Hamish Dunlop was kicking back on the deck of the ultimate Kiwi bach when the Herald called to ask about his nomination for Hahei as New Zealand's Best Beach. Our judging panel agreed, putting it in the shortlist of 10 that the nation is voting on.
"The weather has been great since we got here last week," he said. Fortunately, he and his family arrived at the Coromandel resort after the storms which ruined many holidays. He's regretting that he has to pack up the family, and the ute, and head home next day.
His children are the fourth generation of Dunlops to holiday at the bach.
"My grandparents bought the place in the 70s," he recalled. They'd road-tested the area by staying with friends down the road for a few summers before that.
The Dunlop clan hail from Taranaki. So why not buy at great beaches closer to home, like Oakura or Opunake?
"Our family farms in Hawera. My grandfather wanted a place to get away from all that, so they bit the bullet and bought up here.
"Mum and her sister own it now that our grandparents have passed on. It's a good old Kiwi bach, a Fibrolite box with a deck on front.
"It used to be just two rooms. One was a big dorm room with beds and bunks. The other one had a twin bed. We modernised it about three years ago, so it has three bedrooms now."
Like all Kiwi baches, it expands to fit the number of family staying. "We've just had 10 staying, but there's a big front lawn and it's standing room only between the tents. In the past we've had about 30-40 staying here for New Year."
Inside, it's full of family memorabilia. "Every one has a story."
And out back, "Poppa had a vege garden and fruit trees that were timed to produce for the summer holiday – potatoes, beans, carrots.
"It's the worst house in the best street. It's absolute beachfront, but the place is so basic-looking that it gets mistaken for a DOC hut if we've got the farm utes parked out front."
In the 1970s, the trip to the bach was a trek over one-lane, winding, hilly roads to the east coast of the peninsula. "My mother tells how it used to take eight hours to get here."
With better vehicles and roads, the latest generation of Dunlops could get to Hahei in 6½ hours. Hamish's three children are still young, so they leave the 'Naki while it's still dark and arrive at the bach around lunchtime.
When our expert panel sifted 26 contenders into their shortlist, there was some angst about Hahei.
Was it one of the country's best holiday places in its own right, or was it popular because
it was so close to other hotspots like Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove? After a few minutes' debate they agreed: Hahei is one of the best beaches for a family holiday.
On the deck of their bach, Hamish and generations of Dunlops would agree.
THE TOP 10 BEACHES
• Castlepoint, Wairarapa
• Hahei, Coromandel
• Kaiteriteri, Tasman
• Matai Bay, Northland
• Matapouri, Northland
• New Chums, Coromandel
• Opito Bay, Coromandel
• Taupo Bay, Northland
• Te Arai, Auckland
• Whangamata, Coromandel
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