Whether it’s a secluded gem to unwind yourself or a picturesque Instagram hotspot, we’ve compiled some best must-visit beaches in New Zealand.
Life takes you down many paths, but my favorite ones lead to the beach, especially in New Zealand.
From north to south, there are countless jaw-dropping stretches of sand, but knowing which ones to put on your itinerary can be too tricky.
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Best Beaches in New Zealand according to the Different Regions
Piha Beach, Auckland
One of Auckland’s wild west coast beaches, popular for its black sand. It is basically an island in the sea with big waves and is dominated by an eroded volcano that looks like a reclining but watchful lion.
Piha is known as the birthplace of Malibu board riding in New Zealand. It has some beautiful walking tracks from both ends that lead to breathtaking viewpoints over wave-hammered cliffs.
At high tide, the big waves are striking through the Gap and make a safe, saltwater swimming pool.
The black sand beauty can be easily assessed, just an hour from the city. So, you can have a picnic there while seeing expert surfers giggling at the giant thundering waves. Because Piha beach is also known as one of the most famous surfing beaches in New Zealand.
Karekare Beach, Aucklan
It is the country’s majestic and untouched beach that gain the world’s attention in Jane Campion’s film “The Piano”. Karekare is also a black sand beach. One will definitely admire its shallows that give the effect of a dark mirror for the sky.
This effect is created when water from the Tasman Sea sweeps over its iron sand. Moreover, you can enjoy watching out the surfers tackling the waves.
If you are an art lover, stop at Titirangi on your way out to the coast and do visit the Lopdell Precinct which is an arts and culture facility with an eatery and some shops.
Cheltenham Beach, Auckland
This stunning sandy stretch is close to Devonport town center. Cheltenham beach enjoys breathtaking views of Rangitoto Island.
It is the locals’ most recommended beach for summer picnics with a couple of benches lying under the shade of swaying trees.
The beach is perfect for walks and kayaking. The gentle and turquoise waters are great for swimming with a couple of showers available at the beach.
A short footpath walk leads you to the summit of North Head Historic Reserve which has some incredible views of the Waitemata Harbour, the Hauraki Gulf, and the beautiful Auckland City.
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Maitai Bay, Northland
The crystal clear waters and velvety soft white sand make Maitai Bay an ultimate summer escape for many locals and foreigners, every year.
Great for swimming, snorkeling, kayaking or simply unwinding yourself on this far Northland beach.
Maitai Bay is a heaven for camping lovers. One can enjoy sleeping under the stars at the nearby DOC campsite around 45km north of Kaitaia., where you’ll definitely love the magnificent pohutukawa trees.
These trees are also known as New Zealand’s Christmas trees. Remember, the last few kilometers are quite rough roads, but good enough for campervans.
Ninety Mile Beach, Northland
First thing first, Ninety Mile Beach is actually around 55 miles long. It is a paradise for energetic travelers and adventure seekers.
As it offers some amazing bodyboarding, horseriding, blokarting, and surfcasting experience that you’ll never forget.
Looking like a desert landscape, credit goes to its sand dunes. The golden shimmery sands and the attractive breakers alongside the majestic Aupouri Forest make it one of the most popular beaches in New Zealand — obviously it’s the biggest.
The long stretch of shoreline can be best reached from Ahipara township at the southernmost point of the beach. Or, you can also follow Sandhill Road north with numerous access points marked along the way.
Kapowairua (Spirits Bay), Northland
Also known as Spirits Bay because Māori believes it to be a sacred departure point for the spirits of the dead. Besides this, it is indeed a special and secluded beach that is ideal for swimming, surfing, or fishing. However, be careful of the typical strong rip currents.
You can also set out along Te Paki Coastal Track that follows the Cape Reinga coastline to the beautiful Te Paki Stream on the west coast. There’s also a perfect campsite if you’d like to go a little further.
Lyall Bay, Wellington
It is Wellington’s most famous surf beach and is also home to two surf lifesaving clubs. That’s why many of the activities at Lyall Bay are surf-related.
It has also a playground with space for walking, picnics, dog walking, swimming, surfing, windsurfing, kitesurfing, and kayaking.
Also, it has a small access ramp at the airport end of the beach and beachfront parking along the Lyall Bay Parade.
In fact, a few city beaches in New Zealand are as versatile as this suburb’s bay of Wellington. Thus, grab a coffee from the famous Maranui Cafe or Elements and enjoy seeing the surfers battling the waves.
Also, you’ll definitely love the view of landing planes at the airport and the dogs frolicking at the furry pole of the beach.
Scorching Bay, Wellington
It is a popular sandy inner-harbor bathing beach with calm waters and a grassy reserve. Scorching Bay is sheltered from the infamous northerly winds because of its prime location on the Miramar Peninsula.
It is a perfect beach to soak up the sun and swim. Seeing ships entering and leaving the harbor is also worthy to enjoy.
One can also have fun at a playground with a rope-climbing structure. Or you can go to a nearby popular Scorch-o-Rama cafe to grab an ice cream or iced coffee to cool down yourself.
Oriental Bay, Wellington
It’s Wellington’s most popular beach. Oriental Bay can be reached just steps from the Central Business District (CBD).
In short, it’s a convenient and ideal spot for an after-work dip to relax on its golden sands and pine-lined parade.
