ONE of the special joys of living in New Zealand in summertime - if summer ever arrives - is that not only is there bound to be a great beach somewhere nearby that you can relax on but, better still, if you've got some local knowledge there's bound to be an even greater beach very few people know about down a track just over the hill.
If there's one thing nicer than a sunny day at the beach with family and friends, it's all of that and having the place to yourselves.
Of course the trick is knowing where the beach over the hill is. For obvious reasons, that sort of information is usually a close-guarded secret. For instance, I know a few special spots but I'm not telling you where they are.
But now a lot of those secret spots are being unveiled in The New Zealand Good Beach Guide: North Island, by Tim Rainger ($49.99 from cleanmedia.co.nz).
It's a meticulously researched account of nearly 600 North Island beaches - a South Island volume is due to follow - ranging from the well-known to those secret gems.
Since he started researching beaches, Rainger inevitably gets asked for his favourite and, he says, it is quite often the one over the hill.
"It's that beach that you have to work just a little bit harder to get to. Places like Whites Beach next to Piha, Orakawa next to Waihi, and of course New Chums on Coromandel Peninsula.
"In Northland, for instance, there's a spot called Daisy Bay just north of Sandy Bay that you have to walk down to that is beautiful.
"In Auckland you have spots like St Leonards and Back Beach/Kennedy Park on the North Shore, Ladies Bay and Shelly Bay on the south side, and Maori Bay and O'Neils out west.
"In the Bay of Plenty there's a spot called Newdicks near Maketu that you have to walk to. In Hawkes Bay there's an amazing beach near Waimarama called Cray Bay that you also have to walk to ... The list goes on."
If you plan on spending a good bit of this summer at the beach but want to try somewhere new, this is the perfect guide.
And, best of all, Rainger hasn't found all of my secret places ... yet, so you can take the trail to the beach just over the hill with no risk of disturbing the tranquillity of me and mine when you get there.
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