From the base of the volcano Mauao, a white sand surf beach stretches as far as the eye can see. Catch a wave or cruise the many cafés.

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"The Mount" is the colloquial name for Mount Maunganui, a beach town that occupies a peninsula at the southern end of Tauranga Harbour. The peninsula is actually a huge sandbar, with a sheltered bay on the inner harbour side and a magnificent surf beach on the ocean side.

At the very tip of the peninsula is a dormant volcano - Mauao - which rises to 230 metres above sea level. There's a choice of tracks leading to the summit, some more challenging than others. Huge views of the harbour, beach and Pacific Ocean make the effort totally worthwhile.

Mauao is an archaeological site of national significance, with a large pa (fort) site on top of the mountain. A Maori legend tells of Mauao trying to drag himself into the sea to escape the misery of an unrequited love; the result was his lonely position on the edge of the peninsula.

The Mount's glorious surf beach is patrolled by lifeguards throughout the summer and by volunteers for the rest of the year. The busiest section of the beach is close to Mauao; if you walk eastward toward Papamoa you'll find fewer people and more sand to call your own.

The beach's reputation as a surfing mecca recently moved up a level with the installation of an artificial reef that produces consistently perfect waves. The reef is located 250m offshore and sits 0.4m below the lowest tide level, so it's not visible above water. It has been designed to produce fast peeling, tubing, right-hand and left-hand waves, suitable for competent and experienced surfers.

As befits a resort town by the sea, the Mount has a lively array of cafés, restaurants and shops, as well as naturally heated salt water pools. You'll also find plenty to keep you occupied in the outdoors too - big game fishing, dolphin tours, blokarting and dive trips are easy to organise. Accommodation options range from private holiday homes to sophisticated serviced apartments and hotels.

Functional facts: Approx. population 30,387, visitor centre, domestic airport (Tauranga).