Craving fun, sun and stupendous beaches? Here's the place, says Elisabeth Easther.


Papamoa boasts 16km of white sandy beach from Mount Maunganui in the west to Kaituna River in the east.

Origin of name: No, it doesn't mean Daddy Moa Bird. Papa is Maori for flat, moa for raised - so Papamoa means "raised beds for growing vegetables on the flats".

Population: In last year's census, 21,066.


Town slogan: Unofficially it's "Sunshine Paradise".

Town mascot: Papa Moa, an unknown person dressed as a moa who is a regular at Palm Beach Plaza.

Bare facts: In 2012, an assault on the world record for skinny-dipping was attempted with 299 people stripping off and jumping in despite the chilly temperature. The bid failed because Guinness World Record regulations require all swimmers to be in the water at the same time for a group photo. Next time, perhaps.

Groundbreaking: The skinny dip event followed a decision by the courts upholding people's right to be naked in public for innocent reasons.

Famous locals: Tiki Taane is a resident, Colin Meads lives there, too. Zoe Cramond, who played Emma in Packed to the Rafters, grew up there

Best websites: and

Sources of pride: Beautiful beaches and the awesome fishing.

Town fiestas: There are beach walks and fun runs, and some big events at Mount Maunganui, like the triathlon, and there's an annual breast cancer walk, too. The surf club has carnivals and there are fishing competitions; the Kahawai World Cup resumes next year.

Best reason to stop: The beaches, great stretches of them, pretty and as safe as beaches ever are.

Best place to take the kids: The beach or Topaz Drive Reserve, which has a great selection of play equipment including a big flying fox. The Papamoa Skate Park on Parton Rd is cool. Or how about taking them for a holiday at the awesome Papamoa Beach Top 10 Holiday Resort.

Best park: Papamoa Sports and Recreation Centre is huge, with everything from soccer, rugby, tennis, bowls, to all sorts of sports.

Here for a short time? Go to Pacifica Garden Centre and Cafe for lunch, then go blokarting. Or if you're fit, walk up the Papamoa Hills because the views are amazing.

Best place for a drink: Bluebiyou beachfront restaurant, smack bang on the beach. Or the very popular Rain Bar.

Best dinner: Bluebiyou at Papamoa Domain - great spot overlooking the beach with yummy food. Well priced and something for everyone.

Best lunch: Gana Cafe, highly recommended.

Tops for coffee: Monroes coffee kiosk in the Papamoa Domain shops, next to the barber.

Best bakery: Papamoa East Bakery - formerly Kev's Place, RIP Kev.

Best shop: Fashion Island - great outlet shopping on a rainy day.

Best art gallery: Pacifica Garden Centre and Cafe has some great art to admire and buy.

Best walk: Choose between trotting down the beach either towards Mount Maunganui or in the opposite direction towards The Kaituna River. Or up the Papamoa Hills - but be prepared to sweat. There are Maori pa sites and information boards along the way, but for some reason it's not used much despite being a really fabulous experience.

Best view: You'll get gorgeous views from the top of Papamoa Hills. Gaze out to The Mount and Motiti Island. Look across towards Tauranga and, on a clear day, you'll see all the way to Matakana, along to the islands, out to Maketu and White Island and back over orchards and Te Puke farmland.

Best swim: Swim at the main beach near the Surf Club so the lifeguards can keep their eyes on you. Or take a dip at Papamoa East down at Taylor Reserve.

Best mountainbiking: Summerhill Recreation Trails in the Papamoa Hills. The trail also welcomes walkers and BMXers and it's just lovely and super fun.

Best adventures: Blokart Heaven if you're feeling brave. Or jetboats down the Kaituna River.

Best playground: The Sport and Recreation Centre.

Best kept secret: Papamoa Beach Top 10 Holiday Park, right on the beach with great facilities; jumping on those bouncy pillows is like flying.

Charming because: Papamoa has a relaxed small-town vibe and is very community oriented, despite having grown so much bigger over the past 15 years. Plus it's close to the bush for getting close to nature and the mountains for skiing.

Wildlife: There are lots of ducks, geese and pukeko around the many waterways and reserves; tui, too. Also look out for penguins, and sometimes seals. Orcas pass by every October. Dolphins visit regularly and, for some reason, are always seen on Christmas Day.

Visitors say: If we sold our pad in Auckland we could buy a mansion in Papamoa.

Locals say: We live in paradise.

Thanks to Rebecca Crosby, third generation Papamoa-ite, and Kimberly Easther for sharing the love.