© NZPocketGuide.com
© NZPocketGuide.com

A Leisurely Stroll on Moturiki (Leisure Island)

© NZPocketGuide.com

324 Days on the Road

It’s our final day here in Tauranga, and what better way to celebrate than with a free activity?! (Well, there are probably heaps of better ways to celebrate but when you’re a backpacker, free activities tend to be the way to go….)

Strolling on The Strand

After some breakfast and a bit of a work session at the Harbourside City Backpackers, we roll out onto the waterfront of Tauranga known as ‘The Strand’. It’s right on the hostel’s doorstep! So we take a stroll along The Strand passing all sorts of weird and wonderful sculptures and water features. Our destination is over the bridge to the suburb of Mt Maunganui Beach so that we can check out Moturiki, a.k.a. Leisure Island. It doesn’t really make a lick of sense considering we were staying over in Mt Maunganui for an entire week, but only now have we found the time visit Moturiki. We have our car parked at the end of The Strand, so we hop in for the 10-minute drive to the beach.

Life’s a beach!

In the industrial landscape of Tauranga, Mt Maunganui Beach instantly transports you to a holiday resort of surf (sometimes), sand and sea. There are a couple of off-shore islands seen from the long stretch of dusty white sand beach, and Moturiki is by far the most accessible. Thanks to a pile of rocks topped with a walking track, a bridge has been built leading from the beach to the island. As we are entering the island, however, we get completely distracted by how climbable these rocks are… Yes, really, we are seven years old!

Rock pool rummaging

The rocks surrounding Moturiki have been weathered away into all kinds of crazy shapes by the ocean. At the base of the rock, heaps of barnacles, limpets, little seashell-dwelling creatures and more cling to the rocks and gather around rock pools. We get all David Attenborough on them, checking out the fine specimens, before finally getting our act together and walking on this Goddamn island!

A colourful and crazy history on Moturiki

Getting back to the clear main path of the island, there is an interpretation panel outlining Moturiki’s colourful history. Moturiki was once a Maori pa site (a fortified village) before European settlers took the land to use as a quarry. In the 1960s, the island was used as an aquarium where marine wildlife were on display. An old photo of a common dolphin jumping out of a small pool for some food is shown on the interpretation panel. Not soon enough, the attraction closed in 1990, yet still people remember the island as “Leisure Island”.

Some sweet views from the edge of Moturiki!

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Getting off the beaten track

Although the main track heads straight through the middle of the island, we instantly take a bit of a detour to where we guess the old pools were. They have since been filled up, but the vegetation is quickly growing back making them relatively difficult to spot. We also find ourselves looking at some sort of cross-section of the land covered in tree roots.

Taking in the coastal views of The Mount

Lots of these little side tracks take us to lots of hidden natural settings around the 2.5ha island, but they all eventually lead back onto the main track. Within only about 10 minutes, we are coming to the end of the island where the vegetation opens up to reveal some awesome views of the surrounding coastal landscape. On one side, we have the beach leading up to Mauao or The Mount – another great place for walks and vistas, which we found out about a week ago. On the other side is the forested island of Motuotau, which the birds look like they are having one hell of a time on.

Who needs blowholes?

A rocky cliff edge gives us our final viewpoint at the end of the island looking down to the rock pools below. On a high-swell day, this would usually be a good place to watch water shooting into the air from the blowholes, but today the water is as calm as a lake making it all the more peaceful to hang out here for a while and reflect on our travels and think about returning to Auckland tomorrow after 325 days of exploring this incredible country.

With that, we take the quick walk back to Mt Maunganui Beach and drive back to the Harbourside City Backpackers because tonight is Bingo Night with some insane prizes to be won!

Bingo Night at the Harbourside City Backpackers!

Thanks to all the posters around the hostel, we meet with a group of fellow backpackers in the lounge at 8pm. A few people have brought snacks and drinks, while the hostel managers have brought the bingo. We go through a couple of games where pretty hilarious prizes are handed out, like a voucher for a postcard, chocolate, a football and a bottle of something. Unfortunately for us, we won’t be sending our family any postcards – that’s only for winners!

It has been an entertaining end to our stay in Tauranga, but as we said, tomorrow it’s back to Auckland, which was our home turf before this trip. We can’t believe the amount of awesome things that we have done since we were here last, but it’s comforting to know that we still have 40 days left of this action-packed adventure to enjoy. Tomorrow it continues with one of the cheapest cruises you can probably find in the Auckland Harbour! Join us then!

You do know you can go around the log, Robin?

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See you tomorrow!