New Zealand has a strong presence of volcanos, geysers, volcanic lakes and hot springs, making it home to some of the world’s most fascinating geothermal activity. Many of these features are clustered around the North Island, and particularly the Taupo Volcanic Zone, where the Earth’s crust is thought to be as little as 16km thick. A lot of New Zealand’s landscape can be attributed to past volcanic eruptions and these draw in many tourists each year. The Taupo Volcanic Zone extends from the centre of the Bay of Plenty region northwards to the White Island and the area is dotted with geological fault lines, geothermal activity and volcanos.
The White Island is one of the world’s most accessible live volcanos, and can be found just 49km off the coast of Whakatane, in eastern Bay of Plenty. The White Island’s peak reaches 321m above sea level, however this is just the tip of a much grander submarine mountain, with 70% of the volcano’s mass rising from the seafloor deep below.
This unique structure allows visitors a direct look into the crater complex, without the usual steep mountain climb first. Visitors look on in awe at the hot volcanic streams, gassy mud pits and lake of steaming acidic activity. The White Island volcano illuminates the skies around with the most remarkable colour display from its discharge of sulphur, rock and minerals. It’s a wonder on our doorstep and we recommend taking advantage of its accessibility and grandeur.
Tahua – Major Island
Even closer, and just 35km north beyond the shores of Tauranga, an impressive dormant shield volcano ‘Tuhua’ or Mayor Island can be found. Thankfully its last eruption was over 6,000 years ago but this past volcanic activity has shaped the earth into fascinating land formations.
The most striking feature of Tuhua is its natural glass coating, which was formed by a rapid cooling of silica-rich lava. This is called the black obsidian, which was highly valued by early Maori for its usefulness in creating cutting tools and weapons. The island is surrounded by marine reserve – a popular spot for divers exploring the reef and its many subtropical visitors like kingfish and pink and blue maomao.
How much does it cost?
Our https://bayexplorer.co.nz/tauranga-scenic/ start at $35 for children and $95 for adults.
We also offer a 10% group discount for groups of 10 or more, and special educational rates are also available (conditions apply).
If your looking to see dolphins and other marine wildlife, check out our Half Day Cruise, costs start at $65 for children and $175 for adults..
Does Bay Explorer operate every day?
Bookings are essential and can be made directly from this website. Check out availability here:
Do we need to book in advance?
Where does the boat leave from?
The boat departs from the Strand Wharf in Tauranga City. (you can find us across the road from the Starbucks cafe) by the Sweetest thing cafe.
When do we check in, and what time is departure?
Check-in: 3:15pm for briefing at 3:30pm (The Strand, Tauranga City Waterfront)
Departure: 3:30pm Strand Tauranga
Return: 6:30pm Strand Tauranga
It is very important that you provide contact details (including a New Zealand mobile phone number) where we can get hold of you.
How big is the boat?
What do we need to bring for the cruise?
The following items are recommended for all trips:
- A water/drink bottle
- A warm jacket (bring an extra layer or two so you can layer up or layer down according to the weather)
- Eftpos card or cash (we have a licenced bar onboard, coffee, tea plus a range of snacks)
- Sunscreen and sunglasses
- Camera (check that your camera is charged; we do have a 230v power charger on board as a back-up)
- Binoculars if you have them (we have a pair on board but if you have your own please bring them).
These are recommended for our full day trips:
- Your own lunch (either a packed lunch or food brought for cooking on our free communal onboard BBQ)
- Swimming gear is optional (and recommended) in summer *
- Wetsuits and snorkelling gear if you are proficient *
*Note that extra items can be left on the boat while you participate in our water sports on our full day cruises.
What is included?
- Cruising on our comfortable vessel BAY EXPLORER.
- Department of Conservation permit: We have a government permit to view dolphins whales and seals, we will spend time with these mammals whenever we see them.
- The shared knowledge and passion of our professional and experienced captain and crew.
- Onboard books and resources
- An onboard licensed bar where you can purchase cold beer, chilled regional wine and much more.
Our full day cruise also includes:
- Anchoring in a secluded island bay, where we can use Paddle Boards and Kayaks
- Use of our onboard communal BBQ at lunch time
Can I bring my children onboard?
Yes you can! We offer Children's pricing for ages 6-12, and children 5 years and under are $20 for all activities.
If bringing children, please be aware of the following:
- While our boat is spacious, it is not a playground and children must be supervised at all times.
- It is not an option to turn around and come back for one passenger, so please only bring your children if you think they will be okay on the boat for the entire duration of the trip.
What happens if I get seasick?
What happens if my cruise gets cancelled due to weather?
Do you have toilets on board?
Can we go swimming at the island?
Can we go swimming with dolphins?
Of note, any swimming with wild common dolphins is difficult to execute and largely constrained by legalities. By law, NO SWIMMING with dolphins is allowed if there is the presence of juveniles (under the Marine Mammal Protection Act). However these young animals are adorable to watch and witness from the comfort of the boat..
NOTE: NO commercial operator can offer swimming with dolphins that have juveniles present in the pod, and juveniles are often present over summer months. You must be made legally aware of this if booking with other operators.
How do you find marine mammals?
Most importantly, finding wildlife relies on a keen eye and an ability to keep focused on the water; it requires concentration as there is nothing really to focus on the sea and 360° viewing with an infinity of water, but a trained eye can pick up the slightest movement up to a 2km away. Finding the local seabirds and schooling fish can be the gateway to finding dolphins on our safari. It requires an understanding of tidal flows and current movements to find fish and birds. Often you must rely on your own instinct from many encounters in past days. Sometimes we receive information from other vessels out in the Bay who have spotted animals on their own travels.
What research do you conduct?
Are marine mammals endangered?
Do you have educational material on board?
Current books include:
- WONDERS OF THE SEA: THE PROTECTION OF NEW ZEALAND’S MARINE
- MAMMALS by Kate Mulcahy & Raewyn Peart.
- DOLPHINS OF AOTEAROA. LIVING WITH NZ DOLPHINS by Raewyn Peart
Can groups go on the tour?
Is there a maximum age limit or physical ability requirement?
(please inform crew however if you have any special medical or physical needs). Please note that the optional water sport activities will require you to enter the water via an inflatable craft. Our preferred method involves stepping from the vessel onto an inflatable boat and then onto a standup paddle board SUP or onto a kayak. To get back on board, you will need to climb up a ladder up the side of the boat. However - as mentioned - if you require a more passive experience simply stay onboard and relax and observe the beautiful bay, have lunch or snacks and a drink from the licenced bar.
Do these cruises suit everyone?
Does the vessel accommodate wheelchairs?
The Bay Explorer
Bay Explorer are local boat tour specialists who are passionate about all our region has to offer. We are proudly Kiwi owned and operated, with plenty of experience running day trips from Tauranga.