The Tauranga suburb of Mount Maunganui (also known as The Mount) has long been a summertime beachside destination. Each year, the main drag comes alive with holiday-goers on their way to climb Mauao’s summit and watch cruise ships depart from Pilot Bay over fish and chips – one of the most popular ways to catch the sun set behind the Kaimai Range. If you’re visiting, make sure you’ve got plenty of time to eat and drink your way around town, as the culinary scene is better and more varied than ever.
Start the day
Eddies and Elspeth
This daytime spot combines two venues under one roof. Elspeth is the bakery side, with fresh sourdough loaves, mille feuille custard squares, and focaccia sandwiches made with organic Bostock Brothers chicken. Eddies is the cafe, with a brunch menu that’s arguably the best in town (and a crowd every Saturday morning to prove it). You might order sweet-corn fritters with bacon and cashew cream, or Ed's McMuffin with an Elspeth-made english muffin, scrambled eggs, bacon and trimmings. Nestle into a moss-green velvet bench seat inside to watch the open kitchen in action, or nab a table outdoors. 2A Terrace Avenue
In a tiny converted white cottage, Little Guy specialises in soft, hand-rolled semolina bagels that are served fresh daily and packed with delicious fillings such as house-cured salmon gravlax with dill and lemon cream cheese, and deli-style hot salami, prosciutto, bocconcini and pickled red onion. There are also regular sweet pie specials, such as a meringue-topped Jelly Tip-inspired flavour. Drinks-wise, it’s Mount Maunganui-roasted Little Drum Coffee (not related to Little Guy) and chilled Roa Kombucha on tap. Sit curbside under big yellow umbrellas out the front, and hidden out back there’s a leafy courtyard of picnic tables with ample shade. 373 Maunganui Road
At this quirky cafe, your table number will be a knitted piece of fruit – if that gives you an idea of the vibe. Located at the southern end of Marine Parade, backing onto Arataki Beach, Special Mention is a local hotspot that fosters a community vibe. By the front window, there’s a large custom-made macrocarpa table for communal dining. On the menu, the Scram & Ham – a brioche bun filled with herb scrambled eggs, thick-cut ham, cheddar, chilli jam, scallions and a dill pickle – is affectionately described as the “Arataki hangover cure”. And a burger makes a regular appearance, courtesy of owner Lex Mawson’s pop-up burger joint, Burgers by Lex). 399 Oceanbeach Road
Tay Street Store
Locals know there’s a key surf break where Tay Street meets Marine Parade. The corner is also home to the always-busy Tay Street Store (not to be confused with its neighbour, Tay Street Cafe). Nab one of two tables outside, or perch on the concrete steps leading up to the sidewalk while you wait for an iced coffee and real-fruit berry ice-cream to take across the road to the beach. Inside the Forager Studio-designed shop, there’s a selection of cabinet food and baked goods from local suppliers such as Wildflour (known for its doughy cinnamon brioche). You can also buy milk and free-range eggs, and small wares such as art prints and dog bowls. 154 Marine Parade
For a drink
This Italian spot is run by husband-and-wife duo Noel and Kim Cimadom, who also own the popular Clarence Bistro & Boutique Hotel, Bar Centrale and Picnicka in central Tauranga. Alpino has a moody interior with a curved oak and stone bar, and it’s also where you’ll find the best north-west facing aspect to bask in the afternoon sun – a surprising rarity in The Mount. This is the ideal spot to enjoy a spritzer or limoncello cocktail with a snack of burrata and oysters, before moving on to the handmade pasta and woodfired pizzas. 16 Pacific Avenue
Palace Tavern is flagship location for the incredibly popular Palace Burger, which moved from around the corner last year. It’s a dimly lit saloon that plays classic rock music, from Jimi Hendrix to Bruce Springsteen, with a disco ball hanging from the ceiling and wood-panelled walls decorated with photographs of Elvis and old leather gun holsters. The tavern serves food until 12.30am, so slide into a booth for a round of late-night cards while you feast on smashed beef burgers, fried buffalo wings, classic cocktails, and beer and wine on tap. You can also battle it out with a free round of pool to decide who gets the next round. 6/217 Maunganui Road
Sailor Galley & Rum Bar
Pretend you’re on holiday while sipping Jamaican rum Daiquiris and dining on Boston crayfish rolls at the latest addition to Maunganui Road. It's from Matt and Kimberley Hayward who founded other local venues Hide Thirst & Hunger and Brew Co, and the goal was to create a casual local for adults to eat and drink at, and then kick on. Despite the name, it’s not a seafood restaurant. Instead, the team liken Sailor to what you’d indulge in if you were cruising around New Zealand on a superyacht. There’s pork crackling, crispy parmesan churros with fired-roasted capsicum sauce, a Boston-style crayfish roll with spiced Cajun butter and Fiordland venison backstrap. DJs spin relaxed tunes on weekends, and it's a sun-trap with a courtyard out the back. 107 Maunganui Road.
The Rising Tide
This large brewhouse and eatery overlooks the Soper Reserve, a grassy field that’s perfect for the kids. There’s also a long, covered deck with wooden trestles for groups, plus live acoustic music on the weekends if the rugby isn’t showing on the big screens. Order from 40 on-tap beers and ciders, at least half of which are from the on-site Mount Brewing Co. All go exceptionally well with the burgers, handcrafted dumplings and share bites by the resident kitchen, Johney’s Dumpling House. 107 Newton Street
Make a meal of it
Saltwater Seafood Grill & Oyster Bar
Saltwater fills the gap for a much-needed seafood restaurant and bar. Think sashimi or smoked salmon mousse with bread to start, and Coromandel mussels in a coconut curry or chilli prawn linguini for something bigger. Drinks-wise, there’s an approachable wine and beer list, but cocktails are the focus. One signature, the Bloody Kiwi, features vodka infused with ground oyster shell (strained before serving), and there are 12 different gin-based drinks. Industrial garage doors open up the whole length of the restaurant, so you can watch the action on the street wherever you’re seated. Or pull up a chair at the raw bar if you’d prefer to be right by the chefs as they shuck and slice. 203 Maunganui Road
It’s hard to get a dinner booking at Fife Lane, a modern steakhouse in the otherwise low-key Central Parade shops. Despite its location, the industrial fit-out is expansive, with exposed steel beams, a walk-in glass wine cellar, a centrally placed 360-degree fireplace, and a modern take on a traditional meat locker. That’s all on top of the open kitchen, with its Mibrasa grill barbeque. You even get to select your own steak knife from a custom case, allowing you to choose the weight, handle style and serration for your cut of steak. 512 Maunganui Road
For intimate fine dining with a relaxed wine-bar feel, head to Solera. The space itself is refined, with a smooth Tasmanian blackwood bar and a leather bench running almost the length of the restaurant. The centrepiece is the Argentinian-style wood fire – you can see the food being smoked and cooked from almost any seat in the house. Enjoy the exclusively Kiwi-made wine list with sharing plates of ox tongue with smoked Russian dressing and sauerkraut on a slab of brioche, or wood-fired broccoli with sesame dressing. 165 Maunganui Road
This guide was first published on November 11, 2022. It has been updated.