It's miles from the ocean, but Hamilton's Wellington Street Beach has been voted one of 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 voted the country's best inland beach, and sixth best beach overall, ahead of such sand-strewn gems as Piha, Whangamata and New Chums beach.
The victory was in part due to the work 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 was I supposed to participate?''
He initally envisaged a subcompetition amongst the inland beaches, but said our little slice of paradise soon began to ''blitz 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.
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.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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