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Meet Rachel, a North Devonian with a passion for beaches, good food and beautiful places. With a 1 year working holiday VISA she set out to find a place which encompassed all three of these great loves and discovered the wonderful Mount Maunganui nestled in North Island of New Zealand.
We had a chat with Rachel, (@rwalkergram), to grab the details on her favourite places to eat, drink and explore in the beautiful Mount and why you should put it straight to the top of your wish list too.
We quickly discovered that brunch in the Mount is somewhat of a ritual. There is a crazy cafe culture there and weekends in particular see the hub of trendy cafes filled with people enjoying breakfasts all day long - many of which are in active wear after their morning yoga or walk up the Mount. In fact you feel a little out of place when you show up after clearly not having done a workout of some kind!
Initially we were a little overwhelmed at the choice of breakfast spots in the Mount! But it wasn’t long before we worked our way through them (a gruelling task, as I'm sure you can imagine).
Over time, we had a few faves:
All time favourite has to be Eddies and Elspeths. Breakfasts there are more like art. Dishes are colourful and adorned with fruity sauces and edible flowers. It became a fave because we knew we couldn’t possibly re-create any of the dishes ourselves. This ain’t no bacon sarnie spot.
Eighty-eight is also an incredible place. But my word, does it get busy at the weekends! Great selection of brunch and breakfast classics, with a cute little courtyard full of extra seating out the back.
The General is the largest cafe for brunching, so there’s more space to spread out your selection of food, coffee, smoothies, water and sauces across the table. And you definitely want to, because everything here is so flippin’ tasty.
Further down from the main hub of The Mount you reach Omanu. The George cafe sits one street back from the beach, which makes it the perfect spot to scoop up a coffee in your uber trendy re-usable cup, as you walk along the beach.
It’s also a fab little spot for lunch with a solid selection of both cabinet food and made-to-order dishes. With a strong ethical focus, they ensure all of the food is vegetarian, and most of the ingredients are produced and grown in their own garden (which of course makes it extra tasty).
The number one thing to do in the Mount, is walk the Mount. In fact it’s one of the most trekked footpaths in New Zealand, and you can totally see why! You can choose to bumble round the base, or tackle the summit; both of which take about 30-45 minutes, depending on your pace. Views from the top give you an incredible lookout of Mount Maunganui town and Tauranaga, and from the other side you can see the peaceful Matakana Island.
But it’s not all about the summit; the panoramic views from the base offer stunning glimpses of the rocky coast, with dozens of little coves and beaches.
You absolutely cannot visit Mount Maunganui without exploring the Mount itself.
The great thing about the Mount and Tauranga is there’s tonnes of dinner deals for thrifty foodies. Every single Tuesday we spent out evening in Astrolabe, for their “Tight-Arse Tuesday” deal of $10 burger (or veggie), fries and beer. We did it every week, but you literally couldn’t make it any cheaper than that yourself!
The Rising Tide is a dumpling house and brewery with an atmosphere that rivals its food. On Mondays AND Thursdays, they offer an $11 deal of 5 dumplings of your choice with a beer, wine, or gin. They often run events, have live music, or you can raid their stash of classic board games and play over drinks and dumplings. Dreamy.
If you have a few more pennies in your budget, Alpino is a top-notch intimate Italian restaurant, that uses authentic Italian ingredients, making it the perfect place for date night. They also do fabulous takeaway pizza for extra-fancy nights in.
The Mount itself doesn’t have a clubbing scene. It’s much more about bars than clubs, with happy hours in most places between about 4-7. ‘Hide’ in the Mount is an outdoor bar with a buzzing atmosphere, and after 10pm, they service $10 Espresso Martinis which quickly became a regular winner for us.
‘Totara St’ is the Mount’s music and nightlife venue. It hosts different bands, DJs and club nights ranging from Disco to Drum and Bass and everything in between!
The beauty of the Mount is the beach that runs alongside it. You have miles of beautiful sand and shore, with a short tuft of dunes separating the beach from the road. Rule of thumb; the further away from the Mount you walk, the quieter it gets, making the beach the ideal place to chill out away from the hustle and bustle. Theres often a little wave, which makes the surf great for learners.
In nearby Tauranga there’s a great music and theatre scene. Tauranga Musical Theatre put on 3 shows a year to an incredibly high standard. The Baycourt Theatre also hosts a range of shows, musicals and performances so be sure to check out whether something is on when you’re there!
We rented a flat for our year in the Mount, but there are a number of hostels in Mount Maunganui and in Tauranga that get a steady turnover of travellers! If you’re after location, nothing is more central than Mount Backpackers; right on the high street and a couple of minutes walk from the Mount and the beach.
Mount Maunganui certainly changes all year round. It was made for the summer because of its beach location. However, December through to March is incredibly busy, and finding central parking spots is exceptionally tricky. There are longer wait times in cafes and bars, and you’ll most likely be stuck behind someone as you hike the Mount!
On the flip side, the winter is blissfully quiet. The long stretch of beach makes it perfect to wander aimlessly with the crisp ocean breeze blowing away the cobwebs. Because the Mount is home to such a thriving cafe culture, winter days can be spent with coffees and hearty food whilst reading a book, without the guilt of knowing someone’s waiting for your table. The nightlife certainly settles down, however, and socialites may find the winter a little too empty for them.
Of course, in true goldilocks fashion, spring and autumn offer a little bit of both, which some would say is “juuustt right.” You get the warmth of the sun and more predictable weather, without the crazy amount of crowds.
Mount Maunagnui is great for anyone and everyone. You’re just as likely to see a child of 5 climbing the Mount as you are an 85 year old. With a couple of top camp sites (one of which is literally right at the base of the Mount - you cannot beat the views) and tonnes of holiday homes, it’s a great destination for family holidays. But with a definite surf scene and buzzing bar culture, it’s fab for backpackers and travellers too. There’s definitely a little bit of Mount Maunganui for everyone to enjoy.