The Best Mount Maunganui Walks: How to Hike the Mount
Summary of post: the two best Mount Maunganui walks, and what to know before you go!
There’s a lot to see and do in Mount Maunganui, including its gorgeous white sand beach and lovely cafes.
One thing you absolutely can’t miss, though, is a walk up (or around!) Mount Maunganui’s namesake volcanic cone, also known as “the Mount” or “Mauao.”
Mauao is an iconic part of the local landscape. The lush, green mountain looks over the township and turquoise sea below, and while it’s lovely to view from afar (you can see Mauao from miles away!), it’s even better up close. Both locals and visitors love to jog or stroll along its scenic trails.
Mount Maunganui offers two main options for walks, as follows:
- Mount Maunganui Summit Walk: walk 45-minutes (one-way) up to the top of Mount Maunganui, which offers epic views over the ocean and city. This is a strenuous walk that’s best for fit walkers who are up for a good workout.
- Mount Maunganui Base Track: walk 45-minutes (round trip) along the base of Mount Maunganui, with gorgeous coastal scenery the whole way. This is an easy walk that’s suitable for walkers of most fitness levels.
Now that you have an overview of your walking options, let’s get into the nitty-gritty details of what each walk entails. In this guide, we’re covering everything you need to know about both of the Mount Maunganui walks.
Table of Contents
1. Mount Maunganui Summit Walk
- Distance: 6.4 km (4 miles)
- Time to walk: 1.5 hours return (round trip)
- Elevation gain: 232 meters (761 feet)
- Difficulty: Moderate-Hard
Map of the Mount Maunganui Summit Walk
For one of the North Island’s most epic coastal views, hit the trail for the Mount Maunganui summit.
Seriously, though, the views here are killer—as is the walk, which will have your legs burning the whole way up!
You have a couple of different options for reaching the summit, but we recommend that you hike up the 4WD Track, then down the Waikorere Track.
The reason for this is that the 4WD track offers a gentler climb up to the top, while the Waikorere Track will give you awesome views over Mount Maunganui Beach on the way down.
The 4WD track starts at Pilot Bay. From Pilot Bay, start walking clockwise (left) along the Mount Base track for about 50 meters, and you’ll see signage for the 4WD track on the righthand side of the trail. Take the 4WD track.
Climb up the wooden stairs and walk through the gate (make sure to close any gates behind you—they’re there to keep livestock in place). You’ll then start the gentle ascent along the 4WD track. The track name is a bit misleading as you won’t actually spot any 4WD vehicles along here (except for maybe the odd maintenance truck)—it’s closed off to public vehicle access and is meant for people to enjoy on foot.
Take in the views of the Tauranga harbor as you walk up the track. You’ll probably spot some sheep hanging out on the sides of the track, and make sure to admire the epic mural on the water tank partway up.
As you keep climbing up the track, you’ll get fantastic views of pine-studded Matakana Island just across the harbor.
After 45 minutes of walking up the 4WD track, you’ll reach the summit of Mauao. You’re probably going to want to spend some time walking around the summit and taking in the panoramic views over the city and ocean. It’s truly one of the best views around, especially if you’ve managed to get up early and catch the sunrise from up top!
Once you’ve enjoyed the summit, begin your descent along the Waikorere Track. This track is quite steep and narrow, with lots of stairs—so make sure you don’t let the views distract you too much and watch your footing as you make your way down!
After 30-40 minutes, you’ll reach the Mount Main Beach, which may be beckoning you for a swim. We say go for it—or head on over to the Mount Hot Pools for a well-deserved soak after your workout.
Alternate walking option: For a quicker (and steeper) walk, you can simply take the Waikorere Track both up to the summit and back down to the beach. This will shorten the walk to about an hour return (not counting any time you spend up at the summit).
Some FAQs for the Mount Maunganui Summit Walk:
It will take around 45 minutes to hike up to the Mount Maunganui summit. Hiking back down will take another 35-45 minutes.
The walk to the Mount Maunganui summit is moderately hard. It’s steep going up, but because it’s a short walk, most people can tackle this hike if they’re reasonably fit.
You can do this hike year-round.
While any time of day is good for this walk, we recommend timing your hike with sunrise or sunset. The views from the summit are spectacular at golden hour!
2. Mount Maunganui Base Track
- Distance: 3.4 km (2.1 miles)
- Time to walk: 45 minutes return (round trip)
- Elevation gain: 20 meters (65 feet)
- Difficulty: Easy
Map of the Mount Maunganui Base Track
The Mount Maunganui Base Track offers stunning seaside views from an easy, well-formed walking track.
