New Zealand is a country with literally hundreds of breath-taking beaches, so it’s not easy picking favourites. Some could easily pass for tropical Polynesia, others have fauna so unique you think you’ve landed in another world. Having traversed both islands from north to south, here are ten of our favourites in no particular order. In fairness to the South Island, I should mention that it rained nearly every day we were there, thus it is not represented as much. Even through the rain we could see that it has heaps of beautiful beaches too.
1. Pakiri Beach near Leigh
A huge stretch of white sand backed by rolling green hills, Pakiri offers as much space as beauty. A gentle river enters the sea about halfway along the beach, offering a peaceful place for the kids to play if the surf is too big. Walk just an extra five minutes beyond the crowds and you’ll have the beautiful beach to yourself!
2. Tawharanui, Tawharanui Regional Park
Down a long gravel road, on a secluded peninsula and protected in a regional par, sits Tawharanui beach. Tide pools, surf and trailheads offer something for everyone. Those up for a long walk along the coast can even make it all the way to Omaha beach at low tide. One day we were joined in the water by a playful pod of dolphins and sometimes you can even see whales swimming through the area.
3. Piha Beach, West Auckland
With hot black sands, vertiginous cliffs and untamed surf, Piha is as wild as it is beautiful. Just 30-minutes beyond Auckland it is a popular spot, but well worth a visit. There’s an easy 10-minute walk up the cliffs for spectacular views of the beach (and surfers!) below.
4. Ngarunui Beach in Raglan
A surfer’s paradise in a region full of great surf breaks, Ngarunui Beach (sometimes called Ocean Beach or Wanui Beach) is Raglan’s main beach and offers plenty of space for surfers of all abilities, swimmers and sun-worshipers.
5. Hahei Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula
Easily mistakable for a tropical paradise, the golden sands of Hahei Beach are overhung by massive pohutukawa trees and look onto a tranquil bay dotted with dramatic green islands. There’s also a few great rope swings scattered up and down the beach, which our kids loved, of course.
6. New Chums Beach, top of the Coromandel Peninsula
This stunning stretch of sand at the top of the Coromandel often makes ‘Best Beaches in the World’ lists, and it’s no wonder why. To access the beach, you have to cross an estuary (most easily done at low tide) and make a 30-minute walk along the rocky cost and through the forest. Those willing to make the trek will be rewarded with paradise. We shared the beach with only a handful of people and were thankful we brought along our boogie board for fun in the waves.
7. Cathedral Cove on the Coromandel
This famed beach cannot be reached by car so we made the 40-minute walk down the headland. This dramatic setting provided the location for one of the Narnia films and you can see why. You’ll find a gorgeous cove with white cliffs jutting upwards from turquoise blue waters, and an enormous rock arch almost too fantastical to be real. Breathtaking!!!
8. Muriwai Beach, West Auckland
Just up the coast from Piha is another dramatic black sand beach. We spent the day on the south side of the famed Gannet colony, in a small bay great for surfing and exploring. There’s a giant sea cave below the Gannet colony and lots of walks and trails above them.
9. Makarori Beach on the East Cape
This tranquil, white sand beach just north of Gisborne is an excellent spot for surfing or swimming. The north-eastern corner of the break has been dubbed ‘Kiddie’s Corner’ by the locals, a reflection of the easy and reliable waves to be found here. We enjoyed two days frolicking in Makarori’s fun surf. (Wainui beach is the more well-known beach in the Raglan area, but we liked the more ‘wild’ nature of this beach further up the coast.
10. Porpoise Bayin the Catlins
This postcard perfect bay on the southern coast of the South Island would qualify on beauty alone but even more remarkable is its wildlife. A pod of rare and playful Hector dolphins call this home, as do Yellow Eyed Penguins, Blue Penguins, seals and sea lions. It also happens to sit within walking distance of a petrified forest. A must stop for those who venture all the way to the bottom of the South Island. We swam and surfed with the Hector Dolphins for hours on end, and it remains one of the biggest highlights of our two months in NZ.