The Best Beaches in New Zealand
Are you looking for the best and most beautiful New Zealand beaches? The hidden coastal secrets that will take your breath away? The whitest sands and the best views?...
Well, you’ve come to the right place! As born and bred New Zealanders from all over the country, the team here at New Zealand Trails have been hotly debating the best beaches recently and as a result, have come up with the ultimate list just for you!
We’ve got everything here in this little corner of the world - from white sandy stretches of paradise to wild rocky coastlines and amazing surf. Hey, you can even dig yourself a personal hot tub on Hot Water Beach – not many places in the world you can do that!
So yes, New Zealand is quirky and unique even with its variety of beaches. For the best of the best, take this list with you and sink your toes in the sand, light a driftwood bonfire, sit in hot saltwater overlooking the bay and explore hidden coves. Our beaches are varied and incredible and we want to share them with you. Come and see for yourself.
So, where are the best beaches in New Zealand?
1. Cathedral Cove and Hahei Beach, Coromandel Peninsula
The Coromandel Peninsula is stunning in itself but you can’t beat the gorgeous beach and archway that is Cathedral Cove. The main beach is called Hahei Beach (move over Hawaii!) and from here you walk to the naturally formed archway known as Cathedral Cove. The sandy beach is shaded by Pohutukawa trees (a strong coastal evergreen tree with twisted roots and crimson blooms) and is the perfect spot for a picnic and a swim. If you have a snorkel you’re in for a treat as the Cathedral Cove Marine Reserve provides an incredible array of sponge gardens, reef systems and marine life to feast your eyes on. If you join us for our Sweet North trip we’ll even take you there ourselves.
2. Tāwharanui Beach, Tāwharanui Peninsula
About an hour and a half drive north of Auckland, just near the small beach town of Omaha, you’ll find the Tāwharanui Regional Park. Here you’ll discover a long, sandy beach with some of the best swimming and surfing opportunities in the region. I love it for the views, the grassy areas shaded by Pohutukawa trees (bring a picnic loaded with L&P, sandwiches and chips ‘n’ dips I say) and the rolling hiking trails. There are some gorgeous coves to explore and swim in along the trails and it’s well worth the trip from Auckland with your hiking shoes. If you’re equipped with overnight gear, there’s a nearby campsite so if you’ve got a little more time you can really make the most of your visit.
3. Onetangi Beach, Waiheke Island
Just a 40-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland is Waiheke Island, an island haven of white, sandy beaches, vineyards and olive groves with a unique and arty vibe. Our favourite beach on the island is definitely Onetangi Beach – in fact when Jodi is up here she spends a lot of time with her dog Pipi on this beach (she’s a big fan of swimming). It’s the biggest beach on the island stretching for almost 2kms, and on a clear day, you’ll get excellent views of both Great Barrier and Little Barrier Island in the distance. The water is beautifully clear and perfect for a dip - my favourite time for this is first thing in the morning. What a way to start the day! Then to fill up on energy, you can either grab an excellent coffee at the beach café, brunch in a beachside restaurant or get organised and bring supplies to make the most of the BBQ and picnic area. Blue skies, white sand and lush greenery – a beautiful beach.
4. Medlands Beach, Abel Tasman National Park
Back in the South Island, albeit at the very northernmost part, we all love the idyllic Medlands Beach in theAbel Tasman National Park, so it had to go on the list. Far from civilisation, this beach is the perfect place to relax, daydream and let the rest of the world slip away. Nothing quite beats the colour of the water here, not to mention its location – this beach is only accessible on foot from the Abel Tasman Track or by boat from Kaiteriteri. Once you’ve had a chance to enjoy the beach and cool off with a swim, it’s time to get your hiking shoes on and explore the coastal track that weaves its way through groves of Manuka and fern to viewpoints of the coast, golden beaches and lush forests.
5. Hot Water Beach, Coromandel Peninsula
Back on the Coromandel Peninsula, Hot Water Beach is a proper New Zealand experience you must add to your bucket list. You’ll need to bring a spade (although they are available for hire) and head to the rocks at the southern end of the beach, where at the right time of day you can literally dig your own hot spa pool. The naturally heated mineral water lurks just below the surface of the sand having bubbled up from deep within the earth, so you won’t need to dig for long. You’ll need to plan ahead and get there two hours either side of low tide to reach the right area of sand. Then get digging! It’s an odd sensation sitting in hot water, surrounded by sand next to a cool sea, but it’s an experience you certainly won’t forget in a hurry.
6. Okiwi Bay, Marlborough Sounds
On the outskirts of the Marlborough Sounds in the South Island, Okiwi Bay has a selection of beautiful beaches located in its secluded bays. It’s an amazing spot for fishing and diving, with an abundance of sea life, and is popular with the boating community too. As the bay is surrounded by virgin native forest, you can explore the trails, spot and listen for a variety of native birdlife then find yourself a comfortable place in a sandy cove to relax for the rest of the day. It’s a lovely swimming spot too, with a shallow gradient making it safe for all ages. Pure joy and nature at its best!
7. Waimarama Beach, Hawkes Bay
You can’t beat this beach in Hawkes Bay for a multitude of activities. For any surfers out there, this is a popular surf beach with left and right-handers and conditions suitable for all levels (most of the time). You can check the conditions with the Waimarama Surf Club, who patrol from the start of December until the end of March. If surfing isn’t your thing, you can take a walk on the long stretches of golden sand, swim in the sea, chill out and watch the action from the shore or even try your luck fishing. The locals are often out catching crayfish and paua round here, so keep an eye out for that too – I’m sure they will be more than happy to show you their catch. The beach town has plenty of options for accommodation, eating and a shop too, so you can stock up on supplies for a day at the beach.
There are so many more wonderful New Zealand beaches to explore, from long white sandy stretches in the North Island to the rugged West Coast of the South Island. You're never too far from the coast down here and you're sure to discover some beautiful beaches wherever you go!