Beachside Idyll

Waihī Beach local Cindy Clare gives us her insider intel on the very best restaurants and cafes, shops and walks in and around her hometown.

Waihī Beach local Cindy Clare gives us her insider intel on the very best restaurants and cafes, shops and walks in and around her hometown.

After years living in New York state, Cindy Clare returned to her hometown of Waihī Beach with
her husband and three daughters to settle back into beachside life. She rediscovered old favourites
and experienced excellent new additions to the town. Here, Cindy gives us insider intel about all
the best spots to check out. Whether you’re on a day trip from Tauranga or a lazy weekend escape, there’s more than enough cafes, smart retail and hardy hikes to keep you entertained.

On Your Plate

You’re not even in the village before you hit a food-lovers favourite, the Surf Shack Eatery
(123 Emerton Rd), run by enthusiastic locals Jo and Pippa. There’s lots on offer, from a range of “Cheeky Pancakes” to brekkie stalwarts, salads and to-die-for burgers (it was given the accolade
of “Possibly NZ’s best burger” by Lonely Planet a few years back).

For an unbeatable ocean outlook, head to the famous Flatwhite (21 Shaw Rd), where owner Andy
and his trusty furry sidekick Benson (aka the unofficial mayor of Waihī Beach) will welcome you.
Open breakfast to dinner, it’s the best spot to park yourself up to get your coffee fix and gaze at glorious Tuhua (Mayor Island).

The colourful entrance to Flat White — once inside, you’re treated to unparalleled beach views. Photograph: Sheryl Nicholson

Waihī Beach village is home to an array of characterful cafes, including Café Strata (20 Wilson Rd), The Porch Kitchen & Bar (23 Wilson Rd), and The Secret Garden (17 Wilson Rd) that’s set in a lovely Balinese-inspired garden. If you’re a cheesecake devotee, head to Rabbit Moon (28 Wilson Rd) for
its mini cheesecakes — locals have been known to consume them for breakfast.

Good Sorts food truck (10 Wilson Rd) is another village gem. Jon is the master sandwich guru here and mixes up the menu daily (my pick is Thai beef), plus vege-packed salads and Holly’s popular cookies. Look out for burger nights as their smash burgers are superb.

Finally, if you want to kick back with your toes in the sand, head to The Deck at the Surf Club
(2 Beach Rd), open Labour Weekend to Easter. You can expect great coffee and breakfast, and it’s easy to while away the afternoon with the bar snacks and Good George bevvies.

After Hours

The Waihī Beach Hotel (60 Wilson Rd) is a local hub with a cool garden bar that often features
live music or DJs, plus its Italian-influenced restaurant Mazzola’s has fantastic food.

When we’re getting a large group together, we head to either the Waihī Beach RSA (99 Beach Rd)
or Bowentown Boating & Sport Fishing Club (Pio Rd, Bowentown) — both have fantastic water views and family friendly meals, and will gladly ferry you in courtesy vans, so you can enjoy a few extra vinos on their decks.

In the village, locals flock to La Vie en Rose bar (22 Wilson Rd), where owner Bryce provides drinks and good times. And finally, after years of wishful thinking, we can now head to The Secret Garden at night. Its Tiki Bar offers cocktails, Mexican street food and music, and has brought an awesome new energy to the village. It doesn’t get any better than this — lush, green surrounds, chilled sounds and delicious food and drink. My go-to order is the signature mojito, bursting with mint and summer vibes.

Shopping Around

Steph Saxton’s The Salty Collective (10 Wilson Rd) is a lifestyle and clothing store with a philosophy centered around sustainable living. There are ethical products, including clothing, jewellery, skincare and gifts, and Steph also designs and produces two bespoke clothing brands — Saltysea and Slowly Golden.

Sunday, another contemporary store in the village, has a beautiful collection of homeware and lifestyle products, from handmade New Zealand ceramics, to coffee table books, stationery, skincare and textiles.

Ahu was opened 18 months ago by two locals, Katie and Gaylene. Their core focus is a range of skincare, body and aromatherapy products, inspired by Katie’s years of living in Rarotonga. They
also offer a variety of wellbeing treatments, including a float pod experience, as well as bags, clothing, jewellery and homewares.

Waihī Beach Gallery (21 Wilson Rd) showcases renowned national and international artists that
work in a variety of mediums. Andrew Graham is the framer and barista, and Ana Couper is the
in-house artist, curator and polymath.

Tucked down an alleyway is Waihī Beach’s very own artisan chocolate shop, Chez Moi (29 Wilson Rd). Ines, a trained chocolatier and pastry chef from Switzerland, lovingly crafts chocolates and other sweet treats on the premises. I can never leave without some of her moreish Russian fudge.

Green thumbs should head to Inside Out (29 Wilson Rd) and Theo Spargo (8 Wilson Rd) for lush plants, pots and more. And for ethical, sustainable gifts, Village People (23b Wilson Rd) is stocked with handcrafted, Fair Trade products.

Extend Yourself

The Nest is set amongst native bush and offers yoga and workshops throughout the year. Or, if you want to exercise your artistic skills, Ranger Studio has workshops for all ages and levels, including
Sip & Create sessions, where you enjoy a gin while creating art.

Walk It Off

One of the main drawcards of beautiful Waihī Beach is the stunning beach and bush activities
in close proximity.  

The Homunga Bay to Waihī Beach trail is a must-do. A rugged hike along the coastline will reward
you with exceptional views and scenery. Start at farmland high above Homunga Bay, then head down to sea level and go through beautiful bush and along the coast. After about two hours,
you’ll come across Orokawa Bay, a picturesque, remote beach only accessible by foot. From here,
it’s another 45 minutes to Waihī Beach. I recommend doing it one way, ending in Waihī, so get dropped at the start of the walk on Ngatitangata Road.

If you’re short on time, the return walk to Orokawa Bay makes for a great half-day adventure. We walked there early one morning and had the bay to ourselves for sunrise — it was out of this world!

Scenes from the spectacular Homunga Bay walk. Photograph: Barry Jesney

For magical views above Waihī Beach, and a top-notch workout, head to The Trig Walk near the
north end of Waihī Beach. Be prepared for some serious stair climbing (235, but who’s counting?!), but the outlook is most definitely worth the effort.

For shorter walks, head to Anzac Bay. Here, Shelly Bay is a quick stroll over to the west of the bay
— it’s an idyllic spot for swimming and picnicking.
For a more rugged experience, head east down the steps to Cave Bay (from the top carpark),
where you can climb rocks and squeeze into a few of the caves near the water.

If you prefer a bike to a hike, there are great cycling options at the beach as well. The Trig to Anzac Bay cycle trail takes you from the north end of the beach, all the way south to Bowentown. It’s a flat, relatively easy trail — unless you want to go that extra mile and bike to the top of Anzac Bay, where the views are spectacular.

Lastly, don’t forget the remarkable Karanghake Gorge is a hop and skip away — you can bike the Hauraki Rail Trail, learn of the fascinating mining history and swim in refreshing river holes.

For more info and maps, visit waihibeach.co.nz
@waihībeach   @discover.waihibeach