Tauranga Bay of Plenty

208km (129 miles) SE of Auckland; 86km (53 miles) NW of Rotorua

Tauranga is no longer the sleepy place of my childhood holidays. Somewhere along the way, it has transformed itself into a sort of miniature version of Australia's Gold Coast. Today, it is New Zealand's second-fastest-growing area after Queenstown. It has a population of about 82,300 and boasts 2,400 hours of sunshine per year. Tauranga and its nearby beachfront neighbor, Mount Maun-ganui, are confident, thriving urban centers, and no matter what time of year you visit, you'll be spoiled with choices for anything related to outdoor beach-driven activity.

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