Tauranga, New Zealand North Island

Tauranga (Tauranga-moana in Māori language) is located along the Bay of Plenty in northcentral New Zealand on the North Island. It proudly displays monuments to the Māori people who first settled here in the 13th century. The city is also adorned with murals. Many of them are giant reproductions of Renaissance classics.

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1 Bay of Plenty along Tauranga, New Zealand

The northcentral shores of the North Island are defined by the Bay of Plenty. This is a large curved coastline called a bight. Historians believe this region is where some of the earliest Polynesian settlers landed their canoes during the 13th century and evolved into the Māori people. They call the area Te Moana-a-Toi. Tauranga is the region’s largest city with a population of about 140,000 residents. The boat and jet ski are approaching the city’s harbor after entering a channel between Matakana Island and Mount Maunganui.

Bay of Plenty, Tauranga 3110, New Zealand
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2 Brief History of Tauranga, New Zealand

Central Tauranga is on the Te Papa Peninsula meaning flat land. The original Māori tribes called their settlement Tauranga-moana. The first Europeans where British Anglicans. The Church Missionary Society purchased land from the indigenous people in 1835 to establish a mission station. In 1864, the British military built Camp Te Papa at Monmouth Redoubt at the northern edge of today’s central business district. As the town grew during the late 19th century and early 20th century, the Borough Council bought waterfront property for recreational use. In 1916, the East Coast Railway finished laying tracks parallel to the harbor. All of these historical events are evident as you walk along The Strand. The last major development was the construction of a bridge across the harbor in 1988. It connected Tauranga with its neighboring peninsula capped by Mount Maunganui. The Mount is a 761 foot lava dome formed two to three million years ago.

Tauranga Harbour, Tauranga 3110, New Zealand
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3 Tangaroa Sculpture in Tauranga, New Zealand

As you enter Tauranga Harbour, you are greeted by a sculpture of Tangaroa, the Māori god of the seas. The deity is holding a traditional warrior club (mere) and a battle staff (taiaha). Tangaroa’s crouched position represents wero, a ritual used to determine a visitor’s good or bad intentions. The 9.8 foot bronze sculpture was created by Frank Szirmay in 1973. Three years later, during the harbor’s centennial, the statue was positioned on a plinth at Stoney Point. The sandbar is submerged during high tide.

Stoney Point, Tauranga Harbour, Tauranga 3110, New Zealand
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4 Floral Steamer at The Strand in Tauranga, New Zealand

The Strand is a public park along Tauranga Harbour. It was originally called The Beach. Among its features are Waterworld, a playground, tidal steps, sculptures, a promenade plus cafes and taverns. The waterfront recreation area was developed in the early 1900s in response to the planned railway. The centerpiece of Te Papa Peninsula Gardens is Floral Steamer. The topiary was created in 1938 by Charles Cameron while the main gardener for the Borough Council.

The Strand & Harington St, Tauranga 3110, New Zealand
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5 Herriers Memorial Arch at The Strand in Tauranga, New Zealand

Londoner Williams Herries immigrated to New Zealand in 1881 at the age of 22. A farmer by trade, he was a member of New Zealand’s Parliament representing the Bay of Plenty Region and Tauranga from 1896 until 1923 when he died. He was also the Minister of Railways and Minister of Native Affairs. Sir Herriers’ will bequeathed a sizable sum to the city. The money was used to create a garden at Herries Park within The Strand. This stone arch was erected in his memory in 1929 along the Edward VII Esplanade.

The Strand & Harington St, Tauranga 3110, New Zealand
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6 Te Kahui Matariki at The Strand in Tauranga, New Zealand

At the northern edge of The Strand are seven wooden carvings (poupou) by James Tapiata. The ensemble is called Te Kahui Matariki. They represent the Pleiades cluster of stars, part of the Taurus constellation. They are also referred to as the Seven Sisters. This figure is Te Kāhui O Matariki. According to the Māori culture, when Matariki appears for the first time in late May or early June, this signals the beginning of a new lunar year.

The Strand & Harington St, Tauranga 3110, New Zealand
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7 Māori Canoe Display in Tauranga, New Zealand

According to legend, Polynesians traveled in canoes (waka) from the mythological Hawaiki to New Zealand. Archeologists suggest the first landing was circa 1280. They named themselves Māori meaning normal. Tuti Tukaokao spent 22 months carving this 46 foot long canoe from a 300 year old kauri tree. Te Awanui was launched in 1973. This was the original name for Tauranga Harbour. When the Tauranga Moana tribe is not using the vessel for celebrations, it is displayed inside a hut named Te Urunga at the north end of The Strand.

Te Urunga, 17 The Strand, Tauranga 3110, New Zealand
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8 Fisherman’s Wharf in Tauranga, New Zealand

Fisherman’s Wharf is a commercial landing for about 70 fishermen who troll the waters around Tauranga. You can charter an inshore or offshore trip to try your luck at catching snapper, yellow tailed kingfish and tuna. If you prefer eating fish and chips without the work, then walk no further than Bobby’s Fresh Fish Market. Judging from the smiles of patrons on the outside patio and sneaky seagulls, the food is highly recommended. In the background you can see inflatable water toys and swimming dock. These are part of Waterworld on The Strand.

