Staycations, books, bars and beaches: The ultimate guide to a Bay of Plenty summer

Staycations, books, bars, and beaches: Carly Gibbs offers information and her views on the best of summer.

After another tough year, it almost feels like our duty to get outside and rediscover our love of the beautiful Bay of Plenty.

Tourism Bay of Plenty says we should make the best of having the country to ourselves for the second summer in a row, while our international border is closed.

“This might be the most important summer we’ve had in a long time for people to take time out from their usual routines and appreciate everything our region offers,” Oscar Nathan, general manager of Tourism Bay of Plenty says.

The Bay of Plenty Times and Rotorua Daily Post have put together a guide for ideas on staycations, the rules around vaccination passports, beach reads, fish and chips, best bars, and events.

The best place to have a staycation

Forget day-long drives with roadworks and car sickness. Your holiday destination can be found just down the road.

Our region boasts some of the best beachfront accommodation in New Zealand, making our own backyard the perfect place to de-stress from 2021.

Here are a few suggestions.

Waihi Beach Top 10 Holiday Resort

Boasting both bush and beach, this gem is a kids’ paradise with a river running through the campground that’s home to eels.

There’s also a swimming pool with waterslide, spa, playground with jumping pillow and under-fives room.

Papamoa Beach Resort
If you don’t like to rough it camping, you don’t have to.

Luxury beachfront villas offer uninterrupted sea views, and artisan food market Dinner in the Domain operates next door until March.

There’s also the nearby Bluebiyou restaurant, Papamoa Plaza and Fashion Island all within walking distance.

Thornton Beach Holiday Park
Thornton is the epitome of an old school beach holiday.

If you’re looking for something a little off the beaten track, this is your spot.

Located just north of Whakatāne, it boasts a beach, great fishing from the shore or a kayak, or there’s a boat ramp 200m away.

Top tip:Accommodation is likely to be at its fullest in the Bay between December 30 and January 3 with accommodation in Mount Maunganui “basically booked out”. There may be openings in other Bay hot spots but do book ahead.

Does my vaccination passport need to be shown when booking accommodation?

Some accommodation providers are requiring vaccination passes, while others are not.

Those that don’t require passes will still follow health guidelines, such as mask-wearing in shared spaces.

It pays to check your accommodation provider’s vaccine pass policy before booking.

Are Aucklanders welcome where I’m staying?
Nathan from Tourism Bay of Plenty says the onus is on businesses to strictly follow the health guidelines and be “gracious to fellow humans who have been suffering months of restrictions simply because of where they live”.

“Everyone deserves a summer holiday and I’m sure visitors will be embraced with the manaakitanga our region is known for.”

What can I do in the Bay that’s free?

Kuirau Park
This park boasts natural hot springs, bubbling mud pools, stunning gardens and even a crater lake.

You can soak your feet in the recently renovated geothermal foot baths and take the kids to the awesome children’s playground.

Kuirau Park is located within an easy walk from Rotorua’s city centre, just off Pukuatua and Ranolf Sts.

Raparapahoe Falls, 282 Number 4 Rd, Te Puke.
This is a three-metre high waterfall that plunges into a cool and clear swimming pool that will literally take your breath away.

It’s accessible by a steep and rough 1km track that will take you around 15 minutes each way.

There are plenty of steps and the track can be slippery (don’t wear jandals) but what a sight at the bottom – cliffs and a fringe of native punga trees rise sharply above the water. It’s also a dog-friendly location.

Whakarewarewa Forest Loop
The recently-opened 33km Whakarewarewa Forest Loop in Rotorua is a circular mountain biking route through its famous namesake forest.

The Grade 3 trail (with some Grade 2 bits) has been designed to be accessible for people of almost all ages, abilities and fitness levels.

The trail takes between 2.5 and five hours depending on your pace.

There are three spots to purchase food and drinks, four taps to refill water bottles, and three accessible toilet blocks.

Start the trail at either Te Pūtake o Tawa carpark on Tarawera Rd, or Waipa carpark off State Highway 5. It’s also a great spot for running and walking.

What’s something cool to do that supports local tourism?

V8 Chevy trikes

Buckle up, sit back and watch heads turn as you get driven around in a mean machine that’s suitable for ages two-plus, and all fitness levels.

Voted the number one outdoor activity by TripAdvisor, rides with V8 Trike Tours New Zealand start at $150 per vehicle (four seats), and tours operate in Mount Maunganui and Taupō.

