Leaving from Tauranga?
Head north out of Tauranga on SH2 head past Katikati onto Waihi. Visit the Waihi Gold Discovery Centre and learn about the past and present gold story. Visit the Waterlily Gardens see the beauty of this place with 20 ponds and gorgeous grounds. Then go right onto SH25. Continue on through Whiritoa, then onto Whangamata. A great place to break the trip. Good coffee from Port Road Project or lunch at sixfortysix. The Little Gallery has fantastic visual art, jewellery and sculptures. If time permits just south is Wentworth Valley and an easy walk over river crossings leads you to a stunning 40m waterfall. Or a swim/surf experience perhaps find that famous left hand break.
Continue on and the next populated area to pass is Pauanui Beach. With its 3km coastline its popular for long strolls, surfing (lessons available) & swimming. Also this beach area has three great golf courses if you are looking for a game.
Carry on down SH25/Tairua Rd and come into the seaside village of Tairua. Have a coffee at one of the many cafes and let the kids stretch their legs at the park. When ready to head off you will head up over Pumpkin Hill and can stop and get a photo at the look out at the top on the right hand side.
Coming off the Tairua hill you will come into a little settlement called Whenukite. Here you will see the Hot Water Beach / Cathedral Cove turn off sign. Grab a spade and dig your own spa pool in the sand. Geothermal activity makes this beach a very special experience. Be sure to time it around the low tide (two hours either side will give you a 4 hour window to discover the hot water).
10mins from Hot Water Beach is the idyllic Hahei with its very own marine reserve. It is the gateway point to the famous Cathedral Cove. You can access Cathedral Cove by foot or by the water taxi if it is available (weather dependent). This is a great spot for a swim and there are great snorkeling or diving opportunities too.
Leaving Hahei, travel about 20 minutes and you will arrive in Whitianga. We recommend you base yourself in Whitianga for at least 3 nights to do justice to the region with all its attractions and sites to see.