Tauranga's population has doubled in the last 20 years. Doubled! And they're not just moving here to be close to the giant fiberglass kiwifruit down the road. The weather's good, the lifestyle is amazing and the incredible Mount Maunganui is just across the bridge.
They call the mountain Mauao these days (by 'these days' we mean for the last 600 years, with a brief interruption at the end of last century), and it's a beauty of a thing: a big lava dome that you can walk up or around, with epic views of the sparkling Bay of Plenty. At the end of your walk, soak your weary body in New Zealand's only heated salt water pools - a nice change from most public pools, which are warm and salty for all the wrong reasons.
Mount Maunganui beach stretches along 20km of coastline. That's a heck of a long beach - but you'll know that already if, like us, you've ever spent New Year's Eve at a bar in the Mount and decided to walk back to your place in Papamoa at the end of the night.
Take our word for it, there's buggar all to do on that beach at 3am in the morning, but there's plenty on during the day. The surfing at Tay Street was primo even before they installed the artificial surf reef 250 metres off shore. And, for the more adventurous, there's kite surfing - it combines all the best elements of both surfing and… um, kites.
Tauranga itself has everything you'd ever need in a city, and refurbished main street The Strand is looking like a million bucks. Outside the city, there's a cluster of charming smaller towns in the area worth visiting on a driving tour. Waihi is New Zealand's 'heart of gold', Katikati is 'the mural town', and Te Puke has that glorious fiberglass kiwifruit. If New Zealand ever gets invaded, do you think we'd all manage to hide inside it?