It will be many months – at the earliest – before Kiwis can head to Bali, so why not try Aotearoa’s version tucked away in the Bay of Plenty? The golden shores of Waihī Beach, and its relaxed seaside village, are just a few hours from Auckland – here’s why it should be your next beach escape. Bliss at the beachBrook Sabin/StuffWaihī Beach can be busy over summer; but much quieter in winter. The town’s main nine-kilometre surf beach feels like Mt Maunganui 30 years ago – it’s beautiful, never too busy, and has a relaxed friendly atmosphere. You’ll also find a scenic coastal walk at the northern end of the beach; in just 45 minutes you’ll reach the splendid isolation of Orokawa Bay. Once you’re done in the water, head to the beachfront Flat White Cafe; the food is as good as the atmosphere. READ MORE:* Wairua Lodge, Coromandel: The North Island’s secret relaxation retreat* Matai Peak: a secret slice of heaven above the clouds* The travel hot list: The Stuff travel team’s picks of things to try in 2021 Bali Bach Waihī Beach has no shortage of holiday homes, but one of the most Bali-esque is tucked away in a grove of native bush.Brook Sabin/StuffAmongst the Nikaus has an indoor and outdoor bath. Amongst the Nikaus is a luxury suite with a tranquil room overlooking the forest. It feels like a sanctuary and reminds me of a villa you might find in Ubud – Bali’s epicentre of relaxation. There are plenty of other places to stay that suit all budgets, from campgrounds to beachfront apartments. The secret garden The most Bali-like place to eat in town is The Secret Garden, with little eating huts scattered around a tropical garden. Top off your visit by booking a massage at the hidden hut at the back of the garden.Brook Sabin/StuffThe Secret Garden has huts spread around a tropical garden. While waiting for your massage appointment, explore the little boutique shops scattered around the village, and try the Swiss-style artisan chocolates at Chez Moi – you’ll see truffles being made right in front of you. Other shops specialise in ceramics, indoor plants and fair-trade gifts. During the summer months, the village also holds a popular Sunday market. Short walks If you need a break from the beach, the region has a series of fascinating short walks. The Karangahake Gorge Tunnel Walk takes you through a one-kilometre tunnel and past the remains of old mining buildings. The tunnel does have lights, but bring a torch to make it easier. The Waitawheta Tramway follows old tracks that were built in the late 1800s, through a gorge and across a spectacular suspension bridge. If you don’t feel like leaving the village, the Trig Walk will help you burn off last night’s fish and chips. As the name suggests, it’s a steep climb to one of the highest points in the area – but it’s worth the effort, the 90-minute walk offers aerial views of the town and coast.Brook Sabin/StuffThe weekend markets are always popular. More information: Where to stay: Amongst the Nikaus starts from $240 a night. See: amongstthenikaus.co.nz Getting there: Waihī Beach is a two-hour drive from Auckland, 1.5 hours from Hamilton or 50 minutes from Tauranga Airport. For more see: bayofplentynz.com Brook Sabin and Radha Engling travelled the length of New Zealand on a Stuff Travel nationwide road trip in a new Hyundai Kona Electric. The vehicle has 449km of real-world range on a single charge, for more information see: hyundai.co.nz/Kona-electric. The author’s trip was supported by Bay of Plenty Tourism.