Pauanui is a small beachside town hidden away on the east coast of the Coromandel.
Located halfway between Whangamata and Whitianga, or half an hour through the Kopu hills from the turn-off to Thames, it is a little off the beaten track. In fact, there’s only one way in and out of town from the turn-off. Because of this, you’ll want to keep an eye out for king tides.
Normally a sleepy seaside town, with a population of around 1000 residents, Pauanui swells to upwards of 15,000 during the summer months. It is a popular spot for fishing, surfing, hiking or just spending a gorgeous day on the beach, so it’s no wonder people flock here.
Though this is a small community, it is well equipped. They have a small supermarket, beauty parlours, cafes, restaurants, bars and a bakery. You’ll even find a wonderful mechanic at the Pauanui Service Centre, should you need one.
Pro Tip: We recommend you get petrol from the Waitomo Station in Hikuai (where you turn off to head to Pauanui). It is consistently cheaper than many others in the area.
The Best Things to Do in Pauanui
1. Climb Mount Pauanui
With some of the best views in the area, climbing Mt Pauanui is a wonderful way to spend a morning — but it’s not for the faint-hearted. A moderate level of fitness (or stubbornness) is required for this walk.
Also known as the Pauanui Trig Track, it takes between 1 hour 15 minutes and 2 hours to complete. It is, of course, much faster on the way back down!
Boasting panoramic views of Tairua, Mt Paku and the Slipper Islands, the climb is well worth the pain.
Pro Tip: This path is steep and can be very slippery after rains. We recommend walking the Pauanui Trig Track when the trail is dry.
2. Enjoy the Coastal Walk at the Base of Mount Pauanui
The coastal walk to Cave Bay is stunning and well worth doing whilst you’re in town. You’ll find many rock pools there for the kids (and young at heart) to look through. Plus, with gorgeous ocean views for miles, it’s sure to impress.
Keep an eye out for whales and dolphins as you walk. Orcas are sometimes spotted in this area, whilst dolphins are relatively common.
This walk takes approximately 20 minutes one way and is an in-and-out track.
3. Go Surfing or Swimming
Pauanui Beach is great for swimming and surfing, plus it’s easily accessible.
The seabed doesn’t drop away quickly (unlike some other New Zealand surf beaches), so it’s generally a great beach for kids. Ensure that you keep a close eye on them though and always swim between the flags. As with all surf beaches, Pauanui Beach does experience rips at times — again though, if you swim between the flags, you’ll be fine.
If you’re there to surf, you’ll be pleased to know that the waves are known for their consistency and are particularly well-suited to beginner and intermediate boarders. We suggest you check the surf report before visiting if catching the right wave is important to you.
Related: The best beaches in the Coromandel.
4. Ride Your Bike to Tairua
The boardwalk and bike track that runs the distance to Tairua is a new addition to this area.
The track is a combination of boardwalk and stone pathways and begins down at the Waterways. It’s a grade 2 cycleway that has been designed to suit walkers, runners and cyclists of all ages.
Watch the wildlife as you go, enjoy the view and try to stay out of the water.
5. Put Your Boat in the Water
Many would agree that there’s no better way to spend a day than enjoying yourself on the water, so it’s not surprising that the Pauanui Estuary is often a hive of activity for boats and jet skis.
You will need to have your own boat (or a new friend with one) and you’ll want to be aware of your timing when heading out as there is a bar to contend with.
6. Try Your Luck Fishing
Whether you enjoy fishing from the land or a boat, Pauanui is a great place to do so!
Why not head down to the Waterways or wharf and dangle a line for a snapper or kahawai? Even if you don’t catch anything, it’s fun to spot fish jumping out of the water when the tide’s coming in.
7. Take the Kids to the Given Grove Play Park
The Given Grove Kids Park would make many cities envious. With slides, climbing frames, swings and flying foxes your kids will happily spend many hours there.
It’s also a perfect spot for a picnic and to enjoy a book whilst your tamariki wear off some of that never-ending energy.
8. Hang Ten at the Pauanui Skate Park
Neighbouring the airport, Pauanui’s skate park attracts lots of visitors — largely thanks to its incredible bowl.
It is great for both skaters and scooters and has heaps of open space for the kids to enjoy. Though it’s often busy, there is room for everyone.
Conveniently, it’s also close to the shops — perfect if you need to nip away for a snack.
9. Check Out the Vintage Planes at the Pauanui Airport
Pauanui locals love their aeroplanes, and you’ll be the one to benefit. In fact, most of the houses on the airfield even have their own hangers!
If you want to catch a glimpse of vintage planes, you’ll often see them heading in and out on a Sunday. This is a great way to spend an hour or so — made even better if you pack a picnic or grab ice creams to enjoy whilst watching.
10. Take a Scenic Flight and Enjoy the Scenery From the Sky
If you’d rather take to the air, why not hop on board a scenic flight from Pauanui? Air Auckland offers flights around the region and we think they’re pretty reasonable value.
You have the choice of two flights. Either fly:
- north to Slipper Island, Tairua, Sailors Grave, Hahei and Cooks Beach, before returning to Pauanui, or
- south past Slipper Island, then head to Opoutere, Onemana and on to Whangamata, before returning to Pauanui.
With spectacular views and expert commentary, this is definitely one of the best things to do in Pauanui.
11. Visit Sailor’s Grave
Sailor’s Grave is approximately 11km north of Tairua, at Te Karo Bay. It is home to the oldest sailor’s grave, dating back to 1842 and is also a beautiful place to visit.
Stunning in the summertime, with the pohutukawa covered in flowers, Sailor’s Grave (despite its name) is the perfect beach for swimming in. This semi-sheltered bay is a wonderful place for families to visit.
it is also a favourite location amongst photographers. In particular, some incredible astrophotography photos come out of Sailor’s Grave.
Sailors Grave Road, Pumpkin Hill 3591
12. Play a Round of Golf
Pauanui boasts three separate golf courses which is pretty incredible for such a small town.
Two of them are located within Pauanui itself (The Lakes Golf Course and Pauanui Pines, both 9-hole courses), whilst the third one is located at the Lakes Resort. This premier 18-hole course is located just out of town.
All of these courses welcome guests to play one-off games. We suggest booking your tee time in advance.
13. Enjoy the Puketui Swimming Hole
Whilst in Pauanui in the summertime, be sure to check out the swimming hole near Puketui. Frog Rock, as it’s also known, is a huge favourite for locals, with rope swings, and plenty of deep water to jump into. Or, if you’d prefer go for a float down the gentle stream.
The water is always chilly, but this just makes it all the better for cooling off on a warm day!
Puketui Valley Road, Hikuai 3579 — a 15-minute drive from Pauanui.
There are so many things to do and see in Pauanui, a lot of them at little to no cost. It’s the ideal spot for anyone just wanting a relaxing getaway or family bonding time.
Pauanui is our happy place and we’re sure it will fast become yours too.
Guest post by Nina Edgecombe from Kiwis Who Fly. Unless otherwise stated, photos are by Nina.