The dining scene in this area has taken off, and you'll probably miss restaurants and cafes every time you blink. There's a cluster of very good ones on The Strand, in the Wharf Street area, and on Devonport Road between Spring and Elizabeth streets. Pick up the free Dine Out guide from the visitor center.
Try Spinnakers Restaurant & Bar, Tauranga Bridge Marina (tel. 07/574-4147), on the water's edge, for fabulous seafood and a wide range of breakfast, lunch, and dinner offerings; or Cafe Bravo, Red Square, Tauranga (tel. 07/578-4700; www.cafebravo.co.nz), a consistent award-winner serving up delicious meals, gourmet pizzas, and good coffee. It's open daily from 9am; dinner is served Tuesday through Saturday. Café Versailles, 107 Grey St., Tauranga (tel. 07/571-1480; www.cafe-versailles.co.nz), is a romantic spot for an authentic French meal. It's open Monday through Saturday 3:30pm until late. Gold Mela, 350 Cameron Rd., Tauranga (tel. 07/578-1197), is an excellent Italian restaurant that's big on atmosphere and ideal for families. It's open Monday through Saturday, 5pm till late.
Tucked away in the Old Yacht Club Building, at the south end of The Strand, Harbourside Brasserie & Bar (tel. 07/571-0520) is eternally popular. It's open daily from 10:30am until late; there's a strong seafood slant to its menu and the views are unmatched. Collar & Thai, Upstairs, Goddards Centre, 21 Devonport Rd. (tel. 07/577-6655; www.collarandthai.co.nz), is a popular haunt serving the best Thai curries. It's open for lunch Monday to Saturday from 11:30am, and for dinner daily from 5pm. Try Mills Reef Winery, 143 Moffats Rd., Bethlehem, Tauranga (tel. 07/576-8800; www.millsreef.co.nz), for a fabulous winery lunch. It's open daily for lunch and Thursday for dinner. All meals are teamed with Mills Reef wines.
In Mount Maunganui
The favorite for Thai meals is Thai-phoon Restaurant, 14a Pacific Ave. (tel. 07/572-3545), open daily from 6pm. Astrolabe Café & Bar, 82 Maunganui Rd. (tel. 07/574-8155), is big on space and style and serves delicious salads. It's open daily from 10am till late. You'll get very good Italian meals at ViVo, 14 Pacific Ave., Mount Maunganui (tel. 07/575-8245), which has a terrific family atmosphere. It's open Tuesday through Sunday from 6pm till late, also open for weekend lunch.