This beautiful beach is near the famous cathedral cove and relatively near hot water beach, which should be on everyone’s NZ must see list! Hop on a water taxi right from the Hahei beach to Cathedral Cove (if you want to avoid the shuttle and 45 minute walk there.)
More of a mission to get to than nearby Hahei Beach, but you will be rewarded with amazing views and snorkelling in the marine reserve. From the free parking at Hahei beach, you can take a paid shuttle to the Cathedral Cove walkway a few kms away. This paved walkway will take you roughly 45 minutes to reach Cathedral Cove beach. There are some stairs near the end, so mostly stroller friendly. Other beaches accessible from this walkway, but Cathedral Cove is the most famous and most beautiful. Alternatively, take a water taxi from Hahei Beach.
One of the most amazing beaches I’ve been to, with great cliffs and islands in the distance. The views as you are approaching Taupo Bay from the SH10 Looks more like a scene from the movie “The Beach” than what you would expect from New Zealand. This is off the beaten path for most travellers, but well worth the visit if you are planning a trip to Cape Reinga
Great access and facilities. Freedom camping and great walks around the area should have this on many travellers list. Close proximity to downtown make this an easily accessible stop that many people simply pass by when heading down SH 1 exploring the South Island. Stop by the penguin colony located nearby.
One of the nicest beach I’ve been to in NZ! Beautiful area with a protected bay making it very safe for swimming. Good fishing, snorkelling and diving in the area. There is a Department of Conservation campground right at the entrance of the bay, so stay for a few days.
This was one of my favorite spots when living in Wellington (approximately 2 1/2hr drive away). There is a lagoon that's great for kids to swim or the beach to play in the waves. You can even hike up castlepoint rock to get amazing views of the area and possibly spot a pod of dolphins. Castlepoint is known for it’s swimming, surfing and fishing. The inlet to the lagoon can get huge waves from an eastern swell, but the inner lagoon is always safe to swim.
Relatively unknown beach to travelers, but often frequented by locals of Whangarei. Ocean beach is about 2 1/2 Hours drive north of Auckland and has great walks in the area. Walk up the Sand dunes and around the heads to Peach Cove and Mount Lion, or check out the views from the top of Mt Manaia and you will not be disappointed! You can get views of the Hens and Chickens island, along with the Poor Knight Islands from this beach. There is good freedom camping parking near to the public toilets.
White sand beach with a petrified forest area near the heads. This is a long expansive beach with many holiday homes dotted along the shores. You might even see the endangered Hector dolphins playing in the surf like I did! There is a holiday park towards the end of the beach and freedom camping only allowed a few kilometers away in Waikawa.
Known as a holiday spot on the Coromandel peninsula, there is a great beach with views of an island just offshore. This is one of my favorite places in NZ! The town has grown extensively from tourism and the beach is a worthwhile stopover if traveling through the Coromandel area.
This is one of the longest beaches in New Zealand, extending from Ahipara all the way up to Cape Reinga at the tip of the North Island. As with any west coast (windward) beaches, expect large waves and strong rip currents. The safest place to enjoy swimming at Ninety Mile beach is in the small township of Ahipara, about 15kms away from Kaitaia. The famous surf break of Shipwreck bay is located around the rocks from there.
Easily explored beach around 40km north of Auckland city center. Playgrounds, facilities including some showers make this beach an easy retreat from the city.
Great beach inside a protected inlet from the ocean. The amazing Mermaid pools are only a short hike towards the end of the peninsula. The beach can get crowded in summertime.
This was my view overlooking the beach at Lyall Bay when I lived in Wellington. The airport is on one side (decent surf break near the rocks there) with the middle or far end of the beach better for swimming or beginner surfers. On a clear day you can see the snow-capped mountains of the South Island in the distance. Convenient beach if visiting the capital city of Wellington with a lifesaving club and cafe on the waterfront.
The only fresh water beach on the list. Close to the town of Dargaville and about 30 minute drive from the oldest Kauri tree in New Zealand. Camping available right on the shoreline (for a fee).