Oriental Bay becomes a hive of activities in summers.
The beach swarmed with swimmers, party lovers, and families. Some unique features of the Oriental Bay are “The Carter Fountain” and the wooden barge.
St. Clair Beach, Dunedin
It is a wide white-sand beach just minutes away from the central city. St. Clair beach is famous for surfing, swimming, walking, socializing, and dining out.
St Clair Esplanade has long been a famous leisure spot for weekend walks and dips in the sea. During the summer season, there are surfing lessons and board hire available on the Esplanade for water sports lovers.
In addition, cafes and bars along the promenade are another tourist attraction. The St Clair Hot Salt Water Pool is also worthy visiting. It is one of the only heated seawater pools in New Zealand. It is situated at the end of the beach and dates back to 1884.
Tunnel Beach, Dunedin
It has a story behind its name. Actually, a local politician John Cargill commissioned a tunnel in the 1870s. The tunnel was hand-carved from a rock wall and made for his family’s private access to the beach below.
The tunnel remains today, and since then it is known as Tunnel Beach. Although it isn’t safe for swimming, however, it’s a magnificent place to explore the sea-carved sandstone cliffs, rock arches, and caves, and also look for the fossils as you descend through the famous hand-carved tunnel.
Doctors Point, Dunedin
It is known as one of Dunedin’s hidden gems, located in Blueskin Bay. The reserve offers beautiful walking tracks, mesmerizing sandy beaches, little blue penguins, and surprising sea caves.
These sea caves are naturally occurring arches in rock cliffs. Make sure to visit them at low tide because they are not passable at high tide. The arches and sea caves are perfect for impressive Instagram photos.
The caves are linked to another beach where you can explore Mapoutahi Head, the site of a historic Maori Pa.
The region is also known as a popular spot to gather shellfish and clams, also known as cockles. Do visit other nearby tourist spots i.e. Long Beach and Purakaunui which are a short drive away.
Hot Water Beach, Coromandel
Known for the hot water bubbling through the golden sand, the Hot water beach can be easily assessed within two hours on either side of low tide. You can see families, young ones, and even couples digging their private spa pool in the sand and enjoying the natural springs.
Often ranked as one of the world’s most renowned beaches – home to some great surfing, cruisy cafés, and art galleries. It is only a 5-minute drive from another famous Coromandel ‘must visit’ spot – Cathedral Cove.
Please note that you can hire the spades locally and can use the car park toilets. However, avoid eating or drinking at pools. In addition, always remember to check the sea conditions before entering the water and don’t surpass the flags, while swimming.
Stony Bay, Coromandel
Stony Bay is a deep inlet that is situated at the end of the gravel road that leads to the eastern tip of the peninsula.
It features a popular campsite, the driftwood-strewn beach can be both the start and endpoint of the Coromandel Coastal Walkway. Start at Stony Bay and afterward you can reach the beach for a natural popular hot stone massage.
It is popular as a sandy surf beach that will take you back in time to the Coromandel of yesteryear. Situated along a gravel road in the peninsula’s far north.
You can pitch a tent in the park-like campground, kayak, or SUP across the twin estuaries. Also, you can explore the dunes, and beautiful walking tracks, or even enjoy evening drinks under the star-busted sky.
Wharariki Beach, Nelson Tasman
Wharariki Beach is a rugged, remote, and wild beach at the other end of the spectrum. One can reach there by walking across the rolling pastures perched on the northernmost tip of the South Island.
Once you reach there, you’ll find pure wildlife, surprising caves, splendid rockpools, and huge sand dunes. The best way to explore Wharariki beach is on the horseback.
Awaroa Bay, Abel Tasman National Park, Nelson Tasman
Nelson Tasman is home to a number of incredible beaches and it is tough to choose just one. Awaroa Bay is too perfect to privatize. It is basically a golden sand stretch covered by deep green native bush and turquoise waters.
Also known as the ‘People’s Beach’ because a group of Kiwis banded together to buy it for the New Zealand Department of Conservation and kept it open to the public. Currently, work has been carried out to restore and protect its ecosystem i.e. the coastal birds nesting and roosting nearby.
Crowd-funding made it accessible to the public, however, its location in the heart of a national park without proper road access will ensure it remains relatively secluded.
Koekohe Beach, Moeraki – Otago
Koekohe Beach is best to visit for its famous giant rock formations – Moeraki Boulders, which were carved out about 65 million years ago.
These giant structures are scattered across the sand, weighing several tonnes, and are up to two meters high. Also, there is an abundance of seafood and special wildlife to explore more.
Warrington Beach, Otago
Tropical Warrington Beach with its silvery sand and clear blue waters, is one of the safe beaches in New Zealand.
The sand stretch separates the Blueskin Bay estuary from the Pacific Ocean, keeping it protected from the swells. That’s why making it is one of the safest swimming beaches in the country.
Gemstone Beach, Southland
Lying on the southern coastline of the South Island. Gemstone beach gains its name – Gemstone, as the beach is in a constant state of change with the surface changing from sand to stones because of the storms and strong tides.
In fact, ‘Gems’ have often been found on the beach, so your fossicking is guaranteed to uncover some amazing stones.
Apparently, you can find semi-precious gems like jasper, nephrite, and maybe even sapphire, there.
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