The 9 Best Beaches in New Zealand

New Zealand beaches are some of the absolute best you will find anywhere in the world.  With over 9,000 miles of coastline you are sure to find the one that matches everything you are looking for to make that holiday the best one ever.  There are those that are lively and bustling with activity, and others that are isolated and will make you fell like you are the only person in the country.  Sand colors can range from the pristine white that are most often seen in postcards, to warm golden, or even spectacular black sand formed from volcanic activity.

You may be a surfing buff and will want to head to some of the beaches that are famous for those great curling waves.  Other beaches have great waters that are ideal for any water sport, kayaking, diving and so much more.  If calmer water where you can swim and snorkel is more to your liking there are many that are perfect for that too. With the two islands that make up the country – North and South Islands – you will never be more than 80 miles from a beach, so exploring the interior is a must.

The cities, towns and villages are great places to soak up some of the local culture, foods and nightlife as well as do some shopping for choice souvenirs and the local people are very friendly.  There is a wide range of landscape as well, from rocky cliffs to sand dunes as well as some beautiful lagoons and bays and hidden hot springs that are wonderful to explore and hike through when you are not playing in the ocean.  The wildlife abounds in the whole island, and the flora in places is truly something special.  Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand, and is called the “City of Sails” for good reason.


1. Hot Water Beach

best beaches in New Zealand
Flickr Credit: Vladimir Nardin

Hot Water Beach is tops on our list because it has a hidden secret.  A natural hot spring lies just below the surface of the sand.  When the tide is out people dig holes in the sand large enough to lie in and enjoy their own personal spa.  The hot water, up to 164 degrees before it cools at the surface, is full of calcium, magnesium, potassium making for a healthy place soak and rejuvenate until the tide comes back in.

Located on the Coromandel Peninsula on North Island, the water is warm because of the spring so you can dive in a cool off a bit after your soak, and continue to enjoy swimming here no matter the time of year.  The surroundings are beautiful as well, with the spectacular Cathedral Cove an easy hike away.  There are the ancient and huge kauri tree as well as the tropical rain forest for a backdrop, making this one of the all-around best beaches in New Zealand.

2. Bay of Islands

best beaches in New Zealand
Flickr Credit: Le Khoan Hong Vu

Bay of Islands is appropriately named, as there are over 140 small islands here.  That means there are literally hundreds of beaches to choose from.  No matter what you want to do during your New Zealand beach vacation, you will find it here.  Sport fishing here is some of the best of anywhere you could find, with the town of Russell being perhaps the best hub for that.  The famous author Zane Grey was a real enthusiast of the sport and spent a lot of time over the years here.  Scuba diving is also of world-class caliber and another famous person, Jacques Cousteau, found this to be one of his favorite places to dive. There are many dive shops with equipment and guides that love to take people out to the best spots.  Bird watching enthusiasts also find the Bay of Islands to be a wonderful place to see some amazing birds.

You can rent a boat to sail around island hopping on your own in search of that perfect beach, or you can charter a boat for a guided tour of the entire bay.  Dolphins abound in the area and from your boat you can watch them playing and having fun in the water.  If you want a chance to swim with them there are shops that offer tours that allow you to do that as well.  Pahia and Russell are the largest towns by the Bay, and you can find all the food, shopping and nightlife you could want in these two.  But on many of the beaches there is no reason to leave.

Food vendors, beach bars and shops provide everything you could need for that perfect stay, and the lively music, volleyball games and other activities going on make for a very fun time.  Other beaches are much quieter and more relaxed, while still others you can find are completely isolated where you can enjoy some real alone time either by yourself, with that special friend or your family group.  Whatever your desire is, the Bay of Islands is sure to have one of the best beaches in New Zealand for you.

3. Ninety Mile Beach

best beaches in New Zealand
Flickr Credit: Phudd23

Ninety Mile Beach on the North Island is regarded by locals and tourists alike as one of the most spectacular stretches of beach anywhere.  While it is actually only closer to 60 miles long it is the biggest beach in New Zealand.  The glorious golden sands of the beach meet up with some amazing grass topped sand dunes, bringing the desert down to meet the sea.  These are the Te Paki dunes, and there are places where you can actually sled right down on them.

Further along you will see the beautiful Aupouri Forest, rich and full of magnificent pine trees.  There is an impressive breaker here that makes for some of the best surfing around.  Sport fishing is also very popular, and the Snapper Classic, a five-day surfcasting competition, is held here every year.  With everything going on here as well as the amazing landscape around it, this is possibly the most famous beach in New Zealand.