There are many beaches near the town of Gisborne that are worth having a look at. Midway Beach is a great place to spend the day with expansive park, aquatic centre and cafe readily available.
Named for the telegraph cable connecting New Zealand to the outside world that used to be located here. This was an area of farmland that has seen the hillsides spring up with subdivision and holiday homes. The small beach is part of Doubtless Bay in the Far North and easily accessible on the side of the main road.
Located just outside of Raglan township. This very popular beach is one of the closest to Hamilton, so can be very busy over summer. There is a huge lifesaving club at the top of the hill and a gentle paved road leading down to the beach (only lifesaving vehicles allowed on this and the beach). Plenty of parking around the top of the hill and easy walk down to the beach.
Very scenic beach just west of Auckland easily accessible by car. The last part of the drive is fairly steep, but you will be rewarded with amazing views for your efforts. Approximately 45 minutes from the city centre in good traffic. Be aware there are strong rip currents at parts of this beach and the waves can make swimming dangerous at times. There is a reason a lifesaving reality tv show was filmed here!
A bit of a mission to get to these if you do not have a boat or motorbike, but the views Hokianga Harbor can be enjoyed from across the water near the towns of Omapere or Opononi. Be aware there are extreme water currents in this area!
Only a few km drive to Cape Reinga at the tip of the North Island. There is a beautiful beach with facilities and Department of Conservation run campground. A great place to break up the drive if heading to the cape as it's only a few kms off the main road and approximately 20km from Cape Reinga. This beach is on the Cape Reinga Coastal Walkway.
Tauranga has a great beach with facilities just a short drive from the city center. You can hike to the top of the mount for even better views of the area. There is limited free parking along the waterfront or choose some of the metered parking on the main roads.
Further down from Mount Maunganui on a no exit road as you head eastward down the coast. The beach has a much more relaxed feel to it and is a great place to look for Tuatua shells at low tide for a fresh seafood meal. There is a great weekend market that rotates between the city and Papamoa beach.
Limited parking, but great facilities including toilets and showers. You can hire a shovel for around $5 if you didn't bring one, ask to share someone else's or take over a dug out hot pool when they leave. This can only be done at low tide! Be aware the crowds can get HUGE during the summer months (Nov-Feb)! There are rip currents just off the beach so watch the little ones in the water. Very scenic and beautiful beach to visit.
24. Kawhia Hot Water Beach (Te Puia), Waikato
The much lesser known beach you can dig at low tide to create natural hot water springs to soak in. This one is a long drive off the main road onto a peninsula, but good for those looking to avoid the crowds of Hot Water Beach in the Coromandel. There is a strenuous hike over the large dune to access the beach, but you will be rewarded with amazing views of the area.
25. Fitzroy Beach,Taranaki
Nice beach close to New Plymouth with easy access and good facilities. There are many other beaches to check out along the surf highway all around Taranaki from the black sand beaches of the south near Wanganui, to pebbly beaches near the famous surf break at Stent Rd.
Another beach in relatively close proximity to Auckland (approx. 1 hour in good traffic) on the wild west coast. There is a rugged beauty of the scenery here that makes a trip worthwhile if you're in the area. There is a road that loops up through Helensville if looking to explore further North.
Right along the main road of Paihia, makes this one of the most convenient beaches to get to, even if traveling by public transportation. Lively area, especially in summertime with lots of accommodation and activities to choose from. Hop a ferry to Russell just across the bay (was the first capital of NZ) or the beautiful Otehei Bay listed next.
A 30 minute ferry ride from Paihia takes you to the beautiful beach at Otehei Bay. There is a café, with shower and facilities near the dock, with lounge chairs and picnic tables along the beach to use. There are numerous hikes around the island and a Department of Conservation campground a short hiking distance away if you want to stay for longer (book ahead in summer). Many people add this onto a trip to the famous "Hole in the Rock."