1 Dive Cres, Tauranga 3110, New Zealand
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9 Messenger Mural by Williams in Tauranga, New Zealand

Charles and Janice Williams are accomplished urban artists. As part of a crew called TMD (The Most Dedicated), the couple specializes in portrayals of Māori heritage. This mural entitled The Messenger was created in 2017 as part of the Paradox Tauranga Street Art Festival. This owl is called Ruru or Morepork. The bird is often featured in Māori folklore. Sometimes the owl is associated with the underworld as predictors of death. Other times they are a spiritual guardian (kaitiaki). If you look closely at Māori wood carvings, you will notice they often have wide eyes resembling an owl.

24 Dive Cres, Tauranga 3110, New Zealand
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10 Monmouth Redoubt in Tauranga, New Zealand

In 1864, the Battle of Pukehinahina occurred in Tauranga when an outnumbered group of Ngāi Te Rangi defeated a much larger British infantry. The same year, the British built a temporary military fortification called Monmouth Redoubt at Taumatakahawai Pā, an old Māori defense. The Armed Constabulary headquarters and barracks were vacated in 1898. Few remnants remain except some memorial plaques and cannons similar to the one under this Pohutukawa tree.

1 Cliff Rd, Tauranga 3110, New Zealand
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11 Archdeacon Alfred Brown Pou in Tauranga, New Zealand

A pou is a carved wooden post used by the Māori people to mark their territory. Three pou whenua (or pouwhenua) were carved in 2013 by Whare Thompson and Damian Kohu for display on the Tauranga Police Station facing Monmouth Redoubt. This likeness is Archdeacon Alfred Nèsbit Brown. From 1838 until 1884, he converted many indigenous people to the Anglican faith as the minister of the Church Missionary Society mission in Tauranga. He was also pastor for the British 43rd Regiment while the soldiers were stationed at Te Papa.

13 Monmouth St, Tauranga 3110, New Zealand
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12 Joining of Two Waters Pou in Tauranga, New Zealand

At first glance, this carving resembles a totem pole. Look closer and you will notice it is two figures connected at the feet. Its name is Te Hononga O Nga Wai E Rua meaning Joining of Two Waters. It represents the collaboration formed by the Māori and the British after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. Their local relationship was strained for decades, culminating in the Battle of Gate Pa in 1864.

13 Monmouth St, Tauranga 3110, New Zealand
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13 Old Post Office in Tauranga, New Zealand

The site of the former post office in Tauranga is steeped with history. In the early 1860s, the Church Missionary Society built an institute here for training Māori people. Within a few years, it was confiscated as a military headquarters and hospital. At the end of the century, the Tauranga Government constructed New Zealand’s second largest building for county and borough offices. Tragically, it was destroyed by fire in 1902. Architect John Campbell designed this magnificent Imperial Baroque structure. It served as a post office and court house from 1908 until 1938. Ngāi Te Rangi iwi then office here until the Old Post Office was purchased in 2018 to become a boutique hotel.

41 Harington St, Tauranga 3110, New Zealand
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14 Birth of Venus Mural by Dippie in Tauranga, New Zealand

Owen Dippie specializes in recreating Renaissance art on a grand scale. He was born nearby in Kawerau in 1984. His incredible talent with spray cans has earned him international commissions, recognition and awards. Fortunately, several of his murals grace the walls around Tauranga. This is OD’s 88.5 foot rendition of The Birth of Venus. The original by Italian master Sandro Botticelli was painted in the late 1480s and now hangs in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.

32 Harington St, Tauranga 3110, New Zealand
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15 Ina Te Papatahi Mural by Dippie in Tauranga, New Zealand

Charles Fredrick Goldie from Auckland originally created this likeness of Ina Te Papatahi as an oil painting in 1902. She is shown with traditional facial tattoos (moko) and smoking a pipe. The artist painted 17 more portraits of the Ngāpuhi chieftainess. From 1902 until 1941, Goldie continued to immortalize the images of Māori elders. His work is featured in several New Zealand art museums. Local artist Owen Dippie created this reproduction on Willow Street in 2012.

90 Willow St Parking, Tauranga 3110, New Zealand
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16 Abstract Male Portraits Mural by Askew One in Tauranga, New Zealand

Since the early 1990s, Auckland resident Elliot O’Donnell has used the street name of Askew One when creating his urban art. His style is either flamboyant graffiti or large abstract portraits like these created behind the Tauranga Art Gallery in 2017. He describes his genre as Post-Graffiti Pacific. In addition to painting murals, Askew One does a considerable amount of studio work in Brooklyn, New York.