4. New Chums Beach

best beaches in New Zealand
Flickr Credit: Michael Schwab

New Chums Beach is a little more remote than other beaches of New Zealand, but is so worth the effort to get to!  Located of the Coromandel Peninsula, it is one of the few beaches that are still undeveloped.  To get there you can either take a boat or an easy hike through some magnificent landscape of bush, a lagoon and rocks that add to the charm of the beach.  You will then be treated to a stretch of pristine white sand and crystal clear turquoise water.

Surrounding the beach are large Pohutukawa trees and native bush that makes this whole area one of the most beautiful places on earth. The water is gentle enough to allow swimming all day, and snorkeling is also a favorite pasttime.  Float on a raft in the water or sunbathe with your favorite book and forget all of the worries of the world!

5.  Wainui Beach

best beaches in New Zealand
Flickr Credit: Tom Saunders

Wainui Beach is on the North Island near the city of Gisborne.  It is surrounded by reserves and protected lands, so the landscape and wildlife here are magnificent.  There are plenty of paths that allow for walking, jogging and biking to enjoy the beauty of the dunes and emerald hills that seem to fall right into the ocean.

As the beach looks out to the east, early risers are treated to the most spectacular sunrises you will ever see.  The ocean provides some great breaks, making it a very popular place for surfing for both locals and tourists alike.  Watching these surfers is almost as fun as grabbing your own board and joining in on the fun.

If you are less experienced or want to learn, Makorori Beach adjoins Wainui Beach and has smaller waves that are still loads of fun.  You may want to paddle board, kite surf or rent a boat or kayak around the beach before grabbing some of the local food from one of the vendors and a drink from a beach bar.  Relax and enjoy the evening strolling along in the beautiful moonlight.

6. Piha Beach

best beaches in New Zealand
Flickr Credit: Dan Gheorghita

Piha Beach is perhaps the most famous beach in New Zealand for surfing, and is considered by most as the “birthplace of Malibu board riding”.  Not far from Auckland, this is one of the most beautiful beaches for anyone that likes something a little different.  The sand is a rich black sand not found in too many places.

There are amazing rugged cliffs, with Lion Rock being the most prominent, that surround the beach.  The Waitakere Range also backs up to the beach, with lush green bush and foliage that are great to explore.   With the waves crashing into the rocks and cliffs, a misty aura encompasses this beach that gives it a mysterious type of feel to it, which makes it great to picnic while enjoying surfing and watching others.

Also read: The Best Beaches in Qatar

7. Karekare

best beaches in New Zealand
Flickr Credit: Geoff Billing

Karekare is also near Auckland, and was made famous when it was featured in the 1993 film, “The Piano”.  It also has that magnificent black sand that Piha has, but is a more isolated and quiet beach.

The sand seems to go for miles, and is backed by lush hills covered in the native bush for that beautiful array of contrasting colors.  It also has the rough waters that surfers love.  Locals flock to Karekare for the annual beach race day, where locals race their horses and ponies along the beach.  All of this fun in the sun goes for a good cause, raising money for some of the local non-profits.

8. Kaiteriteri Beach

best beaches in New Zealand
Flickr Credit: Marcel Wiehle

Kaiteriteri Beach is on South Island, and is the gateway to the amazing Abel Tasman National Park.  The sand on this beach is a magnificent golden color with quartz flecks throughout that makes it glitter and look like the real thing!  There are many coves and lagoons here that are so idyllic to spend a lazy and and sail or kayak around.

You may even get a chance to spot some dolphins or seals, and even though there is no ice and snow, you could even see some penguins!  You can spend the day on a paddleboard or any other favorite water sport, or simply sunbathing on the golden beach with your favorite drink in hand.  Hiking along some of the trails through the park is well worth the effort as you will see some beautiful landscape, and if you are fortunate so great wildlife.  This entire experience makes this one of the best beaches of New Zealand.

Related: The Best Beaches of Guatemala

9. Whale Bay

best beaches in New Zealand
Flickr Credit: Lucy Dyke

Whale Bay is another favorite for the local surfers.  With an awesome left-hand point break it will challenge even the most experienced.  There are great schools that will teach anyone interested how to surf, or improve your skills so you can fully appreciate the waves.  The entire community is very environmentally conscious, so it is very clean and has a great laid back feel.

You can find shops and restaurants that provide many organic foods, and the resorts and other shops are very eco-friendly.  For a beach that has every accommodation you could need, you would expect it to be extremely lively.  But it is one that seems to be in slow motion, and is perfect for anyone wanting a great combination of both.  With Mount Karioi in the backdrop, this definitely made our list for one of the best beaches in New Zealand.

Also read: Beautiful pictures of New Zealand’s North Island beaches


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