What comes to mind when you hear about New Zealand? Probably its picturesque landscape from active volcanoes and snowcapped peaks to stunning fjords. Without forgetting its Māori culture and its so famous National Rugby team, the All Blacks. But did you know New Zealand is also home to some incredible long sandy beaches?
With 15,000 km of coastline, New Zealand is heaven for beach lovers around here and finding a great beach is easy. Surf beaches, rugged or white sandy beaches, secluded gems or Insta-famous beaches, there is something for everyone. After having spent 3 years in the ‘country of the long white cloud’ (yes this is New Zealand’s nickname too), find in this article my Top 15 New Zealand’s best beaches.
Top 15 New Zealand’s best beaches
1- Ninety Mile Beach, Northland
Ninety Mile Beach is a 88 km long beach located at the very top north of New Zealand’s north island, between the surf town of Ahipara to Cape Reinga. And do you want to know a fun fact? This beach is also officially a highway when the main road is closed.
Access and tips: it’s best to venture on this beach with a 4×4 and at low tide. If you are feeling confident driving on the sand, it is possible to drive parts of it with a 2wd. We did it with our Toyota HiAce campervan without any problems. However, be aware that most car insurance providers and rental companies don’t cover beach driving. Also, don’t forget to fill up your tank and get groceries in the nearest major town Kaitaia before heading up north.
2- Matai Bay, Northland
This beach, located in the Karikari peninsula, Northland, has to be one of my all-time favourite New Zealand’s best beaches. The peninsula abounds with stunning beaches and bays. But Matai bay really stands out with its turquoise blue water and white sands. This is also a perfect place to enjoy some water activities such as swimming and snorkelling.
Access and tips: This bay is located at the top of the peninsula. Matai Bay is a really popular holiday destination for New Zealanders because an official DOC campsite is also available there. Making it easy to stay for a night or more. If you are travelling around. This is the spot to stay for the night.
3- Mangawhai Beach, Auckland
Mangawhai, pronounced Mangafai (in Maori language ‘wh’ is pronounced ‘f’) is located at just 90 minutes drive north of Auckland. It is a small town off the beaten track with 2 stunning beaches and sand dunes. One of the beaches is wild and perfect for surfers, the other one a peaceful bliss to swim in the harbour.
Access and tips: If you opt for the harbour swimming beach, park at the end of Mangawhai Head Road. If you are more adventurous and want to go surfing, you can park at the end of Wintle Road or access the south beaches at Te Arai Reserve. If needed, Aotearoa Surf School offers lessons and hires out gear at the end of Te Ārai Point Rd
4- Piha Beach, Auckland
Living in Auckland for the past three years, Piha beach has been my local beach and certainly has a special place in my heart. She is also special for another reason: this is a black sandy beach. Expect fantastic sunset on Lion Rock, good surf and stunning hike/walk to explore the surrounding rugged coastal cliffs.
Access and tips: This beach is a really popular surf spot, but can be quite dangerous lots of rips) so if you’re new to surfing, make sure to take surf lessons there before going on your own
5- Cathedral Cove, the Coromandel
You can plan a trip to New Zealand without thinking of visiting this must-do on New Zealand’s north island. This is one of the most photographed New Zealand best beaches! And you’ll understand why when you will see it with your own eyes. Do you think it looks like a movie set? You’re right! Some scenes of the trilogy Narnia have been filmed on this beach. Incredible doesn’t it?
Access and tips: Since this beach is not accessible by car, a short 30-minute walk along the shoreline to reach Cathedral cove. However, during peak season in summer, the car park of Cathedral Cove is closed. You will then have to depart from the small town of Hahei. Count on extra 15 minutes walk.
6- Hot Water Beach, the Coromandel
Not far from Cathedral Cove, this beach is one of a kind. On this beach, you can dig your own natural spa in the sand. Isn’t it incredible? The explanation: a hot spring is located right on this beach, hence why when you dig into the sand, you’ll find a hot stream.
Access and tips: the hot spring is located at only one exact spot on the beach, this “hot water beach” experience is only accessible during a 4-hour window (2 hours before and after low tide). Make sure to check the tide times before heading there. Also, don’t forget your shovel to dig your spa.
7- New Chums Beach, the Coromandel
New Chums Beach is one of the best-kept secret beaches of the Coromandel Peninsula. Indeed, to access this beach, inaccessible from the road, you will have to take a small path along the main beach of Whangapoua.
