Mount Maunganui is a beautiful, laid-back suburb nestled on a peninsula in Tauranga, New Zealand. With its pristine beaches, stunning views, and vibrant atmosphere, it is no wonder that Mount Maunganui has become a beloved destination for locals and tourists alike.
Among the suburb’s many attractions, one standout activity awaits those seeking an adventurous and awe-inspiring experience: The Mount Maunganui Summit Walk.
Rising triumphantly from the end of the land, Mount Maunganui (known locally as “Mauao” or simply Mount Maunganui) is a historic reserve and an ancient volcanic cone that offers a challenging yet rewarding climb to its summit.
The Mount Maunganui (Mauao) Summit Walk is a must-do for anybody visiting Tauranga, as it not only promises breathtaking panoramic views but also an opportunity to immerse oneself in the natural beauty of New Zealand.
Mount Maunganui (Mauao) Walking Tracks – The Options
Mount Maunganui offers two incredible and beautiful walking track options to visitors:
- The Mount Maunganui (Mauao) Base Track, and
- The Mount Maunganui (Mauao) Summit Walk
The Mount Maunganui (Mauao) Base Track is a 3.4 km flat track, located at the base of Mount Maunganui. This circular track can be accessed from either side of the hill and takes about 45 minutes to complete.
The ease of the walk and the constant views of the ocean along the track make the Mauao Base Track one of the most popular and scenic walks in Tauranga!
However, the Mount Maunganui (Mauao) Summit Walk is a far more challenging walk. I’d classify it as a short hike that requires a good level of fitness to climb to the top of Mount Maunganui (Mauao). But once you’re on top of this iconic hill, the breathtaking panoramic views will more than make up for the effort.
The Mount Maunganui (Mauao) Summit Walk
Mauao means “caught by the dawn” and many visitors choose to hike up the hill for unobstructed views of the sunrise and sunset. And although Mount Maunganui (Mauao) is only 232 metres tall, you’ll have to earn those epic views.
To reach the summit of Mount Maunganui (Mauao), there are three tracks to choose from,
- Oruahine Track,
- Waikorire Track, and
- 4WD Track
The Oruahine and Waikorire tracks are perhaps the most popular tracks taken by visitors to the summit. But it is also possible to reach the summit via the 4WD Track. And to be clear, the name can be slightly misleading because no vehicles (other than repair and emergencies) are allowed on this track.
The Waikorire Track is the steepest path that follows a well-maintained series of steps to the top of Mauao. And the Oruahine Track goes around the northern and western side of Mauao, whereas the 4WD goes around the southern and eastern sides of the hill.
What’s the best route to the Mount Maunganui (Mauao) Summit?
With numerous tracks to choose from to reach the top of Mount Maunganui (Mauao), it can admittedly be slightly confusing.
While grappling with this decision myself, I decided to map my own route (I’m positive that I’m not the first to take this route) that essentially covers all three tracks and provide us access to all the vantage points and views around Mount Maunganui (Mauao). And also we wanted the walk to end on Marina Parade, where all the restaurants and cafés are located.
In short, our recommended route follows the 4WD Track up to the summit, and then descends first on Waikorire Track and then Oruahine Track.
To follow our recommended route to the Mount Maunganui (Mauao) Summit, read on.
Things to carry on the hike
Although the Mount Maunganui (Mauao) Summit Walk is short, it’s still challenging, and it always helps to be prepared.
- As the tracks are well maintained, hiking boots/shoes aren’t necessary but can be helpful. At the very least, wear a good pair of sneakers.
- Carry at least 1 litre of water.
- The sun can be brutal on this hike, even in the cooler months. Make sure that you’re sufficiently protected from the sun. Hats, visors, sunglasses, and sunscreen. And if it’s a hot day, consider carrying more than 1 litre of water.
The 4WD Track starts from Pilot Bay. If you have a car, you can park it on The Mall or Marine Parade. However, if you park it on Marine Parade, remember to walk back to Pilot Bay.
The entrance to the 4WD is located opposite the boat ramp at Pilot Bay. Enter the Mount Maunganui Beachside Holiday Park, and take the incline to reach the start of the 4WD Track.
You will be greeted by a marker, pointing you towards “Te Tihi o Mauao” (Summit of Mauao).
To the Water Tank Area
The 4WD Track starts off on a gentle incline, all the while keeping the views of Pilot Bay.
This section of the walk should pose no problem to anyone, and you can take your time appreciating the views of the ships sailing towards the port.
Although there are a couple of benches and picnic tables along the track, we didn’t feel the need to take a break. But we did decide to slow down when we saw a herd of sheep grazing. This can only happen on a hike in New Zealand!
As the track turns away from Pilot Bay, it approaches a large tanker, with a painted face.
To the Western Lookout Point
The painted water tank marks the start of the steeper section of the 4WD Track.
The track gradually increases its incline and becomes very steep as it enters the shaded area. We were really grateful to have had the shade as we took frequent breaks while walking up this steep incline.
