to top after 350 meters. To hike a loop around the summit, you could turn right up Waikorire Track and make your way back to this junction after 850 meters, repeat 150 meters on Waikorire Track before continuing down the east side of the mountain.
Summit option one: If you turn right up Waikorire Track from 4WD Track, you will ascend through forest to a four-way junction after 150 meters. Straight ahead, Waikorire Track begins the descent on the east side of the mountain. On the left, a track goes 200 meters to the top of the mountain. Just past that on the right, a 100-meter long track goes out to what is marked on maps as a lookout. The lookout, which may have become overgrown by trees doesn’t actually offer any views at all. A bench faces southeast down the peninsula, but its view is completely blocked by the forest. From the junction at the top of Waikorire Track, walk 200 meters north to the summit, where there is a trig station. Continue 300 meters north on paths alongside 4WD Track to great viewpoints on the north side of Mount Maunganui with views of Tauranga Harbour and the Bay of Plenty. Leaving these overlooks, you could backtrack across the summit or continue down 4WD for 200 meters back to the junction at the end of Waikorire Track. This completes the summit loop. Walk back up the end of Waikorire Track and then begin down the other side of the track.
Summit option two: It probably makes more sense to continue up 4WD Track through the junction with Waikorire Track, forgoing 150 meters of Waikorire Track. In another 200 meters, come up to rises on the north side of the mountain. Take paths off the left side of 4WD Track out to benches with sweeping views. These are the biggest views on the mountain, looking west over Tauranga Harbour, northwest up Matakana Island, and north and east over the Bay of Plenty. Head east across a dip and up to a higher spot on the mountain. You may see paragliders crossing overhead, riding thermal updrafts above the cliffs on the north face of Mount Maunganui.
Turn south toward the mountain’s high point, finding a trig station and a small lawn and picnic area. The summit has views looking east over the beach toward Moturiki Island. Do you see a white plume coming from Whakaari (White Island) in the distance to the east, beyond Motiti Island? Don’t be alarmed. That is nothing unusual for one of New Zealand’s most active volcanoes, which erupts almost continuously.
Continue south from the summit, descending through trees to a junction with Waikorire Track. Skip the section of Waikorire Track to the right that descends to 4WD Track. You should also probably skip the track out to the lookout that is straight ahead (slightly to the left) as the lookout doesn’t allow you to look out over anything. Instead, turn left down Waikorire Track and begin a steep descent with lots of wooden steps.
Waikorire Track drops 105 meters over the next 0.6 kilometers, wrapping around the mountain to head north to the junction with Oruahine Track. As you descend staircase after staircase through flax and other brush, look off the east side of the mountain toward the beach and bay below. To the southeast, enjoy the trek’s best views toward the city of Mount Maunganui.
At the bottom of Waikorire Track, you will have hiked 5.8 kilometers if you followed the directions across the summit or 6.1 kilometers if you followed the directions for the summit loop, twice hiking a 150-meter long section at the west end of Waikorire Track (add another 200 meters if you ventured out on the path out to the lookout that’s not a lookout).
Turn right onto Oruahine Track, retracing your steps down the mountainside. As you hike back down this track, you’ll have excellent head-on views toward Mount Maunganui Beach and the city that covers the flatter parts of the peninsula. After 400 meters, bear right and pass the stone steps down to Base Track (unless you prefer to finish the hike by taking the boardwalk along the beach.
Covering new ground again, the track remains elevated above the beach and continues south toward the city. Take wooden steps over a livestock gate to cross more grazing land below the mountain. There are good opportunities to spot sheep over this last stretch of the track. A quick turn to the left leads to steps over one last gate.
After hiking 700 meters from the bottom of Waikorire Track, reach the end of the track on Mount Maunganui. Go over the gate to enter Mount Maunganui Beachside Holiday Park (you don’t need to be staying there to pass through). The dirt track becomes a paved road between campervans and cabins. Turn right at the first intersection and walk out the entrance of the holiday park to Adams Avenue. Continue walking west past the Mount Hot Pools and go one block to the intersection with The Mall and Pilot Quay where the trek began.
Taking the option that follows 4WD Track to the summit, skipping a short piece of Waikorire Track and a track to a nonexistent lookout, this ending comes after 6.8 kilometers of hiking. Using Waikorire Track to form a loop on the summit requires a 150-meter long repeat creates a 7.1-kilometer hike. Those who skip the summit and just hike the Base Track can complete the circuit in 3.4 kilometers. Public toilets are located along Pilot Quay near the intersection with The Mall and Adams Avenue. Barbecue grills for public use are available along Pilot Bay, should you wish to fix up a meal before or after your ascent. Dogs and bikes are not allowed on tracks on Mount Maunganui. Visiting the mountain is free and no permit is required, so get out and enjoy!
Directions: From the intersection of State Highway 2 and State Highway 2A in Tauranga, head northeast on SH 2 for 6 kilometers. Turn left onto Totara Street and go north for 2.5 kilometers to Rata Street. Turn right, come to a roundabout, and make the first left up Maunganui Road. Go 1.5 kilometers through several roundabouts, come to the end of the road, and turn left onto Adams Avenue. After one block, Adams Avenue turns to the left and becomes The Mall. You can park along The Mall or turn right at the end of Adams Avenue up Pilot Quay, which is 100 meters long and offers some parking. Base Track begins from end of Pilot Quay.
Trailhead address: Pilot Quay, Mt Maunganui, Tauranga, Bay of Plenty, 3116, New Zealand
Trailhead coordinates: -37.63345, 176.1747 (37° 38′ 00.42″S 176° 10′ 28.92″E)
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