Everyone has a favourite beach and Waihi Beach is mine. Nine kilometres of flat, golden sand, often described as the gateway to the Coromandel and Bay of Plenty.
My grandparents retired here so I spent most of my summers on the beach as a child. My husband had ties here too so we got married on the north end of the beach.
While the day was bathed in sunlight, the storm of the day before had washed up mounds of green sea lettuce on the beach. An ‘aisle' was cut through it for me to make my grand entrance.
My parents took ownership of their bach the day before the wedding and have now retired there also, so my children have grown up in the waves here too.
While Waihi Beach has undoubtedly grown over the 35 years I have been going there, it still retains its family-friendly, beachside town atmosphere. You won't find the hordes of people that flock to Whangamata or Mount Maunganui.
Tranquil Anzac Bay at the Bowentown end of the Tauranga Harbour.
The area is well-served for accommodation with three camping grounds – two at the north end and another at the south end at Bowentown, as well as plenty of motels and bed and breakfasts.
But Waihi Beach is probably best known for its baches, many of which are rented out over the summer. Some are quite grand these days, but you can still find a few basic ones, surrounded in tents and caravans as families pack in as many people as possible on-site.
The village is a great place to find boutique shops and grab a bite to eat. I recommend a visit to The Secret Garden – a Balinese-inspired oasis ideal for escaping the heat of the day with a coffee, smoothie or an ice-cream.
There are also plenty of quality restaurants to choose from, including The Porch, Flatwhite Cafe and the bistro at the Waihi Beach Hotel. Gunners Restaurant at the Waihi Beach RSA is also an affordable place to take the kids for some simple, yet hearty fare.
The best thing about Waihi beach is, of course, the beach. While it is a surf beach and is very ably patrolled by the Waihi Beach Surf Lifesaving Club, its easy access makes it possible to take the kids for a paddle almost anywhere. And there is plenty of surf for the keen surfers out there.
If you've had enough of the surf you can take the kids to the very calm Anzac Bay, just inside the Bowentown entrance to the Tauranga Harbour.
This is also a popular spot for fishing off the rocks, kayaking and launching jet skis and small boats off the beach, although many have got cars stuck in the sand here so it is advisable to use the boat ramp at the Bowentown Boating and Sports Fishing Club for a small fee.
The golden sands of Waihi Beach looking out to Mayor Island.
The walks in Waihi Beach are numerous, and the area is flat so easy for cycling from A to B. More adventurous cyclists can head over the hill to Waihi and tackle the Waihi to Paeroa leg of the Hauraki Rail Trail.
One of my favourite walks at Waihi Beach is from the north end of the beach and over the hill to Orokawa Bay.
It takes about 45 minutes and the ocean views are stunning. Surrounded by sea and native bush, it's a relaxing place to enjoy a picnic but the beach isn't considered safe for swimming due to the steep grade of the sea floor.
You can also extend your walk from here to neighbouring Homunga Bay and William Wright Falls.
A new walking track opened in December 2016 that also has spectacular ocean views.
The ‘Trig Walk' is a 3km return walk, largely through bush. Entry and car parking is at the end of Pacific Rd.
There are always plenty of events to attend in Waihi Beach over the summer, including the annual New Year's Day beach sports, fun run, ocean swims and sandcastle competitions, and live bands at the Waihi Beach Hotel.
The Waihi Beach Summer Fair is a relatively new event on the summer calendar and will be held again on January 5, 2018.
Less than an hour's drive from central Tauranga, Waihi Beach is perfect for a day trip, weekend escape or an extended holiday.