A mild climate combines with a wonderfully natural environment to make the Bay of Plenty a favourite summer holiday spot.

The warm Pacific Ocean laps a continuous stretch of long, sandy beaches from Tauranga to Whakatane, and intimate rocky coves extend from there to East Cape. Marine life is abundant and there is accessible diving and snorkelling for everyone in water temperatures that range from 22°C in summer to 12°C in winter.

Friendly encounters with marine mammals in their natural habitat are always a possibility. Bow-riding dolphins greet you on your way out and whales, seals and penguins can pop up anywhere. Water clarity sometimes exceeds 40m around the islands and good underwater photography is assured. Dive facilities cater for the full range of experience from novice to advanced divers. Dive shops in Tauranga, Mt Maunganui and Whakatane can arrange charter boat trips to suit your needs.

Mayor Island

Lying 40km north east of Tauranga this dive mecca and marine reserve is warmed by the East Auckland Current, which draws in many subtropical fish species like Lord Howe coral fish, crimson cleanerfish and boarfish. The sea floor has fascinating caves, drop-offs, pinnacles, hot water vents and black obsidian beds (volcanic glass). Dense forests of paddleweed kelp extend to 30 metres, and the reefs are festooned with lace coral, cup coral, colourful anemones, sponges and hydroids. Top spots are Tuhua Reef, Cathedral Bay, Western Bay and the Bait Pond.

Karewa Island

This wildlife sanctuary 12km from Mt Maunganui offers good diving and snorkelling with visibility to 9m. The Taranaki shipwreck lies on the northern side of the island.

Motiti Island

This island is 23km offshore and offers good diving in sheltered bays with reefs from 5-18m deep. In common with other Bay of Plenty islands the crayfish (lobster), paua (abalone) and scallops can readily be found. The WWII tug Taioma sits upright on the sand at 28m on the south east side of the island.

Astrolabe Reef

This reef structure just breaks the surface at low tide, roughly halfway between Motiti and Mayor Islands. It is renowned for pristine water (great photography), spectacular drop-offs to 37m and shallow plateaus alive with fish and the occasional seal. This is a stellar scenic experience with visibility from 6-30m.