Scenic Tauranga Tour
You should be standing inside the white picket fence of the historic Elms Mission Station. Just in front of you is 'The Elms Timeline' signboard. To your right is the actual Elms Mission House.
Welcome to Tauranga! New Zealand's fastest growing, sunniest major city. You have made a truly excellent choice to be here and take this insightful adventure.
Before we go, a little housekeeping. VoiceMap uses your location to play commentary automatically, so you can now put your phone away and focus on your surroundings. Silence between tracks is normal, so if you don't hear from me, just keep going. If you get lost or stuck, you can check the route map on your phone's screen.
This is a circular route, and we are coming back here later, so if you'd like to visit inside the mission house and library, you can do so then. This tour will take about 1 hour at a relaxed pace.
All right! Let's get moving. Exit the grounds of the Mission House through the little white pointy-topped gate and turn left onto the street. I'll meet you a little down the way.
Your Tour Begins
Great, you've triggered your first location! Exit through the gate and turn left here. Also, please cross over the road so that you're on the right-hand pavement.
So you might be wondering who I am. I'm Luke Sygrove, lucky enough to be born only a few kilometres away from where you are now in the Tauranga hospital. I have lived here most of my life. At the times when I have gone away, I truly love the warm, vibrant feeling I get when I return.
The Maori people came from Polynesia, first arriving in New Zealand around 1350AD. But Europeans only began settling here in the 1800s. The Reverend Alfred Nesbit Brown was one of those Europeans. He came from England to New Zealand in 1829 to work at the mission house as a Christian missionary. He bought the land to your left on behalf of the Church Missionary Society. It was initially called the Te Papa Mission Station but is now called The Elms. The Reverend Brown and his second wife bought it from the society in 1873.
Keep walking down the street. I'll meet you at the end.
Right into Cliff Rd
OK, take a right here. Just keep walking on the right-hand pavement. While we're still in the area, I'd like to finish the story about Reverend Brown.
Brown spent many years teaching local Maori about Christianity both here and in the nearby Waikato region. Meanwhile, his first wife Charlotte taught reading, writing, and the skills to run a home in the European way.
In 1864, New Zealand's most infamous battle between Maori warriors and European soldiers took place in Gate Pa, just 5 kilometres from here. On the eve of the battle, Brown and his second wife invited twelve European officers to dine with them at the Mission House. Despite being heavily outnumbered, it was a resounding victory for the Maori. Only one officer that had dined that night survived the battle, Surgeon General William Manley. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery.
Keep walking towards the open field across the road, up ahead on the left.
Cross to Robbins Park
On your left is a big, green field. Cross to the other side of the street now to make your way into it.
Robbins Park Historic Reserve
Welcome to Robbins Park. Turn right here, keeping the low hedge on your right. See the rose garden up ahead? Make your way towards that.
The Reverend's name is still heralded in this area. Brown Street, for example, runs away from you to the right. But his work was totally disrupted by Gate Pa. After the battle, some local Maori felt betrayed by Reverend Brown. Many were displaced from their ancestral lands, and the work of the Mission Station never recovered. Reverend Brown died in 1884, aged 80. He is buried in the Mission Cemetery with his son, Marsh, and his second wife, Christina. We'll go there on the way.
For now, keep heading for the roses.
Now wander around the rose garden while I tell you more.
The gorgeous 28 bed rose garden has been nominated as one of the best in the country. It is looked after by the New Zealand Rose Society, a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting the cultivation of the world's most popular flower. Their aim, in their words, is to implant the rose in the hearts and gardens of the people. If you have a few hours free sometime, this is a great place to relax.
Now turn to face the renaissance Italian style ivy arches. There's a great view of the harbour and railway tracks from there, and we'll pass by them again a bit later.
We're going to walk around to the the back of that little display house building now. Make your way out of the rose garden and walk towards it. Then walk around to it to the left. I'll meet you there.
Kate Sheppherd Memorial
Keep going around the left of the building. See the plaque in the ground and the camellia shrub near it? That was planted in honour of Kate Sheppherd. She first introduced voting for women in New Zealand.
Walk around to the back now.
Tropical Display House
Stop here for a moment.
This quirky little tropical display house is open every day during daylight hours. You can take a few minutes to have a look inside if you want. There are a range of plants including beautiful begonias and orchids. If you strike it lucky, you'll see the super funny, friendly, curly-haired Liani in there. She's an amazing person and I had the pleasure of working with her for a few years. And no, she's not a hobbit, just rather short.
