New Zealand Best Beach - Papamoa
As a child Papamoa’s holiday homes (baches) were truly baches - often cramped, definitely old but much loved. The baches were often dwellings given a new life after being trucked in from the North Island hydro electricity villages of Aratiatia, Atiamuri and Wairakei as those villages were abandoned.
The beach then, as now, kilometer after kilometer of creamy sand, delicately edged with shells deposited by the full tide. However, to reach the beach from the road, you have to go through mysterious sand dunes.
Unlike many other coastal developments, where a few wealthy have commandeered the best spots, this beach has retained much of its extensive beachfront as a reserve for the enjoyment of all. Driving from Mt Maunganui along Papamoa Beach Road, for some of the trip houses crowd both sides of the street, but then, for nearly seven kilometers, the landscape opens out - houses on one side, and the other, precious wild, wide sand dunes.
Summer at the best New Zealand Beach
My indulgent summer holidays as a child were often spent at Papamoa, a wonderfully long wide white sandy surf beach in New Zealand’s north island. It is close to the city of Tauranga and the very popular and “flashy” beach area of Mt Maunganui where many tourists stay. Its one of the best New Zealand beaches.
Over the years the dunes have got higher and they are now tightly carpeted with growth, no doubt helped by sections roped off with signs that state - “Dunes Growing, please keep off”.
What I loved then, and still love today, is walking across the road then wending my way through the myriad of tracks snaking crossing the dunes. Some of these sandy tracks are wide enough for three to walk abreast, others, sheep track thickness, force people into single file. Now, as you stroll through the dunes, rich and varied birdlife twitters and skitters out of the way. Pheasant too seem to have made a home here but these big birds are excessively shy, hiding their glorious colours from humans and as soon as they sense my presence, they scamper into the tight growth. Sometimes these publicity shy birds will spread their spectacular wings and noisily fly off landing far away from the dangers of human intervention, of even the photographic kind.
You cannot always view or even hear the sea from roadside edge of the dunes. After picking your way along the track, when the sea comes into view, like a seductive lover, it peels back gently, slowly, before revealing all of its majesty. It’s rarely busy, even on a scorching hot summers day there is still lots of beach space between my towel and the neighbours.
On a clear day it’s possible to see a long way in the distance White Island (an eerie seething volcano) just off Whakatane – some hour and half drive down the coast.
What hasn’t been eroded by time is the comfort I feel when I nestle in the shelter of the dunes, to hear the waves roar endlessly and watch a sunset. Or the enjoyment I feel when wandering in solitude through the dunes, the late afternoon sun shining like a beacon bringing alive the rich gold and copper hues of the grasses. Fellow walkers always have a cheery smile. It gladdens my soul.
Although, over the decades, the streetscape of Papamoa has changed and the houses are newer and bigger, the dunes have become even more magnificent and mysterious which will ensure I return to “my” dunes and beach time and time again even if it is for a long weekend snatched from work commitments.