Whether you’re surfing, swimming, or sunbathing, you’re going to want to hit the beach here.
New Zealand has more than 9,300 miles of coastline, which ripples and zigzags to create bays, coves, fjords, and countless beaches. These run the gamut from surfing hot spots to quiet sheltered lagoons to rugged, boulder-studded strands. Most are open to the public, and only a few are truly crowded. It’s important to mention that the water is pretty cold at the bottom of the world, despite how warm you may feel, so sometimes just dipping your feet in will be refreshing enough. Here are some of the country’s best.
Top Picks for You
Located at the bottom of Coromandel Peninsula, Waihi Beach is a town on the western coast of the Bay of Plenty. With a 9 km (5½ mile) stretch of sand, it is perfect for safe surfing, swimming, and long walks; there are even some cycling tracks. Because this is a beach town, you can choose to camp out or stay at a bed-and-breakfast for a few days. If you’re not staying over, there are many local shops and restaurants to occupy your time during a day trip. The Coromandel is one of the most beautiful coastlines in New Zealand, and the sights are sure to take your breath away even during a quick visit.
On the eastern side of the Bay of Plenty, Ohope Beach stretches for 11 km (7 miles) and is an excellent place to explore by foot, bicycle, or even by boat if you’re feeling adventurous. It’s also a great place to learn how to surf because the waves aren’t too strong, and the water tends to be warmer than the rest of the subarctic temperatures you’ll find in other beaches. There are forests alongside Ohope, with trails that take you into the foot of Te Urewera National Park.
Featured in the motion picture The Piano, KareKare Beach is most known for its black volcanic sand. A 50-minute drive from downtown Auckland, this beach offers surfing opportunities, walking, and picnicking. If you choose to swim, it is advised to stay within the flags, because the rip tides can be a bit strong. There are waterfalls and rain forests alongside the beach to visit as well.
90 Mile Beach
Actually stretching just 88 miles, this beach spans the length of the Aupouri Peninsula from Kaitaia to Cape Regina. It is part of the Te Araroa Trail, one of the world’s longest walking trails. It is officially a highway, but it may not be possible to drive the entire length since the tides affect the safety of the roads; usually, a coach tour is your best bet for seeing the area. The best activities for 90 Mile are surfing, swimming, and fishing. Aupouri Forest flanks the length of the beach and provides a cool respite from the hot sun.
Stretching from Knuckle Point to Berghan Point at the top of the North Island, Doubtless Bay provides an array of activities such as fishing charters, nighttime nature tours, and skydiving. It’s an area to visit not only as a beach paradise, but for aquatic adventures too. Spend the day kayaking, sailing, paddleboarding, swimming, snorkeling, or surfing in the clear water. The bay is home to many beaches, so this location is best for spending a couple of days on the coast and exploring.
Located in New Plymouth, Fitzroy Beach runs alongside the Coastal Walkway and is a popular destination for swimming and surfing in the summer. It’s just as pleasant in the winter months for taking a stroll with the dog. Fitzroy Holiday Park provides modern facilities with accommodations that suit all budgets, and includes a children’s playground as well as a pool. It’s the perfect beach spot for the family as well as a desirable getaway for all ages.
Known as a world-renowned surfers’ paradise, Raglan is a town in the Waikato region ripe with adventure opportunities. The best beaches for surfing within the area are Manu Bay and Ngarunui Beach. If you’re new at surfing, it’s still a great place to learn. It’s also a fun area for kayaking and paddleboarding. There are interesting rock formations surrounding the landscape that you can discover on a beach walk once you’re done in the water, and if you go farther inland, you can climb Mt. Karioi or hike to Bridal Veil Falls.
Located west of Cape Farewell, at the northernmost part of the South Island, Wharariki Beach has one of the most breathtaking coastlines in the whole country. It’s best to visit at low tide when you can walk along the beach and explore the surrounding caverns and sand dunes. To get here is a bit of a trek because you have to pass through farm paddocks and part of the coastal forest before you reach the water, but if you’re looking for an adventure (you can even arrive on the beach on horseback), this is the place for you.
If you’re visiting the Wellington area, Lyall Bay is a suburb located outside of the city center and is a great beach town getaway for the day. For those looking to get their surfing on, it’s one of the best surfing beaches in the area. It’s also considered a safe swimming area for those just wanting to go for a dip. Lyall Bay is a quaint town next to the airport where the runway is visible, and the surrounding streets have interesting looking homes that make for a fun leisurely walk if you want to take a break from the sand.
St. Clair Beach
Down in the South Island in the Otago region, St. Clair Beach lies on the outskirts of Dunedin. If you’re visiting in the summer, this is a great place to spend your day taking a break from the bustling city center. It has one of the most consistent surf breaks, but it’s also an easy swimming spot. At the end of the beach is the St. Clair Hot Salt Water Pool, which is the only heated salt water pool in the country. The beach area also provides a healthy lineup of cafés and bars to check out once you’re done with your daily adventures.