Just before the lookout point, you might notice another track joining the track you’re currently on. This is where the Oruahine Track meets the 4WD Track.
And another 100 metres after the meeting point of the tracks, is a viewing point that looks out over to the west. From here, one can admire the endless shoreline of the Matakana Island and watch vessels sail in and out of the Tauranga Port.
To the Bay of Plenty Lookout Point
The steep incline continues after this lookout point. The only difference being the track has a lot more twists and turns as it meanders uphill. The shade comes and goes, as do the views.
After approximately 280 metres of walking, the 4WD Track reaches another merging point, this time it’s a short connecting trail to the Waikorire Track.
But as you’re headed to the summit of Mount Maunganui (Mauao), follow the signs, turn left and continue your climb.
At this point, the track emerges from the shade and reaches the start of a shortcut to the summit.
When we visited, this shortcut was closed to the public. However, even if the shortcut is open, we recommend not taking it, as the another 140 metres ahead is a stunning viewpoint!
This viewpoint offers 180 degree panoramic views from the west to the east. From here you admire the smaller islands in the distance, the stunning coastline, and the expanse of the Bay of Plenty!
To The Mount Maunganui Summit (Te Tihi o Mauao)
You’re now on the final stretch of the Mount Maunganui Summit Walk. But you don’t have to wait for another 200 metres to get to the summit to enjoy the views of the town below.
The first views of Mount Maunganui suburb appear less than 100 metres from the lookout point. Not only that, but the views remain for the remainder of the track, making the approach to the summit very scenic!
As you approach the highest point, notice the large marker on the summit of Mount Maunganui (Mauao). There is plenty of shade around the marker, which is much needed if it’s a hot and sunny day.
However, the main attraction is the viewing deck at the summit of Mount Maunganui (Mauao). From here, you’re greeted to stunning views of Mount Maunganui, Tauranga, Pilot Bay, the Main Beach, Bay of Plenty and the Pacific Ocean! It’s truly a treat and if you’re like me, you’d probably take hundreds of photos from up here!
Charting the Route Downhill
As with the ascent, you have a few options to choose from to end the Mount Maunganui (Mauao) Summit Walk.
The path that we recommend is the shortest route down to Marine Parade, as we’re sure you want to grab that post hike drink!
However, you can always trace your steps back on the 4WD Track.
To take our recommended route, follow the signs for the Main Beach via Waikorire Track on the other side of the summit.
From here, follow the steps as they zigzag downhill and then follow the track to a four-point intersection.
At this point, you can take an optional 130-metre detour to another lookout point straight ahead or continue downhill to the Main Beach. This lookout point offers panoramic views of Pilot Bay. As we’d seen quite a bit of Pilot Bay on our way up, we decided to continue heading downhill.
To do so, follow the signs for the Main Beach and turn left at the four-point intersection.
After the intersection, the Waikorire Track continues its descent on a series of steps. Walking down these steps should give you an idea how challenging it is to climb up this way. But thankfully walking down isn’t.
Around the halfway point, the trees clear up, and you’re once again treated stunning views of Bay of Plenty and the Pacific Ocean!
The Waikorire Track finally comes to an end at a three point intersection. At this point, turn right and follow the signs to the Main Beach.
The final section of the descent follows the Rangiwhakaoma Track, which is a 500-metre track that connects the Main Beach with the Oruahine Track and Waikorire Track.
Unlike what you’ve just covered, the Rangiwhakaoma Track is on a much more gentle slope. It’s reminiscent of the initial climb on the 4WD Track.
The track gently descends towards the Main Beach, all the while keeping it view. Naturally, this makes for a very scenic finish to what has already been a very scenic hike!
But just as you’re getting close to the Main Beach, you’ll approach a wooden gate at the corner of a fence.
Hop off the track and walk through the gate to the steps on the other side. Take one last look at the views of the Main Beach from here and then follow the steps down.
The steps are a shortcut that bring you out right at the Main Beach, bring your Mount Maunganui (Mauao) Summit Walk to a glorious end!
After our hike, we grabbed a drink and bite at one of the restaurants on Marine Parade and then chilled on the beach. We’d earned it!
Mount Maunganui (Mauao) Walk – A Must-do for Anyone Visiting Tauranga
The Mount Maunganui Summit Walk is a must-do for anyone visiting Tauranga. It combines an invigorating climb, captivating views, and a chance to commune with nature. This hike encapsulates the essence of what makes Mount Maunganui such a sought-after destination.
If you’re visiting Tauranga, we highly recommend finding accommodation at Mount Maunganui.
I don’t know about you, but I love a place which has the summer, beach-town vibes!
So, whether you are a seasoned adventurer or simply seeking a moment of respite amidst breathtaking scenery, Mount Maunganui will undoubtedly leave an indelible impression.
If you’re in search for a beautiful waterfall hike in the vicinity, we can recommend the Wairere Falls Walk in Kaimai Mamaku Conservation Park. Tauranga is also in proximity to Matamata, which is the location of the famous Hobbiton Movie Set. You can read about our tour experience to Hobbiton in this review.