Beautiful beach set off a cliff face with views out to the Hens and Chicks Islands. Walk the beach at low tide for the best views. Good surfing, swimming and fishing in the area. Mangawhai township is a thriving close-knit community about 1 1/2 hours north of Auckland.
Off SH3 between New Plymouth and Mokau are the Three Sisters Rock formation and beach. There is a parking lot with facilities provided and it’s only a short flat walk to get to the beach. There is freedom camping, round boulders and even some hot springs areas you can dig into at low tide in this area. Low tide is the best for walking to Three Sisters Beach.
Medlands beach is on the east coast of Great Barrier Island. This beautiful light sand beach has good surfing and fishing. Great Barrier island is completely off-grid and has no municipal water or any other utilities. Most of the island is rustic, but Medlands area is known as the most posh of the island. The majority of houses there are owned by non-residents, some who fly in by helicopter to their home away from the city.
Sandy Bay is one of the best beaches for surfing in the Whangarei-area. While Ocean Beach is more scenic, the waves are much more consistent at Sandy Bay. There is plenty of parking and freedom camping is allowed for 1 night in the parking lot near the public toilets.
There is a spiritual significance for this area to the Maori people, where many believe the spirits travel to after death. I camped here many years ago and surfed the ever shifting beach break. Not too far off the beaten path if heading to Cape Reinga, which is the Northernmost point of the North Island.
This area is northwest of the capital Wellington, within commuting distance. There are train services that run up and down the coast to Wellington's central station but do not stop near the water, so driving is the better option. Great views of Kapiti island from here
This is a nice kid-friendly beach that is often sheltered from the swell, even if nearby Sandy Bay has huge waves for surfing. There is parking at either end of the beach, with one parking lot having public toilets and small area where freedom camping is allowed. Follow the path over the dune to get to the beach.
This beach is actually a huge sand spit that extends northward from the top of the South Island. There is reportedly amazing fishing in the area. Golden Bay is very remote, so remember to bring adequate supplies for your stay.
Accessible only by ferry or private boat. This incredibly scenic beach is run by the Department of Conservation, which also allows camping on the island (reservations required). Either end of the island is privately owned, but the long middle part, including the beach, is public access. You will often see boats anchored in the protected side, some staying overnight. Various tour operators offer a stop at Motuarohia as part of a sightseeing cruise. Ferry service is only during the summer months.
If walking to Cathedral Cove on the pathway, this is the first beach you will get to. Just follow the signs at the fork in the path. Looks to be a great bay for snorkelling if the conditions are right. You could even swim around the corner to the beautiful Cathedral Cove if adventurous.
This is a beautiful beach with public access located just above the Mahia peninsula, which can be seen in the distance. The tip of that peninsula is where the Rocket Lab launch there rockets, so would be a great viewing area in addition to being such a nice beach.
Beautiful beach that is part of Doubtless Bay, with good access for swimming or kayaking. Not far from the historic township of Mangonui and approximately 1/2 hour drive to Kaitaia and approximately 1 1/2 hours drive to Cape Reinga.
Bethells beach is the lesser known cousin of Piha and Muriwai beaches (both made famous by the reality lifesaving shows). You can expect similar beauty from Bethells Beach with lots less crowds. Taylor Swift shot parts of a video here, so the popularity of visiting might grow.
Intimidating waves and currents await at this popular fishing beach. Salmon can be caught at certain times of the year. This beach is best for anyone seeking an easy daytrip out of Wellington, especially if into surfcasting. This is not a beach for swimming!
Ruakaka beach is part of a 30km stretch of light sand beach that goes from the entrance of Whangarei harbour (near NZ’s only oil refinery) all the way to Waipu cove, with various access points along the way. One of the most popular areas of Ruakaka beach is near the lifesaving club, which has ample parking, public toilets, a kid’s playground and area designated for freedom camping. Short walk over the dunes gets you to the beach. Great views of the Whangarei Heads from here.