We like to do this walk clockwise, starting in Pilot Bay and ending at the Mount Main Beach. We find that the scenery gets progressively better when you walk in this direction, but you really can’t go wrong either way! If you choose to walk in a counter-clockwise direction, simply follow these directions in reverse.
Start your walk at the northernmost end of Pilot Bay, where the road ends and meets up with a gravel trail. To help you get your bearings: at the start of the walk, Pilot Bay should be on your left side, and Mount Maunganui Beachside Holiday Park will be on your right side.
Continue following the gravel trail, and admire the fishing boats anchored in Pilot Bay. Keep following the track as you make your way around the Mount.
As you reach the northern side of the Mount, you’ll get awesome views of Matakana Island across the harbor entrance. You may spot a cargo ship making its way into the harbor, with multicolored shipping containers stacked sky-high.
You’ll then walk under a shaded canopy of Pohutukawa trees; in the summertime, their red blooms offer beautiful pops of color against the turquoise sea.
Along the walk, you’ll find plenty of benches to rest on and watch the surf pound against the rocks below. Keep your eyes peeled for seals frolicking in the water, too.
On the eastern side of the base track, you’ll find shell-studded beach coves that are worth exploring if the tide is low enough. We love popping down to the coves to admire the thousands of shells that seem to wash up here.
When you’re ready to keep walking, continue on the track to the Mount Main Beach. The trail will emerge between the holiday park and the beach. Once you get to the beach, you could continue on with a sandy stroll, or simply head back to your starting point in Pilot Bay to make this walk a complete loop.
Some FAQs for the Mount Maunganui Base Track:
The Base Track is 3.4km (2.1 miles) in total.
This track is easy (unlike the hike to the Mount Maunganui summit). Expect gentle inclines and easy walking on this track.
This track is pram-friendly, but please take care and be prepared for some gentle inclines along the walk.
General Tips for these Mount Maunganui Walks
- There are no rubbish bins or toilets on the trails, but you’ll find both of these amenities at the start and end of these walks.
- No dogs are allowed on either of these walks.
- Make sure to bring a bottle of water with you, and put on a hat and plenty of sunblock! You can top up your water bottle at the water refilling station at the Mount Main Beach.
Other Things You Should Know Before Planning Your Mount Maunganui Walks
- Summer (Dec-Feb) is a popular time to visit Mount Maunganui, so if you visit in the summer months, expect crowds! In particular, we recommend avoiding the two weeks around Christmas/New Years, as the whole place becomes jam-packed with people.
- Parking can be tough around the Mount, especially in the summer. We recommend parking down by Mount Maunganui Beach, and then you can walk to the Mount from there.
- It wouldn’t be a bad idea to pack a swimsuit with you for a post-walk swim in the sea! For calm swimming, go to Pilot Bay. Strong swimmers will enjoy the Mount Main Beach.
- You’ll deserve a treat after your walk, and there’s no shortage of good food and drinks in Mount Maunganui! For good coffee and excellent cafe meals, we love the General. If an ice cream is calling your name, head to Copenhagen Cones.
- For the ultimate post-walk reward, visit the Mount Hot Pools for a soak in their heated saltwater pools.
Where to Stay in Mount Maunganui: the Best Accommodation Close to the Mount Walks!
Camping in Mount Maunganui
The Mount Maunganui Beachside Holiday Park offers camping sites for tents or vans, along with cabins and retro caravans. This holiday park is in an incredible spot at the base of the Mount, right next to the beach (and the start/end of these walks!).
Hotels in Mount Maunganui
The Mission Belle Motel is our go-to accommodation option in Mount Maunganui.
They have modern, comfortable rooms and are located in a fantastic spot near the town’s main shops and cafes. You can easily walk to the Mount from the motel in under 10 minutes.
Airbnbs in Mount Maunganui
There are heaps of cute Airbnbs in Mount Maunganui. For couples: we’ve personally stayed in this adorable studio and just loved it (it’s even better than it looks in photos). This beachside unit comes highly recommended by my sister.
We hope this guide has helped you plan your Mount Maunganui walks. If you have any questions about these walks (or other activities in Mount Maunganui), ask away in the comments and we’ll be happy to help!
More Adventures Nearby
- If you like beaches and coastal walks, don’t miss a road trip to the nearby Coromandel Peninsula.
- For geothermal wonders and beautiful bush walks, head to Rotorua. We’ve written a guide to the best free things to do in Rotorua—and many of them are walks!
- Another North Island “must-do” day hike is the Putaruru Blue Springs walk, which follows a crystal-clear turquoise river you have to see to believe.