By now, it might feel as if the summer holidays are a distant figment of our imaginations, after returning to the rat race and normal routines. But the joy of summer isn't solely about the time we take off around the New Year. In fact, for most of us, that time is spent feeling exhausted after the year that's been and having to juggle multiple family commitments.
But the long summer days are here for a while longer, so let's make the most of it - the after-work moments, the warm evenings, the weekends. That's how we continue the summer feeling while back working in the cities.
Here are some of the best places to find a beachfront vibe in New Zealand's urban centres.
Whangārei's Town Basin is a picturesque scene over the marina, right in the city centre. Watch the boats come and go as you dine over water at The Quay Kitchen. Or take a stroll around the Hātea Loop, a 4.5km fully accessible walk around the waterfront, which has a number of sculptures created by local artists along the route.
It's hard to beat the buzz along Auckland's Mission Bay on a beautiful summer's day. Head down Tāmaki Drive and stop to enjoy the sandy stretch of beaches with bustling cafes, restaurants and bars. There's also a walking track which will take you up to Bastion Point, for views of the Hauraki Gulf. Travel further along to Kohimarama to watch the local yacht club in action, before continuing on to the sunny seaside village of Saint Heliers, full of lively waterfront cafes and boutique shops.
Another favourite for lengthening the summer in the city is Takapuna Beach on Auckland's North Shore. It's just a10-minute drive from the CBD, and is a popular beach area, with an assortment of cafes, restaurants with sea views and designer shopping. Stroll along the length of Takapuna Beach to stretch your legs or for something more, you can walk from Takapuna to Milford, which will take about 90 minutes.
If you're in the central city and want to soak up the summer sun, head to Wynyard Quarter for drinks and dinner while looking out to Wāitemata Harbour. It's been home to Auckland's marine and fishing industries for decades, as well as the America's Cup village.
Head lakeside in Hamilton and enjoy the shores of Lake Rotoroa, within the Hamilton Lake Domain. Enjoy brunch or lunch at The Verandah, or enjoy icecream at the lakeside kiosk. It's an ideal spot for families as the waterside setting has children's playgrounds and picnic spaces.
If you want to stretch the legs, there's scenic walking and cycling along the banks of the Waikato River, with plenty of park benches and grassy areas to stop and play along the way.
Bay of Plenty
It's hard to not feel beachy at Mount Maunganui, but what about in Tauranga? The city's CBD has its own gorgeous waterfront vibes without needing to elbow your way past the surfers at the Mount. It's easy to mix urban and seaside in Tauranga, especially at The Tidal Steps. It's the place where locals flock for a dip in the sea and the young ones (and young at heart) do bombs off the jetty.
For the ultimate urban waterfront retreat, stay a night at Trinity Wharf, a stunning luxurious over-water hotel with panoramic water views. Or just pop in for a drink and a bite to eat at the Trinity Wharf Restaurant.
There's much to soak up on New Plymouth's waterfront. Enjoy watching the busy shipping harbour at Taranaki Port while having a bite to eat at Bach on Breakwater. The cafe, which is open for breakfast, brunch and lunch, has a great New Zealand flavour to its style, using upcycled materials, and even bits of old wharf timbers. You'll feel like you're relaxing in a traditional Kiwi bach. The cafe is situated at the end of the Coastal Walkway, overlooking a child-friendly beach.
Napier is known as the Art Deco capital of the world, but also has incredible panoramic coastal views, as well as gorgeous buildings. Take a stroll along the thriving Marine Parade along the water's edge, a 3km stretch that has views out to Mahia Peninsula to Cape Kidnappers.
Stop at the National Aquarium of New Zealand, the skate park or playground, enjoy a round of mini-golf on the seaside, or just wander out on the Napier Viewing Platform to take it all in.
Forget about time and watch the waves roll in at Lyall Bay's iconic Maranui Cafe. The funky cafe sits above the Surf Life Saving Club and has oodles of personality with an eclectic mix of furniture and bright decor inside, and large windows for views out to the ocean.
Watch the surfers doing their best to master the waves, or take a stroll along the beach after lunch. The building itself is considered a heritage building, and one the local community is extremely passionate about - fundraising to rebuild it after a devastating fire in 2009.
While Tāhunanui Beach might be the obvious waterfront in Nelson, there's also the Maitai River which weaves through the central part of the city. There's a walkway alongside the river which goes for about eight kilometres, or you can jump on a paddleboard for a paddle down it instead. If you're lucky, you might see some seals by the bridge. For riverside dining options head to The River Kitchen or The Tides restaurant at high tide.
Take a stroll along Wakefield Quay, which is also a prime waterfront dining destination in Nelson. Head to The Styx and The Boat Shed, or simply enjoy the many sculptures and murals along the way.
While the ocean is a bit brisk in the south, Dunedin's St Clair has a Bondi Beach vibe, with bars along the Esplanade and the outdoor Hot Salt Water Pool, a saltwater and chlorinated pool heated to 28C. Opt for any of the great eateries such as The Long Dog, Spirit House, tītī, Starfish and Salt. The area's boutique accommodation all add to the fun beachside vibes of Dunedin.
Further inland in Central Otago, grab a drink at Queenstown's boat bar - Perky's Floating Bar on the Million Dollar cruise jetty. Check out the spectacular vistas of Lake Wakatipu and the beautiful alpine mountains surrounding the area, while enjoying local wine and beer. The boat has a heated deck, and is permanently moored at the jetty. You can also bring your own takeaway food onboard, and it's dog friendly too.
Invercargill's Oreti Beach is just a five-minute drive from the CBD and is one of the few in New Zealand vehicles can drive on. Whether it's four-wheel-driving or carting along in wind-powered vehicles, the beach makes for a great adventure playground. At 26km long, Oreti Beach is also where Burt Munro tested his Indian motorcycle, and therefore a key location for the film The World's Fastest Indian.
Just out of Invercargill at the settlement of Riverton, you can imagine life in a traditional South Island crib at The Crib Cafe. It's a quirky venue in central Riverton, with all sorts of treasures one would expect to find in a southern crib. Soak up the laid back beach vibes with great coffee and home-baked goods.