When you're done, carry on along the path, past the display house. Go towards the big tress. We're going to head back to the road.
Right onto road
Get off the grass here and make your way onto the road. See the trench and raised grass bank up ahead? We're going to the right of that. I'll meet you at the road.
Head left on Monmouth Street
Now head left on this road. Keep walking with the garden on your left.
Three Pou / Pillars
Stop here for a minute between the building and the raised bank.
Look at the wall of the police building to your right. Do you see the three wooden carvings on the corner? Walk over to them and stop to face them.
In recognition of the history of the area and the old pa site, these carvings were commissioned for the new Tauranga Police Station in 2013.
Whare Thomson and Damian Kohu carved the three pou, which means pillar in English. Each one represents a person, place, or event. From left to right, Reverend Brown, who you learned about earlier, Taumatakahawai Pa, and the battle of Gate Pa.
OK, now turn around and make your way over the little bridge on the other side of the road, into the Monmouth Redoubt.
Taumatakahawai pa / Monmouth Redoubt
Now walk towards the canon ahead and stop in front of it while I tell you about this area.
This patch of land used to be called Taumatakahawai pa. Weird shape huh? It was purposefully designed as a fortified area, and abandoned in 1828 after a vicious attack by the Ngati Maru tribe. Nearly 200 years ago, this was an extremely unsafe place to be.
In the 1850s, the Kingitanga movement arose to stop Europeans from confiscating Maori land. To stop supplies reaching the Kingitanga in the Waikato, Light Infantry regiments rebuilt fortifications on this site, renaming it the Monmouth Redoubt.
A few years later, it became the headquarters for a local group known as the Armed Constabulary, AC for short. Their role was to stop any Maori uprising as well as to control any law breakers in the new military settlements.
When it became the headquarters for the whole of the Bay of Plenty, there were two Armstrong Field guns for defence. But they never had cause to boom out across the bay, as the threat had disappeared. In Opotiki though, the threat was still seen to be real, so the headquarters were transferred.
The canon in front of you was actually used in the battle of Gate Pa, a few kilometres down the road.
OK, we'll be leaving now. Make your way back over the little bridge, the same way you came in, and turn left to follow the footpath down the hill.
Down the hill
Keep making your way down the hill here. I'll meet you in the parking lot at the bottom.
To the canoe
Do you see the low-roofed building located on the grass patch up ahead to your left? Make your way over there.
Te Awanui Waka / Canoe
Stop here and take a look around this waka, or canoe, while I tell you a bit about it.
This waka is called Te Awanui, the original name of Tauranga Harbour. It was carved by Tuti Tukaokao in 1973. It is used to celebrate special occasions. It’s made from a 300-year-old Kauri tree, which is New Zealand's largest and most famous type of tree. Before it was cut, elders from the tribesmen gathered together for a ceremony to pay homage to Tane, the Maori God of the forests.
After 22 months of love, skill, and artistry, Te Awanui met the water for its maiden voyage as the community marveled at its splendour. The waka needs 15 people to operate, but can hold up to 30.
As a little side note, Captain James Cook was one of the first Europeans to have contact with Maori. When the Maori first saw his boat they believed his strange looking vessel was a god, and that his crew were goblins. Why? Because their backs were facing the shore as they rowed, meaning they must have eyes in the backs of their heads to see where they are going!
OK, it's time to move on. Carry on past the canoe and make your way straight over to the intersection ahead.
Cross over to sculptures
Now cross over, keeping the railway line and the sea on your left. We're heading towards the sculptures planted into the grass just over the road.
Matariki and The Strand
Stop here at the carved wooden figures. You can take a walk around them while I tell you more.
These were created by local carver James Tapiata. The seven poupou, or figures, represent Matariki, the group of stars also known as the Pleiades or Seven Sisters. Each star has a Maori name.
Matariki rises once a year in late May or early June and indicates the start of the Maori New Year. It’s a time when prayers are offered in thanks for the fertility of the soil and the abundance of food gathered. The name Matariki may come from mata ariki, meaning ‘the eyes of God’, or mata riki, meaning ‘little eyes’. In about 1940, the festival died out, but it was revived in 2000, and is gaining in popularity.
Speaking of festivals, every year over Easter, this area plays host to the Jazz Fest. The street is blocked off to cars and people sprawl out across the many stages to hear some great music.
