Motuopuhi Island has got to be Tauranga's best kept walking secret!
Access is at low tide from the east side of 15th Avenue between Turret Road and the Maungatapu Bridge. Park in the green space under the trees, head down to the seabed, and make your own way across to the island. The kids will have great fun spotting crabs and other sea creatures exposed in the receding tide. Special shells will be collected, seaweed will be gathered, and feet will get mucky!
The island is bigger than it looks from the shore. It took us about 30 minutes to circumnavigate. After a thorough exploration of the shoreline, we headed onto the island and followed the faint tracks through the wet grass. It's a peaceful spot for a picnic. You can return directly to the carpark or, as a bonus side trip, go across the estuary to the playground at St. Mary's Catholic School to climb and play some more.
Our most recent visit brought about a surprise - a secret hot pool! We wandered along the shoreline and happened upon a natural hot spring outlet where some decadent visionaries set up a makeshift spa pool using rocks, carpet underlay and tarps. The water temperature was perfect for the kids and Sadie couldn't resist. She stripped off and hopped in, tempting Dan and I to join her. A soothing surprise to conclude our Sunday morning adventure.
Update 2020: The hot pool has been removed. There is a lot of roadworks in the area so maybe it will reappear one day. Even without the surprise, this is a fabulous walk!
Distance: Less than 1km
Time: 1 hour (or more if like to explore)
Buggies: The sand is pretty wet, so a rugged buggy with wide tyres might do it. Backback (child-carrier) recommended.
Toilets: Yes (200m north of the carpark)
High tide? Rainy day? Here's a kids activity and information sheet about estuaries from the Bay of Plenty Regional Council.