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Tauranga (pronounced 'toe-run-gah') has been booming since the 1990s and in 2017 it leapfrogged Dunedin to become NZ's fifth-biggest city. It's especially popular with retirees cashing up from Auckland's hyperkinetic real-estate market, along with young families who can no longer afford to buy there.

Its rapid rise has left it with traffic snarls on its arterial routes to rival even Auckland's. It also has NZ's busiest port, with petrol refineries and mountains of coal and lumber spoiling what was once a lovely view from the city centre to Mt Maunganui.

However, this growth has also brought with it fancy hotels and a terrific crop of restaurants and bars enlivening its vamped-up waterfront. Tauranga's city centre is never going to rival its beachside 'burbs, Mt Maunganui and Papamoa, for visitor appeal but if you're staying at the Mount, it's well worth popping over for a bite and a look around.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Tauranga.