Story: Bay of Plenty places

Page 6. Mt Maunganui

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Mt Maunganui

Beach settlement, part of Tauranga city, on the sandy expanse between Tauranga Harbour and the Pacific Ocean. It was named after the mountain (252 m) at the harbour entrance.

In 2013 the population of Mt Maunganui (including Papamoa) was 33,357.

The mountain

According to legend the mountain once lay inland. Spurned by the beautiful mountain Pūwhenua, it begged the fairy-like creatures of the forest to drag it into the ocean. As they neared the water’s edge dawn broke, and the fairies fled, leaving the mountain caught forever in the light of day. Thereafter it was known as Mauao (Mau –‘caught’, ao – ‘light of day’). Later it was renamed Maunganui in memory of a similar mountain in Hawaiki, the Polynesian homeland of the Māori.


The magnificent stretch of beach attracted the first settlers in the early 1900s. The Mt Maunganui Surf Club was formed in 1914 and incorporated in 1930. Some houses clustered at the foot of the mountain, while at Moturiki, where the port now is, were railway workshops and associated housing for the construction of the East Coast main trunk line.

Tragedy in Tauranga Harbour

In December 1950 the passenger launch Ranui, on a holiday trip to Mayor Island, was struck by a single, massive wave. The boat capsized and was smashed to pieces on North Rock in Tauranga Harbour. Of the 23 passengers, only one survived. There is a memorial to those who died, on the walking track at the base of the mountain.


The 1950 decision to establish a deep-water port contributed to the growth of Mt Maunganui. It also became popular among holidaymakers from throughout the upper North Island. Throngs gather at the resort around New Year, in the summer holiday season. New Year’s Eve at ‘the Mount’ has been a byword for drunken revelry and mass arrests.

The opening of the Tauranga Harbour bridge in 1988 was a prelude to the incorporation of ‘the Mount’ into Tauranga in 1989, along with the ocean-front suburbs of Ōmanu and Papamoa.

How to cite this page:

Malcolm McKinnon, 'Bay of Plenty places - Mt Maunganui', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 24 July 2024)

Story by Malcolm McKinnon, published 5 Dec 2005, updated 1 Jul 2015