Caught by the Dawn.

Also known as Mount Maunganui, Mauao is an extinct volcanic cone in Tauranga. It is well known as a sacred site for local Maori, where it plays a role in their mythology. Nowadays, it is also a popular walking spot, with gorgeous views of the harbour and beyond. I have lost count of the number of times I have scaled this mountain and walked around it. This was a popular place to visit during my childhood, and still is now.

The Legend.

For all the major hills and landmarks in NZ, Maori have their own stories about how they came to be. Mauao’s origin story is… interesting. There were three mountains which overlooked Tauranga. Otanewainuku was an impressive hill blinged out with tall trees and many birds. He had a slave known as ‘the nameless one’. Nearby there lived a beautiful female hill called Puwhenua. ‘The nameless one’ desired Puwhenua’s affection, but her heart was won over by Otanewainuku. Extremely distressed by this, the nameless hill called upon some magical night fairies to take him to the ocean, so he could drown.The fairies used powerful ropes to pull this mountain out towards the harbour, carving a valley in the process. The dawn was fast approaching, so the fairies retreated into the forest, giving this mountain the name Mauao, which means ‘caught by the dawn’. When the sun rose, it transfixed Mauao in his place.


Doing the walk.

There are two main walks on Mauao, and both have their own merits. You can either walk around the base or scale the summit.

Going around.

This is a relaxing 45-minute walk with views of the harbour, ocean and Matakana Island.

Going around the Mount, Matakana Island is in the distance, on the other side of the channel.
Looking at Moturiki Island and Mount Maunganui Beach (partly obscured by trees) towards the end of the walk.
Looking back along the track.

Going up.

Scaling this mountain only takes around 45 minutes also, but these 45 minutes will have you feeling breathless. However, the views from the top will take your breath away even more, making this short walk well worth doing. There are two options for ascending. You can go up on the eastern side, which has lots of steps, or the western side which follows a road and track, but with no steps.

Looking back at the Mount Maunganui township.


Ascending Mauao on the western side, with views of Matakana Island and the Kaimai Ranges in the distance.
Looking at Matakana and the Kaimai Ranges from the summit.
Saving the best photo for last…

In closing.

Mauao is a local icon and a landmark in Tauranga which you mustn’t miss. Exploring this place offers plenty of reward for minimal effort.

10 thoughts on “Caught by the Dawn.

      1. Good question. I went out with a friend so I felt safe. But on your own, maybe not, especially if you’re female. You won’t see many people walking there at night though.


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