Story: Bay of Plenty region
Golden beaches, abundant marine life, a benign climate and luxuriant forests: the features which inspired Captain Cook in naming the Bay of Plenty are still attractions today. Equally enduring are landmarks such as the mountain Maungapōhatu, Ōhiwa Harbour and Whakaari (White Island), sacred to the tribes of this curving coastline.
Full story by Malcolm McKinnon
Main image: Tauranga on a fine day
The Short Story
A quick, easy summaryRead the Full Story
The Bay of Plenty is on the eastern side of the North Island. This sunny sweep of coast has white sands and beautiful harbours. It stretches from Cape Runaway up to the Coromandel Peninsula.
Towns and cities
There is one city – Tauranga. Whakatāne is the largest town. Other towns include Katikati, Te Puke, Kawerau, Murupara, Edgecumbe and Ōpōtiki.
Mountains and volcanoes
Inland from the coast there are many mountain ranges, notably the Kaimai and Raukūmara. The rugged hill country inland from Whakatāne is called Te Urewera.
There are several volcanic islands, including Mayor Island (Tūhua), Moutohorā (Whale Island) and Whakaari (White Island). Mayor Island is famous for its obsidian. This is a glass-like rock, which Māori once used as a cutting tool. White Island is an active volcano.
On the mainland there are two volcanoes. Mt Maunganui (Mauao) is extinct, and Mt Edgecumbe (Pūtauaki) is dormant.
The longest river in the Bay of Plenty is the Rangitāiki.
Māori have lived there for about 700 years. Historic canoes are the Mataatua, Tākitimu, Nukutere, Te Arawa and Tainui. Toi is an important ancestor of the Mataatua tribes, and the bay is also known as Te Moana a Toi (the sea of Toi). Te Urewera is the home of the Ngāi Tūhoe tribe.
The Endeavour, commanded by Captain James Cook, sailed into the bay in 1769. Cook named it ‘Bay of Plenty’, because the people were generous and there were lots of fish, timber and other supplies. From the 1870s onwards European settlers arrived in numbers.
Today the Bay of Plenty is important for dairy farming, especially on the Rangitāiki Plains. The region is also known for its avocados and kiwifruit. Timber is processed at Kawerau and Whakatāne. The port of Tauranga is one of the busiest in New Zealand.
Life and leisure
The coast has a mild, sunny climate and safe beaches. It is a popular holiday place, where you can go swimming, surfing and fishing. Many older people retire there. The Bay of Plenty Steamers play in the first division of the National Provincial rugby competition.