But that’s not it! Before actually reaching and relaxing at New Chums beach, I urge you to climb to the viewpoint to admire this stunning beach from above. The view is breathtaking. It’s like being at the end of the world. Gazing at this white sandy beach as far as the eye can see. Ok, you deserve it! Go down to enjoy a day on the beach, lazing around and relaxing!
Access and tips: Park at the Whangapoua beach. car park. Start walking on the beach until you cross the river joining the sea. Then at the very end of the beach, you’ll find the small path leading to New Chums beach. Make sure to go there at low tide if you do not wish to get wet.
8- Ngarunui Beach & Whale Bay, Raglan Waikato
The town of Raglan could be compared to Byron Bay in Australia. Smaller though. But its beaches and its surf vibe is equally delightful. That isn’t for nothing Raglan is the surf capital of New Zealand. The main beach, Ngarunui is perfect to start off and learn how to surf. It’s also the best place to watch the sun set into the ocean from the Michael Hope Lookout.
Access and tips: There are plenty of surf schools in the area around Ngarunui beach if you are a beginner surfer. The left point break of Whale Bay and Manu Bay is a favourite for experienced surfers.
9- Maunganui Beach, Bay of Plenty
The main beach of Mount Maunganui is consistently voted New Zealand’s best beaches. And for good reasons: blue waters, never-ending white sand, amazing surf and beachside cafés lining the street across the beach. Leading to the beautiful volcanic cone “The Mount/Mauao”, you can climb to the top to enjoy a breathtaking view of the surrounding.
10- Wainui Beach, Gisborne
Just north of the city of Gisborne, Wainui is known for its surf, swimming & fishing beach. Do you dream of taking a dip in the first place in the world to see the sunrise? Then plan a trip to the East Cape Region now! Wainui beach, this unspoilt stretch of golden sand up to Makarori Headland, is also backed by dune and bush reserves.
Access and tips: Make sure to allow a few days in the region to visit the surrounding: Tolaga Bay located 40 min north of Wainui beach is home to the longest wharf in New Zealand and in the Southern Hemisphere for its type. Worth the visit!
11- Wharariki Beach, Nelson Tasman
This rug and wild beach is located on the northernmost tip of the South Island. A short walk of about 20 minutes will make you reach it. And the locals are always there to show you the way. Once there, you can explore caves, rockpools and immense rock formations.
Access and tips: It’s best to go there at low tide to see the place at its best. If you are travelling with a campervan, you can sleep for free not far from the beach on the campsite called Taupata Gravel Reserve. If you have plenty of time to spend in the region, make sure to explore the beautiful Abel Tasman National Park. This park is famous for its stunning beaches, and great walks. You can hire some kayaks for several days and travel between each bay to explore around.
12- Ohope beach, Bay of Plenty
This long beach on the Bay of Plenty coastline is ideal for relaxing for a few days. One of the most popular beaches amongst the locals for holidays and stretching on 14 kilometres with lined beautiful Pohutukawa trees, it’s easy to find a spot for yourself. Plenty of beachside cafes, shops and accommodations are available nearby.
13- New Brighton Beach, Christchurch
Situated in Christchurch, this beach is the most popular place to hang out when the weather gets warmer in Summer. With gentle waves, it’s perfect for beginner surfers and for swimming. And its gigantic pier, one of the most impressive in New Zealand, is perfect for a stroll.
14- Koekohe Beach, Waitaki Otago
This one is definitely a MUST-VISIT on a road trip to New Zealand’s South Island! By visiting Koekohe beach, you will discover giant rock formations carved out about 65 million years ago. Called the Moeraki Boulders, they can weigh several tonnes and up to 2 metres high.
15- Tautuku Bay, The Catlins
The region of The Catlins is the southeastern point of New Zealand’s South Island. Not a lot of tourist venture there as it’s a detour between the cities of Dunedin and Invercargill. But I urge you to go off the grid and explore this untouched part of New Zealand. Stunning rugged coastline with stunning waterfalls and beautiful beaches await you. One in particular: Tautuku Bay. This one definitely needed to be listed as one of New Zealand’s best beaches.
Access and tips: Stop first at Florence Hill Lookout and bask in the view of Tautuku Bay. Then head down to the beach for a relaxing time or for a walk in the forest leading to Lake Wilkie.
So, which of these New Zealand's best beaches listed above is your favourite? Tell me in the comment!
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