Papatowai is surrounded by native podocarp forest and there are numerous walks in the area to waterfalls, and sand beaches in addition to bushwalks. There is also a walk to an archaeological site where it is possible to see middens left by early Māori inhabitants of the area. In the past, the bones of moa have also been found here.
The Papatowai Challenge, a 15.7km bush and beach run and walk, is held annually on the first weekend in March. The 2008 event attracted over 360 people.
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