90 Willow St Parking, Tauranga 3110, New Zealand
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17 Tauranga Art Gallery in Tauranga, New Zealand

Tauranga Art Gallery opened in 2007. Its modest collection of historical and contemporary art is augmented by traveling exhibitions. TAG’s mission is also focused on educational programs for school children and the public. Tauranga Art Gallery is located inside a former Bank of New Zealand branch built on Willow Street in 1964. Admission is free.

23 Wharf Street, Tauranga 3110, New Zealand
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18 Young Atlas of the Antipodes Mural by Seth Globepainter in Tauranga, New Zealand

The British used to call Australians and New Zealanders antipodes. This means they were diametrically opposite to people living in the Northern Hemisphere. Street artist Seth Globepainter playfully portrayed this in his mural titled Young Atlas of the Antipodes located at the entrance of the Tauranga Art Gallery. Children are his favorite subject for murals. The Frenchman’s real name is Julien Malland.

23 Wharf Street, Tauranga 3110, New Zealand
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19 Wharf Street in Tauranga, New Zealand

If you like eating – and who doesn’t? – then wander toward Wharf Street during your visit to Tauranga. This short pedestrian area is positioned as the culinary district. The restaurants are housed in old railway sleepers. There is also plenty of outdoor seating to enjoy your food, drinks and friends under the New Zealand sunshine.

17 Wharf Street, Tauranga 3110, New Zealand
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20 Stone Water Urn in Tauranga, New Zealand

Te Taha a Taurikura is a decorative water urn (gourd) carved from Hinuera stone by Tuti Tukaokao. It recalls the Māori legend of Taurikura, a young girl who refused to collect water. Remorseful, she swam down a river towards the harbor. During her journey, she was transformed into a tuatara. These are rare, greenish-gray lizards with evolutionary roots dating back 200 million years. The word means “peaks on the back’ in the Māori language. The two foot reptile lives only on small islands off New Zealand’s northwest coast.

Spring St & Grey St, Tauranga 3110, New Zealand
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21 Old Woman Lived in Shoe Mural by JacobYikes in Tauranga, New Zealand

JacobYikes was one of six street artists invited to the Paradox Street Art Festival in 2017 to splash life onto the bare walls of central Tauranga. This resident of Christchurch created a playful blend of nursery rhyme elements centered on Mother Goose’s “Old Woman who Lived in a Shoe.” Yikes calls his style Cartoon Surrealism. It is a unique blend of Salvador Dalí and Dr. Seuss.

63 Spring Street, Tauranga 3110, New Zealand
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22 Girl with Pearl Earring Mural by Dippie in Tauranga, New Zealand

17th century Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer focused his brushstrokes on depicting middle-class women. After his death in 1675, his work went largely unrecognized for centuries. One of Vermeer’s few masterpieces is Girl with the Pearl Earring. The 17.5 x 15 inch oil painting is displayed in the Mauritshuis art museum in the Netherlands. Local artist Owen Dippie created this 9.8 foot mural on the Kale Print Building in 2013.

219 Cameron Rd, Tauranga 3110, New Zealand
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23 Brain Watkins House in Tauranga, New Zealand

This charming square villa was the home for boat builder Joseph Brain beginning in 1881. After his death in 1924, two of his unmarried daughters lived in the house until Elva Watkins gave the property to the Tauranga Historical Society in 1979. The residence and its contents have been frozen in time, offering a unique look into the lives of New Zealanders during the 19th and 20th centuries. The small admission price is well worth the tour inside.

233 Cameron Rd, Tauranga 3110, New Zealand
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24 The Madonna Mural by Dippie in Tauranga, New Zealand

In 2013, Owen Dippie created another tribute to Renaissance art in the unlikely place over the entrance of the Elizabeth Street Carpark. This black and white mural is patterned after The Virgin in Prayer, painted by Giovanni Battista Salvi between 1640 and 1650. The original is exhibited at The National Gallery in London. In 2015, Dippie created a stir when he painted The Radiant Madonna in Brooklyn, New York. This mural portrays the Mother of God holding a pop-art baby Jesus resembling a Keith Haring figure.

64 Elizabeth St, Tauranga 3110, New Zealand
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25 South End of The Strand in Tauranga, New Zealand

The Strand terminates at a cul-de-sac intersecting with Spring Street. Here is the place to grab a cup of Starbucks coffee, walk across the rail tracks and have a seat on a canopied bench. Lean back, sip and savor the view of Tauranga Harbour. You will hear the waves in front of you and the spraying water in a fountain behind you. Afterwards, you can stroll along the waterfront promenade in near solitude.

1 Spring St, Tauranga 3110, New Zealand
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26 Matapihi Rail Bridge in Tauranga, New Zealand

Matapihi Rail Bridge is a prominent landmark near the south end of central Tauranga. Commissioned by the East Coast Main Trunk Railway, the truss bridge was finished in 1924. It connects downtown with Matapihi peninsula across Tauranga Harbour. In the 1950s, a pathway was added for pedestrians and cyclists.

145 The Strand, Tauranga 3110, New Zealand
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