Tairua represents unspoilt Coromandel beauty, writes Elisabeth Easther.

Where is it?

On the east coast of the Coromandel peninsula, about two hours' drive from Auckland, or 140km from Hamilton.

Origin of name: Some people say Tairua translates as "two tides", while others attribute the name to a legend about a fleeing warrior who evaded his enemies by changing the course of the river.

Population: 1100 permanent residents, swelling to around 11,000 during summer.


Town mascot: A giant jandal has recently been erected outside the campground and, two summers ago, local people started hanging Christmas jandal wreaths on the street lights.

Best websites: destinationtairua.co.nz; tairuaschool.com; tairua.net; tairua.org.nz - you choose.

What do people do all day? Trades mostly - depends what the surf's doing and what the fishing is like. A good combination of retired people and young families make for a vibrant community.

Sources of pride: The area's natural beauty - the estuary, beach and bush.

Way back when: There's plenty of evidence to suggest that Tairua is the site of some of the earliest human habitation in Aotearoa.

Pepe Bridge: The first Pepe Foot Bridge was built in January 1911. It took six men six weeks and at 302ft (92m) long, that was no mean feat. It was widened in 1926 to take cars and replaced in 1943, although it's still just a single lane.

Fiestas: Tairua Food and Wine Festival, the Mud Splash and Dash and several sporting and fishing events keep people busy.

Best activities for kids: Jumping off the Pepe Bridge, or anything to do with the water.

Best place for a drink: Manaia Cafe and Bar on Main Rd, or Punters, the local sports bar - depends what you're into.

Best food: The Pepe does the best breakfast and overlooks the playground and estuary, so great for settling in while the young ones play. The Old Mill is a beautiful cafe at the base of Paku Mountain, where you can look out over the estuary and delight in its chocolate tart. Or try Shells Restaurant for really hearty portions - its steaks are amazing.

Best takeaways: Surf and Sand for fish and chips and milkshakes; they use the freshest fish. Or go to Taste for delicious pizza.

Best flat white: Tall, the takeaway coffee place at the top of the town, is where all the locals refuel. They also do great baking, including spectacular savoury muffins.

Best bakery: Tairua Bakery on Main Rd, perfect for a pie.

Best shop: All Things Organic - they sell natural icecream as well as all the usual organic fare. Manaia is good for gifts and homeware. The Tairua Superette and the Four Square are super convenient if you're after lollies or groceries.

Best library: The Tairua Library is awesome, a real community hub. Aside from books there's also free Wi-Fi plus loads of different events.

Best walk: Collins Drive Track in Puketui Valley goes through a broken hill mine. One tunnel is about 1500ft (450m) long so you'll need a torch to walk through. It's also quite a steep hike and takes about 80 minutes. Or try the Lynch Stream Track north of Tairua in the Coromandel forest. For shorter walks, trot up the Paku summit. From the base to the summit it takes about 15 minutes and you get 360-degree views over Tairua and Pauanui as a reward. Visitors can purchase a booklet called Your Coromandel Local Walk Guide (TCDC) from the library for $5 - it contains loads of good family-friendly walks.

Best view: From the top of Mt Paku.

Best adventure: Jumping off Pepe Bridge. Or take a trip with Cathedral Cove Kayak Tours at Hot Water Beach and paddle from Hahei to Cathedral Cove. There are also loads of fishing and diving charters around these parts as segments of the ocean outside Hahei are marine reserve. Or spend a night on Slipper Island just out from Tairua if you fancy some island camping.

Best trail runs: The Colville Connection, Surf to Firth and Bush to Beach are all good fun.

Best place to pull over: The north end car park at Ocean Beach Estuary - great for family fun.

Here for a short time? Hurl yourself into the water off Pepe Bridge.

Best kept secret: Otara Bay, 20-minute bushwalk from Sailor's Grave Beach (aka Te Karo Beach) - a lonely grave for an ancient mariner.

Best swims: If you haven't already done it, fling yourself off Pepe Bridge. Or sample the sea. Or try the river out at Puketui Valley, where you'll find water holes and a DoC campground.

Wildlife: The school is right on the beach and orcas and dolphins swim past the classroom window several times each year. The birdlife is amazing and includes herons, dotterels, oystercatchers and swarms of chip-fed seagulls.

Safety warnings: Don't jump off Pepe Bridge at low tide. Seriously, it's not a good idea.

Visitors say: Can I please jump off Pepe Bridge?

Locals say: You don't need to ask, just do it.

Thanks to local librarian, Emma Darragh, for opening the book on Tairua's charms and also to Tairua School's creative writing class for sharing their favourite things.