Marine wildlife tours
Enjoy a day out on the briny visiting Tauranga’s spectacular marine mammals and soaking in the sights, including Mayor Island (Tuhua).

Our local operators are Bay Explorer – Dolphin and Wildlife Cruise; Dolphin Seafaris; and Orca Wild Adventures. See their websites for individual prices.

Rotorua’s favourite farm show is back for Christmas.

Agrodome re-opened on December 16, bringing back their legendary farm shows that showcase 19 breeds of sheep, including rare and endangered breeds, live sheep-shearing, fun sheep auction and many more animals.

Tickets start at $25 for adults and $15 for children (infants free).

Top tip:



for more ideas of things to do. Endeavour to be eco-friendly on your travels, respect signage and any rāhui that may be in place.

Top 10 summer beach reads

From the extraordinary life story of Dave Grohl, drummer of Nirvana and frontman of the Foo Fighters, to Qiane Matata-Sipu’s powerful and important snapshot of wahine today, to Amor Towles’ third novel, set in 1950s America, try some of these new release recommendations from Rotorua’s McLeods Booksellers when you are stocking up on the perfect summer holiday reads.

Nuku: Stories of 100 Indigenous Women

, by Qiane Matata-Sipu (non-fiction)

Once There Were Wolves

, by Charlotte McConaghy (fiction)

Kia Kaha: A Storybook of Maori Who Changed the World

, by Stacey Morrison (Children’s non-fiction)

The Lincoln Highway

, by Amor Towles (fiction)

Cloud Cuckoo Land

, by Anthony Doerr (fiction)


, by Whiti Hereaka (NZ fiction)

The Bikes we Built: A Journey through NZ Made Bicycles

, by Jonathan Kennett (non-fiction)

Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music

by Dave Grohl (non-fiction)

Pax: Journey Home

, by Sara Pennypacker (children’s fiction)

The Storm of Echoes

, by Christelle Dabos (young adult fiction)

The best fish and chips

It’s the ultimate summer meal and Kiwis go-to when they want a night off cooking. Here are some of our favourite Bay chippies.


River’s Catch

, 14d Pandora Ave.

Te Ngae Fish Supply

, 510 Te Ngae Rd.

Devon Seafoods

, 43 Devon St.

Oppies Fish & Chips

, 259 Fenton St.


Welcome Bay Takeaways

, 248 Welcome Bay Rd.

Bobby’s Fresh Fish Market

, 1 Dive Crescent.

Top tip:

If visiting the new and upmarket River’s Catch, run by ex-Pullman Rotorua executive chef Isabel Talabis-Ronquillo, Destination Rotorua suggests trying the RC Battered Fish on In-Between Bread (aka Filipino bread roll), a side of kumara fries with chipotle mayo, the Smashburger, any of the fried fish, and slaw topped with miso dressing.

The best bars for summer drinks

One of the joys of summer is sipping a cool drink in the sunshine. Here are some of the region’s hottest venues to hit up as the mercury rises.


The Rising Tide

, 107 Newton St, Mount Maunganui.

The Cider Factorie

, 50 Oikimoke Rd, Te Puna.

, 165 Maunganui Rd, Mount Maunganui.


Mata Brewery

, 17 Gateway Cres.


Ani’s Gin Bar and Tapas

, 1161 Amohau St.

The Fainting Goat

, 1154 Tutanekai St.

The Rotorua International Cocktail Lounge & Eatery

, 1109 Tutanekai St (located in the Eat Streat dining precinct).

Poco Tapas and Wine

opens in the CBD in January.

Volcano Hills Winery & Tasting Room

, Skyline Rotorua.

Top tip:

Book a tour with

, where you can sample delicious Bay of Plenty craft beer. They’ll drive you and your friends around the best breweries and bars where you’ll learn about the brewing process, and taste a few brews too. Tours operate from Tauranga and Taupō.

Covid testing over the holidays

Refer to

over the holiday period to find your nearest Covid-19 testing and vaccination service.

If there is a sudden increase in demand for testing, such as for a surge of community cases, then the hours and days will be increased.

Key messages of safety from police


The key messages from police remain the same – have patience, drive at safer speeds and to the conditions, and drive without impairment or distractions (put down the cellphone, no alcohol or drugs, and ensure you are not fatigued).

