Coastal survey shows would-be home buyers are putting lifestyle convenience ahead of peace and quiet.
Forget a quiet, rustic bach on a relaxed beach with uncrowded waves and few people around - New Zealanders want shopping malls, cinemas, good roads and the comforts of the city when choosing a property that's also close to the coast.
A survey provided exclusively to the Herald by property website realestate.co.nz, which displays more than 80,000 listings from all the major real estate companies, shows that Mt Maunganui is the most popular choice for prospective buyers wanting a house near the sea.
The Mount recorded a quarter - 25.2 per cent - or 567,888 hits of all website hits in realestate.co.nz's top 10, while its immediate neighbour, Papamoa, was second with more than 540,000 hits.
Together, these locations in the Tauranga, Bay of Plenty region accounted for almost half of the top 10 most-viewed holiday home locations.
It is the second year in a row that the two coastal towns have dominated search results after both topped the 2011 rankings.
This didn't surprise Realestate.co.nz's marketing manager, Paul McKenzie, , who said the interest in the Bay of Plenty region was linked to lifestyle.
"Tauranga and its surrounding coastal areas are experiencing high levels of beachfront development recently, which naturally results in increased interest and strong demand," he said.
"However, high value, top-end properties valued at more than $1 million in the area are also attracting a lot of interest, and are pushing up prices and demand."
Ross Stanway, Realty Services chief executive, said both the Mount and Papamoa had a good climate, fantastic beaches, access to schooling, medical facilities and good shopping.
Both also had supportive commercial and retail structures and a major roading project - the eastern arterial route - that is due for completion in 2015.
Mr Stanway said even in tough times during the recession both places still appealed to investors and first-home buyers with consistent sales.
"The Mount and Papamoa have always had that appeal," he said.
"You only have to go about two or three streets back from the beachfront and you suddenly have homes that are very, very affordable for investors and first-home buyers."
Thames-Coromandel holiday spots Whitianga, Whangamata and Tairua also featured in the top-10 most searched for locations, but sat well behind Mt Maunganui in popularity.
Another to make the top 10 in eighth place was Paraparaumu, about 50km north of Wellington, which surprisingly sneaked in ahead of another popular Coromandel spot, Tairua.
Only one Auckland beachside property location was on this year's list, Rodney's Snells Beach on the east coast making it into ninth spot.
Waning in popularity is Whakatane's Ohope Beach, which slipped off the top 10 list from its 10th placing in 2011.
Childhood memories add to allure of beachside resort
Gareth Morgan remembers weekends in the early 1960s spent at Mt Maunganui with his dad as they built the family bach.
The economist and philanthropist spent many summers at the Mount and can understand why so many people are attracted to the place.
"It's just a great beach, just marvellous, a lovely place.
"When I was a kid there we used to put the kontiki out all the time - have the barley sugar in the kontiki and when the barley sugar melted the sail would drop - so I had wonderful memories of the place."
The family bach, completed in 1963, is no more. Mr Morgan's father sold the land where it stood next to the local golf course many years ago before it was demolished around 1993.
His lodgings at Mt Maunganui are now a lot more palatial after he bought a $6 million mansion, previously owned by a bankrupt property developer, last year.
His four-storey home on Marine Parade has five self-contained units, a gym, a sauna and a heated swimming pool and extensive sea views.
"It's not just for me, it's for the family too."
Mr Morgan, who was in Australia when the Herald spoke to him, spends a lot of time overseas but was looking forward to returning to his home in Mt Maunganui this month.
"For me it's history really. I grew up there as a kid and that's why we have gone back there.
"It's easy to get to because I just fly there, otherwise it would be seven hours from Wellington."
* Mt Maunganui - 567,888
* Papamoa - 541,236
* Whitianga - 190,614
* Raglan - 172,727
* Whangamata - 166,362
* Paihia - 147,265
* Waihi Beach - 133,729
* Paraparaumu - 122,831
* Snells Beach - 108,627
* Tairua - 103,825
Source: realestate.co.nz. Figures from year to December 17, 2012.