The famous “base track” around Mauao in Mount Maunganui is one of New Zealand’s most popular scenic walks.
The 3.4km route will take you full circle around this extinct volcano and can be walked in either direction – from the white sand beach beside the ocean right around to the sheltered waters of Pilot Bay and vice versa.
Nearly one million people are believed to walk up or around Mauao every year, although no official records are kept. The pathway is wide in most places, with plenty of room for pushchairs, runners, and groups of people to walk side-by-side. It’s a good idea to walk on the left-hand side of the path (the same direction as we drive on our roads) to make room for people walking the opposite way.
There are public toilets at both ends of this track at Pilot Bay and in front of the surf lifesaving club. You’ll also find a water fountain on the ocean beach side, so make use of whatever facilities you need before you set off.
Mauao is almost completely surrounded by water and this base track offers fantastic harbour and ocean views. Watch vessels of all shapes and sizes sail past as they head for the marina, port or out to the open sea. This track is a great place to watch cruise ships arrive and depart also, as they pass amazingly close to Mauao’s rocks and sandy beaches. And if you look closely you can often spot a seal or two sunbathing on the rocks as you walk around.
Ancient pohutukawa trees cling gracefully to the slopes of Mauao, providing shade and a spectacular setting in which to walk. Every December these trees bloom with crimson flowers, earning the nickname “New Zealand’s Christmas tree”.
There are numerous park benches to sit and enjoy the view as you walk around this track. Matakana Island’s stunning beaches and forest can be clearly seen across the harbour entrance, and offshore islands are also visible on the ocean side of Mauao.
And there’s no reason why you have to stick to the well-worn pathway. Wander down to the sand or shell beaches as you come across them and dip your toes into the water. Or scramble over the large rocks which surround its base. Just be mindful of the surf as large waves can crash ashore here when conditions are rough, and lifeguards are not on hand.
Mauao was once a Maori pa site and evidence of trenches and ancient shell middens can be seen as you walk around. A small number of sheep now graze on the grassy slopes and are fenced off from the surrounding track.
It will take you around 45 minutes to circumnavigate this glorious base track. Finish your walk off with an ice-cream on the beach or a cold drink at a nearby café.
Mt Maunganui (Mauao) Base Track Walk