What is a beach crawl I hear you ask? Well, my friend. It’s kind of like a pub crawl, minus the pubs and booze. Although, I guess you could bring booze if you want, but that takes away the family-friendly element. Also the ability to drive safely. So maybe reward yourself a cold beer afterwards. All that beaching really can take it out of you.

But I digress. A beach crawl is simply hitting a load of beaches in one arvo (afternoon for you non-kiwis).

Fun Ideas for your Beach Crawl

  • Hold a sandcastle building competition at each beach
  • Collect the best shell from each beach
  • Plan a scavenger hunt. See how many of each thing you can spot at each beach. I have included a beach crawl scavenger hunt checklist here and at the bottom of the post for you to print out if you so wish.
  • At every beach set a timer and see how many waves you can catch with a bodyboard in that time
  • Go at different times of the year. Sure the beach is wonderful in the summer, but it provides a different setting in other seasons as well. We did ours in winter and while we couldn’t swim (far too cold for that nonsense), the wind made the beaches very dramatic and exciting

Beach Crawl Top Tips

  • Go with the flow. Don’t be worried about getting to a certain beach by a certain time. You will have more fun if you just let the day pan out. And be much less stressed
  • Bring plenty of snacks and water
  • Leave only footprints. Take only photographs. Except for the odd shell, those are free for all. Make sure you take all your rubbish with you. Ain’t no one like going to a beach filled with other peoples rubbish
  • Don’t forget the sunscreen, a hat, some clothing to cover bare skin, warm clothes for afterwards and some towels for the car and the bodies
  • Have FUN! It’s an adventure, not a race

Our Beach Crawl

Along the east coast of the North Island. The Bay of Plenty region to be precise, Eastern Bay of Plenty to be even more precise, there is a wee place called Whakatane. This is where our adventure began one gusty Sunday arvo.

Beach Crawl Beach One – Golf Course Beach

Golf course beach - beach 1 of 6 on our beach crawl

A little beach with an unknown name (well, unknown to me. I Googled and everything so I have christened it Golf Course Beach), approximately 10 minutes from Whakatane lies waiting for sand castle builders. This was our first stop. Golf Course Beach is accessed from Golf Links Road which is off the main road from Whakatane to Tauranga.

As you drive the road turns from tar sealed to gravel so make sure you drive at a snail’s pace to avoid upsetting the locals. No one likes dust clouds hanging over their homes. At the end of the road, a little carpark awaits. And here we have a beautiful sandy beach with Whale Island looming in the distance.

Golf Course Beach (it has a nice ring to it doesn’t it?) is popular with dog walkers and fishermen. It is easily accessed and fairly quiet. If the tide is low you can wade out in the water and there is a little sandbank to run along. Plus it looks like you are walking on water. And let’s face it, that’s pretty impressive.

There are loads of sand dunes to jump off and bits of driftwood to build architecturally splendid structures if you so wish. Shells dot along the sand so sand castle building is kind of a must. Plus whoever lives in your sand home will have a marvellous view of Whale Island.

beach crawl beach 1

Beach Crawl Beach Two – Thornton Beach

Beach crawl beach 2 - Thornton Beach

I lived in Whakatane for 6 years and I never once visited Thornton Beach. Why? No idea, it’s only about 15 minutes from Whakatane and is easily accessed from the main road like all the beaches on our beach crawl. But for some reason, I never made it there. But alas, I made it eventually. Only 2 years after moving away.

Thornton Beach boasts a pretty cool camping ground as well as some handy sand dunes to explore. Beach crawl beach number two is handily close to Whakatane but far enough away to feel like you’re in the middle o’ nowhere.

Again you have got a sandy white beach. Perfect for sandcastle building and a slightly off centre view of White Island.

Beach crawl beach 2 - thornton beach

Beach Crawl Beach 3 – Matata Beach

Beach crawl beach 3 - Matata Beach

Matata beach was number three on our beach crawl. This beach is in… Matata. Matata also is home to the Loch Ness Monster. There is a real-life Loch Ness Monster in Matata (which may or may not be made out of tyres thrown into the water). They do say New Zealand is very much like Scotland. We even have ole Nessie to prove it.

Matata Beach also hosts a camping ground and the little village has a dairy (corner shop for you non-locals), a petrol station and other amenities you may need so you don’t have to go aaallll the way into the closest town to grab supplies. Which is only 20 minutes away anyway.

White sand, an even more off centre view of Whale Island and a scattering of shells make up Matata Beach.

Beach Crawl Beach Four – Pikowai Beach

Beach crawl beach four

Again I am unsure what this beach is called, I think it’s Pikowai Beach but it’s one I love, often when driving between Whakatane and Tauranga I stop here and have a wee sit on the beach to ponder life. Pikowai Camp Ground is just up the road so I assume it is Pikowai Beach. It is just on the side of the main road and has a wee stream for those not comfortable with playing chicken with the crashing waves.

White Island drifts to the right, nearly out of sight here and you can see sandy beach for miles until it curves around the bend. The kids got sick of building sandcastles here and were more interested in the icy water.

beach crawl beach five

Beach Crawl Beach Five – Otamarakau Beach

beach crawl beach five - otamarakau

Otamarakau Beach is just further past the rest area. This is where the kids really went to town in the water. Despite it being the temperature of a freezer. The rough steps made from driftwood lead to yet another spectacular beach. I never realised just how many beaches were dotted along the coast between these two towns. You don’t tend to notice them as you zoom along the main road singing to the spice girls radio.

Just goes to show, if you look hard enough you will find many hidden gems in plain sight.

We skipped the next few beaches as the kids were getting tired and a wee bit chilly. I did tell them that’s that what happens when you play with water in the middle o’ winter. But us Mum’s don’t know an awful lot do we?

beach crawl beach five

Beach Crawl Final Destination – Papamoa Beach

beach crawl beach six - papamoa beach

We arrived at our destination. We did plan to make it to Mount Maunganui, play on the beach then go for a walk up the Mount but we were all a bit beached out by this time so Papamoa Beach was to be our last beach of the day.

The water was still cold and White Island had disappeared around the corner. A short game of beach rugby ensued. Obviously. We are Kiwi’s after all. I lost, however.

Papamoa Beach can be accessed from multiple places, just park up and wander across the dunes. There you shall find yet another picturesque sandy beach.

beach crawl beach six - papamoa beach

So there you have it, a successful afternoon beaching. Two happy, tired children and a sandy Ma. What more can you ask for?

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What are your thoughts on a beach crawl? Going to do your own one day?



Beach Crawl Scavenger Hunt Checklist

Click on the images to be taken to a PDF file of the checklists – you can download the pre-made checklist or make your own



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how to do a beach crawl - 6 beaches, 1 afternoon

how to do a beach crawl - 6 beaches, 1 afternoon

how to do a beach crawl - 6 beaches, 1 afternoon


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