It’s all in a name: Bay of Plenty. While most of us fly through the North Island en route to the tip or tail of the country, It's the very heart of Aotearoa that has some of the most arresting views.
We've taken the scenic route all through the east coast and inwards and rounded up some of the best panoramic food for thought the next time you’re in adventure mode.
Here are the best scenic drives in the Bay of Plenty.
Tauranga to Whakatane
If you’re looking for that 100% real ‘Nu-Zulland’ vibe, Tauranga to Whakatane via Ocean road is one of the most authentic coastal drives in the North Island. Driving through peaceful Papamoa, any stop is a top swim spot. But if you’re feeling adventurous you can ramp it up with the nearby ‘Blokarts’ (wind blown go-karts), or keep it cool and reel in some beach-side fush ‘n’ chups, topped off with a beautiful sunset view at Kohi Point lookout in Whakatane.
While McLaren is one of the most popular waterfall spots in the North Island, the real hidden gem of McLaren Falls is McLaren Park, one of the best-kept parks in New Zealand. This is a hot-spot for picnicking with plenty of barbeque spots scattered throughout, and at night go for a stroll near the waterfalls to catch a glimpse of the park's glowworms. It’s truly worth the trek, and while the State Highway might seem typical repetitive New Zealand bush, the park itself is a picturesque organic maze of coronation style Kiwiana.
Hot Water Beach
A DIY jacuzzi in a secluded beach off the beaten track? Don’t mind if I do. After getting your Tairua fix at Mt Paku summit, head north towards the coromandel on Tairua Whitianga Road beyond the many hikes and waterfalls to this secluded coromandel hotspot (sorry, we had to). It can get pretty busy over summer, and yes you’ll have to dig deep to get into hot water, but if you visit in the off season, you can enjoy less families and more glam, fam. Oh and BYO Spades, David.
Paeroa may serve us lemons but those lemons gave us life. The Karangahake Gorge is one of the most picturesque in the cut. Waterfalls, freshwater springs, and a long history in New Zealand’s gold rush: Destination Waihi, is the original miner's municipal. This adorable locale recently moved one of its historical mining buildings to the centre of the town and has instantly become tourist's fave instagrammable moment. The drive through the gorge is GORGE but twisty, so keep your head up and stomach straight. 8 out of 10 swerves and curves.
Rotorua to Edgecumbe
Heading away from Rotorua (the least popular candle scent in our nation’s bathrooms) is the Bay of Plenty’s most beautiful inner stretch. Driving beyond the stunning Lake Rotoiti towards east, is yet another of the Bay of Plenty’s awe inspiring gorges. You’ll wind past the Waitangi Soda Springs, a surprisingly untouched natural hot spring plucked straight out of a 19th century painting. The rest is gravy as you travel on to the final stretch—the incredibly cute town of Edgecumbe—NZ’s number one antiquing destination as voted by all of our mums.
After all that travelling, it's time to hit up one of Tauranga and The Mount's best restaurants.
Image credit: Cynthia Magana, Karangahake Gorge by Greg Nunes