Police say that we should not accept crashes on our roads over the holiday period as inevitable – it’s everyone’s responsibility that we get to our destination safely.


Have fun, but look out for your mates. If you are consuming alcohol, ensure you do so safely, alternating with plenty of water. Avoid taking any substance if you are unsure of what it is.

Water safety

Remember at least two forms of communication if going boating, and tell someone when you plan to return.

Swim between the flags at patrolled beaches.

Always check the conditions when heading out under, or on, the water.

Vaccine passports

Under the Covid framework, vaccine passports are designed to keep everyone safe. Ensure you have your pass ready when entering venues.

What’s on?

December 30
Twilight Farmers’ Markets
Food market direct from the producers. Tauranga Primary School, corner of 5th Ave and Cameron Rd. 4-6pm. No vaccine pass is required.

December 28
Speedway event at Baypark Speedway, Mount Maunganui. Final details of the December and January meets are to be confirmed. For updates, and

December 29
Summer Haze

The ultimate summer concert at Tauranga’s Wharepai Domain. Shapeshifter, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Scribe, P Money (with the Harmony and Rhythm Brass Band), Ladi 6, Katchafire, Lee Mvtthews and Rubi Du. This is a R18 event. Tickets from

January 1
Central Auto Dismantlers New Year Fireworks Explosion

TWS Paradise Valley Speedway, 7pm. For all speedway events, go to

January 5
Speedway event at Baypark, Mount Maunganui. Final details of January meets are to be confirmed. For updates, and

January 8
Waihi Beach Summer Fair

Home to over 2o0 stalls of quality wares and gourmet food, plus entertainment for all ages. Wilson Park, Waihi Beach. 10am-4pm.

January 8
Speedway event at Baypark, Mount Maunganui. Final details of January meets are to be confirmed. For updates, and

January 14
Stihl Shop Lakelands Club Night

TWS Paradise Valley Speedway, 7pm

January 15
Tauranga Fringe Festival

One-day open access extravaganza festival, Historic Village, from 10am

January 15
Katikati Avocado Food and Wine Festival

Good food and wine, entertainment and product displays. Uretara Domain, Katikati. 12-6pm.

January 21-22
TWS World Invitation Superstock Champs

Sharky’s Engineering Ltd Aotearoa Ladies Stockcar Crown. Ladies practise and time trials only – 5.30pm-6pm, racing 7pm. TWS Paradise Valley Speedway.

January 22
Polo in the Bay

Features some of New Zealand’s most talented polo players going head-to-head in their provincial colours. Trustpower, Baypark, 1pm-7pm.

January 22
Black Clash

New Zealand’s biggest stars of rugby and cricket play in a high-intensity, hugely fun T20 cricket match at Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui, 6.30pm.

January 22
Mount Festival of Multisport

This includes the Tauranga Half Marathon, AquaBike, Mount Run and Pilot Bay Swim.

January 29
MB Century BoP Streetstock Championship

Stitch n Print BoP Production Saloon Championship, 7pm. TWS Paradise Valley Speedway.

January 29
Speedway event at Baypark, Mount Maunganui. Final details of January meets are to be confirmed. For updates, and

January 29-30
Emerson’s Whaka100

Rotorua’s Whaka 100 proudly holds the reputation as one of the toughest mountain bike marathons in the Southern Hemisphere.

January 29-30
One Love Festival

Some of Aotearoa’s best reggae, hip-hop, soul and R&B artists will unite for Tauranga Domain’s highly anticipated One Love Festival 2022. 12pm-11pm.

January 30
Classics of the Sky

Jet fighters, skydivers, gliders and a great range of food and refreshments, and heavy military iron and battle reenactments. From 8.30am.

Weekly happenings

Rotorua Night Market
Every Thursday at the Rotorua Village Green, 5pm – 9pm. Entertainment alongside international cuisine and boutique stalls. Vaccine passports are required for entry.

Rotorua Farmers Market
Every Sunday, excluding December 26, at Te Manawa, intersection of Hinemoa and Tutanekai Streets, 9am – 1pm. Grab brunch with live music while browsing fresh produce and artisan stands. No vaccine passport is required.

Tauranga Farmers’ Market from January 8
Every Saturday at Tauranga Primary School, corner of 5th Avenue and Cameron Rd. 7.45 – 12pm. No vaccine passport is

Top tip: Visit and for the latest updates on events.

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