The curved shoreline of the Bay of Plenty—known in Maori as Te Moana-a-Toi—is home to incredible surfing, white-sand beaches and New Zealand's only active marine volcano. Tauranga, with 130,000 residents, is the largest city on the Bay of Plenty and fifth largest in New Zealand. The city offers visitors a number of water-focused activities, like sailing and kayaking, as well as drier alternatives such as shopping and people-watching at a café in the Historic Village.
Tauranga is also a great jumping-off point for exploring nearby beaches and Te Puke, the kiwifruit capital of the world, as well as a wealth of Maori cultural sites. The world-famous geothermal wonderland of Rotorua, nicknamed Sulfur City, has been a major Polynesian spa resort town since visitors first arrived in the late 1800s. In Maori, roto means lake and rua means two, but Rotorua actually comprises 18 lakes—plus an incredible redwood forest.
For the best views, take the gondola up to Skyline Rotorua, a recreation complex atop Mount Ngongotaha. Other day trips you should consider are a boat ride through the incomparable glowworm caves of Waitomo or an unforgettable tour of the Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata—a must for all Tolkien fans.