What could be better than a long expanse of sun-baked golden sand, lapped by the gentle Pacific Ocean, less than 2 hour’s drive from Auckland city?

Waihi Beach is one of New Zealand’s safest beaches and it attracts holidaymakers like a magnet in summer. This coastal acolyte of Waihi township, 11km inland, is the Coromandel Peninsula’s southernmost town. It marks the beginning of the sweeping crescent of glistening sand known as the Bay of Plenty.

Waihi Beach was once seen as the poor cousin in the glittering galaxy of east coast beach resorts. But its rapid expansion in recent years has seen it take star billing as a progressive and very desirable place to live and to visit. The area is steeped in natural beauty. You can laze on the beach, swim in the surf (patrolled by lifeguards in summer) take bush, beach and heritage walks, and go fishing, boating, sailing, diving, boogie boarding, kayaking or kite boarding.

Stretching the legs on breathtaking coastal walks is a popular activity here. At the north end of Waihi Beach you can enjoy a peaceful picnic at Anzac Bay. Then take the 30 minute walk to secluded Orokawa Bay, a scenic jewel. A 1.5km forest track leads you on to the 28m high William Wright Falls. Also at the north end end of Orokawa Bay is a slightly more adventurous track through dense pohutukawa forest to Homunga Bay.

Bowentown, at the southern end of Waihi Beach, has a moderate climb to a headland lookout with stunning views of Tauranga Harbour and the beautiful coastline. At Cave Bay you can explore fascinating caves and rock formations. Bowentown Beach is particularly safe for children and its attractive parks are always popular.

Waihi Beach has good accommodation strung along the 9km waterfront. Cafes and restaurants provide quality meals including BYO wine and there is a takeaway burger bar.