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School Holidays In The Bay

School holidays are the time to ditch the routine and discover new ways to relax, connect and have fun as a family. A beach holiday in the Bay of Plenty could be just what you need – think sunshine, outdoor adventure, parks and playgrounds, yummy food and unique attractions you’ll never forget!

This region offers so much more than sand and surf (although the beach is pretty great, even in winter). Here are our top picks for family fun in the Bay these school holidays.

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Splash out on a family-size treat and book a wildlife tour with Dolphin Seafaris. You’ll see seals, penguins, albatross, whales and majestic dolphins at home in their natural habitat. Or paddle across tranquil Lake McLaren as the sun sets during Waimarino’s Evening Glow Worm Kayak Tour. This is guaranteed to wow all ages as you discover a hidden canyon brimming with luminescent glow worms. Truly magical. 

If you’re after something more low-key, enjoy a soak at the Mount Hot Pools and let your kids loose on the mini water slide. The Bay’s most famous ice-cream shop, Copenhagen Cones, is right across the road and you can enjoy a stroll around Mauao or along Pilot Bay before or after. Kids will also love the hydro slide, wave pool and new Aqua Station play area at Baywave where they can splash to their heart’s content.

Explore Tauranga Moana on the historic Kewpie; jump onboard their scheduled 1-hour cruise, sit back, relax and take in the sights. You can choose to stay on board for the whole hour, or stop off on Matakana and get picked up by the Kewpie on one of their later stops.

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Tear around a purpose-built indoor electric drift trike track at BayStation or try your hand at wind-powered blokarts. Laser tag and paintball are also on offer here!  Put your brain-power and teamwork skills to the test at Flummox Escape Rooms and try to ‘unlock’ your themed room in under 60 minutes, or have a good old family battle at Tenpin Tauranga followed by arcade games and New York-style pizza.

In a virtual world, anything is possible and the Bay has two fantastic experiences your family will love. The Aviator lets you take to the skies and fly a fighter jet, WWII warbird or Iroquois helicopter in one of six incredible VR flight simulators. This is as real as it gets! Meanwhile, The Cave is every gamer’s dream venue. You can explore new worlds, go head-to-head on racing simulators and enjoy retro gaming arcades. Solo and multiplayer games are available for ages 8-years and up.

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In Te Puke you'll find Kiwifruit Country which showcases one of the Bay’s biggest export earners – kiwifruit. This is a great chance to see Mother Nature at work by exploring a working orchard. Kiwifruit Country offers daily tours and serves up delicious kiwifruit ice-cream at the end, plus lots of other edible goodies.

If your kids are into planes, make sure you visit the Classic Flyers aviation museum. Classic aircraft – some of which you can climb in and out of – are displayed in a huge open hanger alongside vintage memorabilia. Marshalls Animal Park is another long-time favourite here in the Bay. Children can feed and play with all sorts of farmyard animals and check out emus, ostriches, Texas longhorns, Clydesdales and miniature horses, just to name a few. Katikati Bird Gardens is also popular with families. Let your kids run around this wide open space alongside many varieties of birds, some of which wander free while others are in aviaries scattered throughout the gardens.

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The Bay has some wonderful campgrounds and beachside accommodation, so hire a campervan, pitch a tent, book a cabin or rent a bach for the school holidays. Upmarket hotels and motels are a great option too.

Awesome playgrounds are always within easy reach. If you’re staying at Mount Maunganui, visit Hopukiore (Mount Drury) for a good run around. Or if you’re on the other side of the bridge, Memorial Park or the Tauranga Waterfront playground are always popular. The latter is also home to the famed Hairy Maclary bronze sculptures which your kids will love climbing all over.

Family-friendly dining options are easy to find – check out Astrolabe, On the Island, Barrio Brothers, Brooklyn Patio, Grindz Café, CBK Craft Beer Kitchen and Bobby’s Fresh Fish Market for some laid-back fare with plenty of room for kids to be kids.

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