One of NZ's top-rated beaches?
It's miles from the ocean, but Hamilton's Wellington Street Beach could be among New Zealand's top-rated beaches.
What started as a satirical nomination in a Green Party New Zealand's Best Beach competition has seen it propelled into the top ten, with 237 votes ahead of such sand-strewn gems as Piha, Whangamata and New Chums beach.
As of yesterday afternoon Ohope Beach led the pack with 1769 votes and Kaiteriteri, 1561.
While it's often packed-out at weekends, the Wellington St beach was calm when the Times visited yesterday afternoon.
Several high school boys were jumping off the jetty, tubers floated past on the current, young children wearing swim rings waded into the shallow water's edge, and a pair of friends looked out over it all from shade higher on the bank.
Then a bicycle bell announced the arrival of Mark Servian, Green Party Spokesperson for Waikato.
Sick of 'Hamilphobia,' Mr Servian nominated the Hamilton East beach as New Zealand's best.
He said it was a ''fun summer way'' to increase awareness of deep sea drilling, which is the aim of the competition.
''I'm from Hamilton. How else am I supposed to participate?''
He initally envisaged a subcompetition amongst the inland beaches, but ''we're blitzing the inland field.''
A non-swimmer, but avid people watcher Mr Servian enjoys the ''interesting mix'' of people who frequent the beach.
Its central location makes it affordable for everyone to enjoy.
In fact, after the closure of the Municipal Pools in Victoria Street, it is the ''easiest swimming place in the CBD.''Hydro Cafe, just across the road, is another drawcard.
Historically, the beach area was an imporant waka landing site for early Maori traders.
In the 1930s, it became part of Hayes Paddock, a state housing area in English garden suburb style.
Hamilton East Community Trust chairperson and resident Lois Livingston has had a few dips at the beach.
Ms Livingston said it was a ''hugely popular swimming area'' for Hamilton Maori. Many complete the Tohi ritual, which involves splashing water to the face five times, in order to gain the blessing of the five Tainui Kings.
Beachgoer Te Rangi Taipari said she visited Wellington Street because it was well-known among Maori, and had always been one of her favourite places.
Josiah Sanft and Braden Jones, two of the jetty jumpers, had wandered down after school because the beach was ''refreshing'' and ''free.''
Facebook publicity for the Wellington Street Beach bid provoked debate on the definition of 'best' and queries about the water quality of the Waikato River.
To vote for your favourite beach, visit bestbeaches.org.nz.