Have a look down the road now. This is The Strand, probably the most loved part of Tauranga. There are a nice variety of laid-back yet sophisticated restaurants and clubs, as well as a wide strip running along the waterfront. In the early military days this was called 'The Beach'. If there was a strong Easterly gale, the sea would lap at the doors of the shops, until a wooden seawall was constructed to provide protection.
Let's move on. Face the sea, and follow the road that crosses the railway tracks on your left. Make sure you stay on the right-hand footpath as the road curves around.
Towards Fish Market
See the blue building just up ahead, next to the water? That's the Fresh Fish Market. Make your way towards it.
If you're hungry, it's a must-stop location! Kiwis LOVE their fish and chips and this is the number one place in Tauranga to get it. You can also buy a big variety of other seafood. You can't get much fresher than from the boat to the deep fryer.
Keep going. I'll meet you in front of the market.
Fresh Fish Market
This is the Fish Market on your right. You're welcome to go inside now, or just keep going down the road past it. Either way, I'll meet you at the Cargo Shed, the building just after the pedestrian crossing.
Arts Market at the Cargo Shed
Stop for a moment. This is the Cargo Shed on your right. You'll find an eclectic mix of arts and crafts, and a great cafe. If you have a couple of hours spare, it's great to go in and see the unique items for sale from a wide variety of artists.
Pop in now and take a look, or just keep heading along. I'll meet you a minute or two up the road from here.
Back of rose garden
To the left you'll notice the ivy arches we saw earlier. We're slowly making our way back to where we started. Keep going, and remember to take a few nice deep breaths of fresh air! I'll be back in a minute or so.
As you walk, have a look to your left. You'll see well-used railway tracks. They run from the port, straight along the city front, and across to Mount Maunganui.
It is quite surreal to see a huge train rolling along the city's waterfront
During the Jazzfest I mentioned earlier, an iconic 1900s steam train usually brings guests here from various places in the North Island. If you're here at Easter, you may be lucky enough to see it with huge clouds of steam billowing out.
Just keep going, between the tracks and the water.
Dive Crescent Seawall
Keep going straight. The seawall sustained some damage from a big storm in mid-2014 and was repaired in 2015. As part of this work, the footpath you are walking on was widened to enable easier access into the city.
I'll meet you when you reach the building you can see up ahead on the right of the path.
Trinity Wharf Hotel
We're still walking straight.
The clientele of the Trinity Wharf Hotel here on your right obviously loves the harbour views so much that the hotel has been built out right into the water! You can't get much closer than that. Pohutakawa trees stand around this luxurious hotel. It includes 120 spacious rooms, a gym, conference rooms, restaurant, and swimming pool.
I stayed here once and really enjoyed the high quality, pool, layout, and customer service.
Carry on walking straight.
To the cemetery
See the road bridge up ahead? Just after that we're going up some steps to the right, towards Mission Cemetery. I'll meet you just on the other side of the underpass.
Right up the steps
Here we go, take a right up these steps and follow them to the cemetery.
Enter the cemetery through the pointy-topped white gate, which has an unlocked latch, and walk to the opposite side. Take any concrete path you like, they will all take you to the far side.
Before this was a cemetery, this was a Maori pa, which is a fortified defensive settlement. It was called Otamataha pa. It was first visited by early missionaries looking for supplies in the 1820s, but abandoned later, after most of its inhabitants were killed by ruthless Ngati Maru tribal raiders.
The area then became a cemetery, and until 1864, there were only three burials here.
The Mission Cemetery is the oldest European cemetery in the Bay of Plenty. It is now closed for burials, and contains the graves of about 55 military men and 14 Maori warriors.
When you're done here, exit the cemetery out the other side from where you came in, and head towards the sound and sight of traffic.
You should see two park benches about 10 metres apart and a huge tree to the left of them. We need to go behind and left of that tree, onto a narrow path with steps made from wood and gravel.
This path takes you out onto a footpath right beside one of the harbour bridges.
Out the cemetery
Keep going straight through the narrow path ahead.
Head under the bridge
Head down the steps on your right and then turn left. You will walk directly under the big harbour bridges and cross over to the other side.
We'll be coming back here in a few minutes, so just remember this spot, OK?
For now, get ready for an amazing view.
Onto the bridge
From here, make your way up the steps and onto the bridge. We're not going to cross all the way over, but just make your way onto the pedestrian footpath of the bridge and out over the water. I'll meet you along the way.
