Alternative Cruise Shore Excursions in Tauranga, New Zealand (On Your Own)
Tauranga is a harborside city in the Bay of Plenty region on New Zealand's North Island. It hosts historic buildings like the Elms Mission Station, an 1847 Georgian-style home. A bridge over the harbor connects Tauranga to Mount Maunganui, a beach town with hot saltwater pools and an extinct namesake volcano with winding walking paths. Offshore is the active volcano White Island, accessible by helicopter or boat. Tauranga has been booming since the 1990s, and remains one of New Zealand's fastest-growing cities - especially popular with families and retirees cashing up from Auckland's hyperkinetic real-estate market. It's also New Zealand's busiest port ? with petrol refineries and mountains of coal and lumber - but it's beach-seeking holidaymakers who have seen the old workhorse reborn as a show pony. Restaurants and bars line the vamped-up waterfront, fancy hotels rise high, and the once-sleepy burbs of Mt Maunganui and Papamoa have woken up to new prosperity. This is about as Riviera as New Zealand gets. With all of these fabulous attributes, Tauranga is a great place to experience, and there are several options for budget friendly shore excursions and tours for while you are in port here.
This 5-hour shore excursion from New Zealand's Bay of Plenty highlights the rural riches of the Tauranga region. After pickup at the cruise terminal at Mount Maunganui, enjoy the ease of small-group transport into the countryside of Tauranga, passing the Bay of Plenty en route to the town of Te Puke, considered New Zealand's kiwifruit capital. Stop at the horticultural theme park of Kiwifruit Country, which showcases the country's signature fruit. Then discover the healing properties of manuka honey and taste a variety of products at the Bee Hive, where you'll go behind the scenes to witness the bees at work. Your 5-hour tour continues through the Kaimai mountain range, stopping for lunch at a country cafe. In the afternoon, take a guided bush walk past native trees at McLaren Falls Park, and snap photos of its namesake waterfall tumbling through boulders in the river. Returning to Tauranga via the top of the Minden lookout, stop for a scenic glimpse over the Bay of Plenty before you're driven along the inner harbor and back to the cruise port.
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Swap the Tauranga cruise port for the Shire, featured in 'The Lord of the Rings' and 'The Hobbit' trilogies, on a Hobbiton Movie Set shore excursion. Located about an hour from Tauranga, where you'll be picked up at the port, the Hobbiton Movie Set is situated on rolling farmland that depicts the Shire, a region inhabited by hobbits in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Departing the Bay of Plenty over the Tauranga Harbour Bridge, you'll journey through the Kaimai mountain range before your group arrives at your Waikato destination near the town of Matamata. Meet a specialized guide for a 2-hour tour of the Hobbiton Movie Set, which provides an up-close look behind the scenes of director Peter Jackson's famous film trilogies. LOTR fans can crouch in front of hobbit holes for photo ops and see structures such as the double-arched bridge, the Mill and the party tree, where Bilbo had his farewell birthday party. Walk to the Green Dragon Inn, sip a complimentary local ale, cider or ginger beer. After your meal, leave Hobbiton behind and make a stop at McLaren Falls Park for a bush walk to its namesake waterfalls. Here, your guide provides cloaks, hats and swords so you can dress up as your favorite character from The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, posing for photos against this scenic backdrop. On the way back to the Tauranga port, make a quick stop to taste New Zealand manuka honey, try local ice cream or stop at a beach, if time permits.
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Start your shore excursion with pickup from the cruise port in Tauranga, departing Mt Maunganui for a day trip through the North Island's lake country, sprinkled with more than a dozen pristine lakes. En route to Rotorua, hear insightful live commentary on board the vehicle as you travel past the lovely waterfront and Bay of Plenty. A short drive brings you to your first stop in the town of Te Puke, considered New Zealand's kiwifruit capital. Visit Kiwifruit Country, and learn more about this special fruit. Next, drive past rolling farmland and pine tree forests then disembark for a brief stroll to Okere Falls, a small town popular for its waterfalls and lakefront views. Stop for lunch beside Lake Rotorua before visiting the thermal wonderland of Whakarewarewa in the afternoon. Follow a Maori guide through a lunar-like landscape of hot springs and mud pools, and see the eruption of Pohutu Geyser. You'll hear how the indigenous people used the jets of steam from the bubbling cauldrons for everyday functions. Discover more Maori customs at a Maori village, starting with a traditional welcome. Enjoy a performance of song and dance, including the warlike haka. After, go sightseeing in Rotorua city. View the Government Gardens, historical bath house and natural hot springs at Whangapipiro (Rachel's Pool) as well as Lake Tarawera if time allows. Complete your Rotorua shore excursion with the return to Mt Maunganui, following a scenic route via the Tauranga city center before crossing the harbor bridge to the port.
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Meet your private guide at pickup once your cruise ship pulls into port in Tauranga, and relax during the 1.5-hour scenic drive to the Wai-O-Tapu thermal wonderland of Rotorua, home to some of New Zealand's most stunning volcanic features. You can choose among several well-defined 30- to 75-minute walking tracks that wind over uneven terrain past bubbling springs of vibrant hues ranging from turquoise to olive-green. See the Mud Pool at the site of a former mud volcano and stroll by the mineral-rich waters of the Champagne Pool. Don't miss the daily eruption of the Lady Knox Geyser, which ejects hot water up to heights of 33 to 66 feet (10 to 20 meters) from its conical white mound. Continue on by private vehicle to Whakarewarewa, the living Maori village. Learn about Maori customs and traditions on a guided tour, including how the hot springs and steaming vents have been used for centuries to cook food. Watch for Pohutu Geyser, which spurts 100 feet (30 meters) into the air up to 20 times a day. You'll have plenty of time for photo ops and a lunch break before your full-day shore excursion ends with a return to your cruise ship at the Port of Tauranga.
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