Located near the tip of the South Island, Fortrose is a convenient overnighter on your way down to Bluff. This is the last freedom camping spot until you get near Invercargill, so we took the opportunity to stop there for the night. There is a small pebbly beach area, with good parking and toilets. There is a hike to Fortrose Cliffs if you take the road further from the state highway. The sunset was amazing and we went to sleep hearing the waves from the nearby beach further up the inlet.
Located about an hours drive east of Tauranga, there are strong Maori ties to the area. There is a nice inlet that allows for safe swimming if the waves are high on the beach.
This dark sand beach also has a small harbour entrance that goes up the river to the now closed meat processing plant. Located near the start of the Surf Highway in South Taranaki. The area was made famous by the catchy song Poi E, which shows many areas of the Patea in the music video.
On the west coast of Northland. This is the windward side of the North Island, so you can expect large waves and strong currents most of the time. It’s rugged beauty can be enjoyed when dropping down the hill towards the entrance of the beach and can be spectacular at sunset. This is around 20 minutes drive out of Dargaville and an easy stop if looping towards the Hokianga Harbour on the way to the Bay of Islands.
Located off the Surf Highway in South Taranaki. The beach is easily accessible and can have good surf conditions. The township spent a fair amount of money to have sandbags sunk to create an ‘artificial reef break’, but found the bags had broken a short while later.
This bay is located towards the northern tip of the Coromandel peninsula. Access is further than the State Highway system goes. There are some narrow mountainous roads to get there, but you will be rewarded with a large, protected bay with an amazing beach.
Motuihe is a small island a short distance from Auckland City centre. The island is dotted with beaches that can be accessed by boat only. Ferry service is available out of Auckland city center. The northwest part of the island is popular for boaties to anchor up together to enjoy the area.
This area is turning into an upscale, distant suburb of the Whangarei. Langs is a beautiful beach that is far enough out of the way to not get as much traffic as other nearby beaches of Waipu or Ruakaka. There is an alternative route from Mangawhai to get here if you want to bypass the State Highway.
Lots of free parking all along this long beach located next to the city of Napier. There are great walkways and parks dotted along the beach area and along with the National Aquarium of New Zealand, which is a great way to spend a rainy day at this beach.
The most famous round boulders are found at this beach a little over half way down the South Island’s east coast. The beach is easily located accessed off SH1 with good signage. You can either go to the large café and take the private stairs down to the round Moeraki Boulders (donation requested) or park at the smaller public access lot which involves a little further walk to the boulders. The water is fairly cold there even in summer, but the main attraction are all the round rocks. You could also check out the lesser known Koutu Boulders in the Far North of New Zealand.
North of New Plymouth is the small town of Urenui. This is less frequented than other beaches in Taranaki and has darker sand like many beaches in this region.
This long beach is easily accessible from Wellington by following SH1 out of the city. An alternative route is SH58 to Paekakariki hill road, which provides great views of the area before descending onto the Kapiti coast.
Less known for the beach, but one of the best surf breaks in New Zealand. If looking for just a swim, then head to nearby Ngaranui Beach listed above.
Just before reaching Cape Palliser, you will see Mangatoetoe beach. There is a fleet of fishing boats that launch off the beach when the waves aren’t too big. This beach has strong currents.
Located just west of the city center of Tauranga, this beautiful stretch of light colored sand is only accessible by boat. Very few people live on the island, with most of the area covered by large pine forests.
Easily accessible beach out of Waipu Township, not far from Whangarei. With plentiful parking and picnic areas, this is a popular beach in summer. Lots of flat grassy areas next to beach for BBQs. Close proximity to parking, caravan park and shops makes this a popular destination. This beach stretches about 30km all the way to Whangarei Harbor entrance!
New Zealand definitely has an abundance of beautiful beaches to explore!
Tip- There are only a limited number of freedom camping spots at some of these beaches so get there early. Available freedom camping parking is harder to find in the peak travel season of New Zealand's summer (Nov-Feb). Many popular beaches like Hahei only had 4 designated freedom camping parking spaces!