Over the Water
Ahhh nice fresh sea air. Rather than just tell you about how beautiful this area is, I wanted to show you. That's why I have brought you to this beautiful curved bridge with amazing views. Keep going as I point things out.
You're walking on the original two-lane bridge. But Tauranga has experienced massive growth in the past twenty years. Traffic became bad, so the other bridge to the far right was constructed alongside this one in 2009. Prior to these bridges, there was a railway bridge which was completed in 1924, after World War I caused a delay in its construction. It's still there today so if you look around you will see it.
Look to your left, and a little behind you. Can you see the mountain peak? That's Mount Maunganui. It's an extinct volcano. It sits regally at the main entrance to the harbour, welcoming in visitors. The most popular activity here for locals and tourists is to walk up to the summit. It's also home to what is consistently ranked by TripAdvisor as the best beach in New Zealand.
Keep going for just a little while more. I'll meet you up ahead.
Harbour Bridge Scenic Walkway
Stop here for a couple of minutes and look out over the bay to your left.
This is an amazing spot to see huge cargo and cruise ships entering and exiting Tauranga harbour. It's pretty surreal seeing these ocean giants manoeuvre around so close to land.
See the marina to the right? You can probably see a bunch of expensive private boats moored down there. This is a really popular bay for sailors as it's relatively calm, away from the surf side in the distance.
Bad-boy rocker Phil Rudd from AC/DC loves Tauranga, and in fact owns a restaurant in the marina. He once fired everybody because they delivered his meal to his helicopter hangar instead of his yacht. He has a mansion only 5 minutes from here and he once said, "I love Tauranga because it's got everything you need within reach".
The Port of Tauranga is proudly New Zealand's busiest port. It operates 24/7 on both sides of the harbour and is the biggest employer here. You might see some large cargo ships docked on either side of the harbour right now as you look towards the Mount. In 2016 the harbour was dredged to deepen the channel so even larger ships can enter the port. This will mean that one million shipping containers will move through here over the course of a year.
You may also have seen planes and gliders taking off or landing at the airport, which you will see if you follow the line of the bridge towards the Mount side. If the wind is blowing towards the Tauranga side, this is an incredible spot to be as planes come in low for landing. The airport is large enough to handle big aircrafts, but is not considering becoming an international airport any time soon. For one thing, the accidental arrival of a pest from overseas could be catastrophic to our economy. The nearby locals may also not appreciate a super jumbo A380 landing at 4am.
OK, let's turn back and start walking back the way we came now. Remember when we just came out of the cemetery and hit the road, and I mentioned we were going back there? Retrace your steps to make your way there now.
Great, here we are again. This time, keep going straight away from the sea, with the bush on your left. Stay on the footpath. I'll meet you around the corner.
Towards carved posts
Take the right fork in the footpath here. Can you see the carved posts up ahead? Make your way there.
Dive Crescent Pouwhenua / Carved Posts
Stop at the big rock in the middle of the circular paved area. Look around at the carved posts for a minute. They're called Pouwhenua.
Each one of these posts represents one of the navigators, who sailed canoes to New Zealand from Polynesia around 1350 AD. Local carvers paid tribute to the knowledge and skill required to bring people here on those long voyages. Rough seas are extremely unforgiving. They were certainly brave souls heading into the unknown to find new land and new beginnings. The anchor stone represents ‘safe anchorage’, which is actually what the word Tauranga means.
OK, let's get going again. Keep following the footpath with the bush on your left. We'll follow it as it goes down, keeping the traffic on your right.
Make your way back
We're still going to follow the footpath, making our way back to the starting point of our walk. Thank you so much for taking this tour, I really hope you found it interesting and got a nice little workout at the same time. I would really appreciate any feedback, using the comments section on the route overview.
We'll make our way back to the Mission House where we started. From here on, I will just give you some directions on how to get back to where we started.
For now, just keep walking along this way.
Over traffic bridge
Walk straight ahead over this bridge, and follow the road as it veers around to the right.
Left onto Cliff Road
Turn left here and make your way into the dead-end street. That's Cliff Road. Walk up that. We're nearly back at the start.
Right onto Mission and End
Turn right onto Mission Street, and walk straight to end up at Elms Station where you began. You can visit it now if you want.
It's an essential stop for all visitors to Tauranga. There's a small fee to enter, which you pay at The Elms reception. Walking around the gardens here is always accessible, and parking just outside is free for up to 2 hours.
That's all from me. I hope you enjoy your time in vibrant Tauranga.