Each day this week, we're profiling two much-loved Kiwi seaside spots in our quest to find New Zealand's best beach. We asked readers for nominations and we've narrowed that down to 10 finalists and three wildcards chosen by the Herald Travel team. To vote for your favourite and help us crown a winner, scroll down to the form at the bottom. The Best Beach 2021 winner will be announced in the Herald on Sunday on January 31.
One is "the picture-perfect beach" – golden sand, turquoise water, tree-covered headlands, classic crescent shape. The other was created by an entirely different force of nature: property developers.
The only Te Waipounamu South Island spot to make our readers' list of their 10 best beaches, Kaiteriteri has been a favourite holiday spot for Mainlanders for generations.
With a beautiful little estuary at the entrance to the township and its long stretch of sand, the secret has got out in recent years – Kaiteriteri is famous as the gateway to Abel Tasman National Park and from regular appearances on Instagram and lists of the world's best beaches. The sand and campgrounds are packed in peak summer.
That naturally curving beach means the water is usually extremely calm. The estuary is particularly good for kids; check currents and tides, though. As well as kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and the usual water sports, there are waka tours and cruises into the national park.
The place caters extremely well for families - a playground across the road from the beach, public BBQ areas, a flying fox and mini-golf.
Kaiteriteri Mountain Bike Park is one of the sport's premier locations in this country. Local volunteers have built trails from wicked downhills for adrenaline junkies to long, well-formed tracks for more sedate pedal-pushers.
If you're not one of those lucky people who've reserved their berth every year since the Treaty was signed, you'll likely be out of luck in the usual holiday periods. However, Kaiteriteri is delightful and worth visiting at almost any time of the year.
Across the road from the main beach, Kaiteriteri Recreation Reserve Camping Ground is a large area with 400 powered sites, cabins and new apartments.
Bethany Park is another large campground, in the hills a little way back from the water, with 200-plus sites. In the village, Kaiteri Lodge (that's what locals and long-timers call the place) has family and backpacker rooms. It's a bit of a hike to the beach, though – about 10 seconds.
One of our key criteria in this quest is kai – and Kaiteriteri punches above its weight. The waterfront store is the go-to place for ice-creams in the heat of the day; in the cool of the evening, it's fish'n chips or maybe gourmet burgers on the beach as the sun goes down, courtesy of Gone Burgers.
Tasman is famous for wines, beers and ciders. Enjoy them close to the source at the Beached Whale, a lively pub, or Kai restaurant and bar, owned and operated by the domain board. No surcharge for views of the beach and boats moored in the bay.
On its white-sand peninsula in the northern Coromandel, Matarangi is unlike most other Kiwi beach towns. It was conceived and developed as a holiday destination in the 1980s, around The Dunes golf course designed by Sir Bob Charles.
These days there are about 300 permanent residents in the village, blowing out to a population of 7000 in summer, and at 2½ hours' drive from Auckland it's become an "off the beaten track" lifestyle choice and holiday destination.
For water sports, the location is hard to beat – to one side, the calm and protected Whangapoua Harbour; to the other, the 4km-long Ocean Beach. If it floats (including kids), paddles or powers across the water, you can do it here.
Boaties can launch from the ramp into the protected harbour and head out for deepwater fishing; there are plenty of land-based possies, west towards Whangapoua and east towards Rings Beach.
Because of the way the town grew up, accommodation can be hard to find in high summer, and the closest campground-holiday park is several kilometres along the coast in Kuaotunu West.
Just north of Matarangi is New Chums Beach, only reached by boat or a 40-minute bush bash. The trek will land you at "one of the world's top 10 beaches", in Lonely Planet's opinion.
• Enjoy the sun, enjoy the water but keep yourself and your family safe this summer. Check out these sites before you hit the beach – watersafety.org.nz/beaches and surflifesaving.org.nz/stay-safe for water safety basics and lawa.org.nz/explore-data/swimming for water quality.