The end of the road? Not quite. This is the final instalment in the five categories for our Best of Summer 2022 poll, and it's time to put your best feet forward.
Aotearoa likes to celebrate its diversity and these 10 waterside walks could hardly be more different – from the five-day tramp in a national park to 90-minute strolls around beachfront suburbs, from a short but sweaty climb to a coastal masterpiece that anyone can conquer on foot, in a wheelchair or mobility scooter, on a bike or pushing a pram.
So, check out Herald readers' favourite beach walks and then scroll to the bottom of the page to find the simple voting form.
Abel Tasman Coast Track, Nelson Tasman
A walk in the park – our smallest national park and the most laidback of our 10 Great Walks, a 60km track weaving in and out of the forest along some of the country's best beaches and bays. The whole route is advertised as a five-day trail, but you can dip in and out, treating yourself to a day walk or an overnight tramp. You could even go hell for boot-leather and bash from one end to the other in three days but one thing that is in abundance here – apart from the tracts of bush, native birds and sea life, golden sands – is time. Take it. DOC has four huts and a number of campsites on the route but you must book accommodation and transport before setting out.
Cathedral Cove, Coromandel
As anyone with an Instagram account knows, Cathedral Cove is one of Coromandel's must-see-and-post sites. You can only get there on foot or by boat, so for the purposes of this exercise the track begins at the northern end of Hahei and takes about 45 minutes, so no problem making a whole day of it. It crosses rugged farmland and drops into native bush with detours through glades to rocky shores. Finally, you'll descend a steep wooden staircase and step on to the beach, golden sand book-ended by cliffs, the rock rising from the sea. Rinse off and repeat the walk back to your vehicle.
Coastal Walkway, New Plymouth
The council might not have built the crashing waves, three safe beaches and shining ocean but it can take full credit for the piers to give walkers a break and take in the fresh (sometimes more than that) sea air, Wind Wand and other artworks, playgrounds and aquatic centre with heated pools and hydroslides, sinuous Te Rewa Rewa Bridge and cycle path – and supporting the cafes and restaurants along the 12.7km ramble to the coastal lagoons at trail's end. Bike, pram, scooter, mobility scooter and wheelchair friendly, an adventure for everybody.
Kohi Pt Scenic Track, Ohope
You have to time your walk for this strenuous 7km, three-hour walk with awesome views of Whakatāne, possibly as far as Whakaari White Island. From Whakatāne shopping centre, the route crosses roadway, a formed track, through bush and onto the beach. You could choose to walk to the point to see the remains of old pā sites; you'll encounter pockets of gorgeous native bush; listen for any number of birds and expect tūī to check you out. If you carry on to Otarawairere Bay and Ōhope Beach, the last hour must be walked at low tide because the track drops down a steep ridge and onto rocks which are often underwater. High tides crash into the cliff face.
Mahinepua Track, Northland
One of the north's best coastal walks, you could knock off the 7km track in an hour and a half but you're more likely to take the whole afternoon. It's rated easy, but it's not flat. From pretty Mahinepua Beach you'll head uphill to the first views, a taste of what's to come. Descend to a bay for a snack or a swim – store some energy for the next few headlands, with their jawdropping panorama of the black sand beach below, over bays and out to islands, and over bush-covered hills inland. At the trig station turn for home, perhaps detouring into a loop track for more epic views.
Milford to Takapuna, Auckland
Proof-positive you don't need to hike miles into the wild green yonder to find a decent seaside walk, this two-hour urban promenade is suitable for all fitness levels – though it's rocky and rough and can be slippery in some parts – as it's mainly along public road and paths. From Milford Reserve, the route presents uninterrupted views of Hauraki Gulf and Rangitoto. There are several good swimming beaches from – shall we coyly say "secluded" - Thorne Bay to Takapuna, 200-year-old pōhutukawa, marine life in volcanic rock pools and fossils of ancient forests preserved by lava flows. Best at low tide when the fossil forest is most visible and the path is dry.
Orewa Beach Walkway, Auckland
A pleasant, 6km one-hour stroll with Gulf views, golden sand and inbuilt comfort stops at local cafes, fish 'n' chip shops and ice cream parlours. It's paved most of the way. From the estuary on Hibiscus Coast Highway (also the kickoff for the glorious 7.6km 80-minute Estuary Walk), follow the shared path along the river and past the campground. Cool off with a swim at the beach or loll under a tree and watch the water players; if you're feeling energetic, there are eight beachfront exercise stations. From the surf lifesaving club, the sandy path eventually emerges onto the highway then briefly through the town centre, back along the coast and becomes a grass track from Marine View; option, hit the beach to finish at Arundel Reserve.
Papamoa Beach Walkway, Tauranga
Best-known of several tracks criss-crossing the remarkable 135ha Papamoa Hills Cultural Heritage Regional Park, which can be used to enjoy sweeping views of the Bay of Plenty coast and numerous archaeological features. It begins at Poplar Lane carpark and climbs to the hills' 224m summit, through pine forest, native bush and open grassland, showcasing several pā sites, before revealing breathtaking views. It takes about 45 minutes and is fairly steep.
Waikorire track, Mauao / Mt Maunganui
Mauao means "caught by the dawn" but you can admire the 232m landmark from anywhere in the neighbourhood at any time of day. Best views, however, are from the summit. It takes about 40min and you need to be relatively fit. There are several tracks, the most popular being Oruahine and Waikorire, both starting near the surf lifesaving club. Waikorire is the steepest, its well-formed staircases winding up the eastern flank. You'll reach a section of lovely native bush about two-thirds of the way up and can enjoy your walk in shade. From the top you'll see Papamoa, Tauranga, northern beaches, Kaimai Ranges and out into the Pacific; picnic at tables or under pōhutukawa. Remember, it can be hot so pace yourself and take water, sunscreen and a hat.
Waipu Coastal Walkway, Northland
Sadly for those who appreciate the glorious melodies of bagpipes, the Scottish settlement's Highland Games have been cancelled until 2023. Never mind: try this one-way hike to or from Waipu Cove and Langs Beach. The name gives away that it follows the shoreline from cove to beach or vice versa with Great and Little Barrier islands directly ahead; the Hen and Chickens, Taranga and the Mokohinau group can be spied on a clear day. The walk takes about 45min one way; the track is dirt and clay, fine when dry but slippery after rain.