This volcanic mountain is the region's geological icon, with its conical rocky outline rising 761 feet above sea level. White-sand beaches with clear water stretch for miles from Mauao—this is one of New Zealand's best swimming and surfing areas. One of the early Māori canoes, Takitimu, landed at the base of the mountain. A system of trails around Mauao includes an easy walk around its base and the more strenuous climb to the summit from the campground at the base of the mountain. The trails are clearly signposted and heavily used, so no bushwhacking is necessary. All roads lead to "the Mount," as they say; follow any road running parallel to the beach. The Mount Maunganui area gets crowded around Christmas and New Year's Eve; to see it at its best, come in November, early December, or between mid-January and late March. On the first weekend in January, you can watch the annual Tauranga Half Ironman race while drinking coffee at a sidewalk café, and if keen, you can sit on the path around Mauao and cheer runners on.