1. HOT WATER BEACH, COROMANDEL PENINSULA
As the name suggests, Hot Water Beach has its own unique hot pools of bubbling water. Here you’ll find people of all ages digging through the golden sands to create their very own hot water spa pool right on the beach.
The beach is such because of an underground river of hot water that flows from deep below the Earth’s surface up to the Pacific Ocean. Not only is this a real bucket list experience, but the sheer beauty of the beach makes it unmissable. A long stretch of golden sand overlooks the distant Castle Island in the Pacific Ocean, while also featuring the magnificent backdrop of the Pohutukawa-lined cliffs.
2. NEW CHUMS BEACH, COROMANDEL PENINSULA
It may be a little out of the way but the half hour trek through the Whangapoua bush is part of the charm of New Chums Beach, and the journey is certainly worth it. This isolated and secluded beach has a wide sweep of white sand set against a stunning setting of native Pohutukawa trees. Here you can enjoy the magnificence of this beautiful beach in peace and tranquillity, with nature as your only companion. Take a picnic and watch the native birdlife on the beach. Try to spot orcas and dolphins off the coastline, then stay and watch the stunning sunset at the end of the day.
3. CATHEDRAL COVE, COROMANDEL PENINSULA
Cathedral Cove gets its name from the cathedral-like arch that has been naturally formed by wind and water over the centuries. The cove is one of the most famous in New Zealand thanks to its appearance in the Chronicles of Narnia film, Prince Caspian.
Surrounded by wonderful walking trails, the cove is a popular spot for boat trips and kayaking. The tranquil turquoise waters also make it ideal for safe swimming and paddling.
4. NINETY MILE BEACH, NORTHLAND
Don’t let a little thing like mathematics get in the way, Ninety Mile beach is actually only 55 miles long, but it still long enough to look like it goes on forever. This awe-inspiringly beautiful beach is a stunning mass of Pacific Ocean waves lapping against gigantic sand dunes that stretch from Kaitaia up to Cape Reinga, the most northern point of New Zealand.
The dunes here are so big that it’s a popular spot for sand dune boarding. Other popular activities include surfcasting for snapper and digging for tuatua, a native shellfish, during the low tide. There aren’t many facilities here so just sit back and enjoy nature’s beauty. And be sure to check out the spectacular sunset at the end of your day.
5. MATAI BAY, NORTHLAND
This New Zealand jewel is hidden on the KariKari Peninsula and many would like to keep it that way. This gorgeous piece of paradise is the perfect place to chill out away from the crowds and swim in warm, sheltered waters. It’s so remote and tranquil it feels like time stands still.
There are no facilities here, so pack plenty of food and drink and bring your own snorkelling gear to explore the crystal clear waters. The bay is also a great place to do a spot of fishing.
6. PIHA BEACH, WEST AUCKLAND
With its rugged cliff tops, black sand and powerful rip curls, Piha Beach in West Auckland is the most popular surf beach in New Zealand. The birthplace of Malibu board riding offers some fantastic surfing for advanced surfers, while those who are new to the sport should be aware of the unrelenting currents and strong undertows and only go out with a qualified instructor.
The beach is patrolled by professional lifesavers, so if you are tempted to hit the waves make sure you stay between the flags. If you don’t want to swim or surf, the surrounding bush trails of the Waitakere Ranges offer some fantastic walks.
7. KAREKARE, WEST AUCKLAND,
Who can forget the haunting music and the beach setting of the Oscar winning Jane Campion film The Piano. This black sand, wild, deserted beach was used as a filming location for the hit movie.
If you prefer a more secluded beach, you’ll find Karekare a more tranquil and solitary alternative to the more popular Piha Beach nearby. Like Piha, surfing conditions are excellent for experienced surfers, but the strong undercurrents make if safer and advisable for swimmers to remain between the flags.
The landscape here is magnificent and has attracted painters, writers and photographers from all over the world to capture its mystic beauty. Enjoy the various walking trails in the National Park, before tucking into a picnic on the beach.
8. MISSION BAY, AUCKLAND
If you want to find a beautiful beach nearer to Auckland, then Mission Bay won’t disappoint. With stunning views across Rangitoto Island, this gorgeous beach has a bit of everything for everyone. Only 20 minutes from Auckland CBD, there are bars and restaurants galore to enjoy local delights while dining al fresco and enjoying the views. A must see is the glorious Trevor Moss Davis Memorial Fountain which features 12-metre blasts of water and spectacular light shows in the evening.
Enjoy a beachside bbq while the kids play in the beachside playground or take a long walk along the main strip before stopping for a coffee or cocktail at one of the lovely bars along the way.
9. NGARUNUI BEACH, RAGLAN
The beautiful black sandy beach at Raglan is one of the most popular surf spots in New Zealand, loved by surfing newbies and experts alike. There’s a dedicated surf school right on the beach and an area patrolled by surf lifesavers from October to April.
There aren’t any amenities at the beach so make sure you pack a picnic before you go. There are some lovely picnic spots above the beach in the Wainui Reserve, which offers some great walking spots and is an ideal location to watch a spectacular sunset at the end of a hard day’s surf.
10. WHALE BAY, RAGLAN
Just five minutes drive south of Raglan is the delightful Whale Bay, a world famous surf spot. With plenty of surf schools to choose from, it’s an ideal beach for beginners while offering challenging waves for expert surfers.
Whale Bay has a distinctly bohemian and eco-friendly feel with a range of organic eateries and grocery stores, massage studios and day spas to choose from. Coastal walks here are spectacular and there are plenty of places to stop off for a picnic.
11. WAINUI BEACH, GISBORNE
This beautiful surfing beach near the city of Gisborne is a popular spot for wedding parties, and it’s easy to see why. Wainui, the Maori meaning for ‘big water’ has fantastic breaking waves, golden sands and a stunning backdrop of dunes and bush reserves, making it one of the most picturesque and protected spots on the North Island.
The area around the beach offers great walking trails and idyllic picnic spots. Alternatively head to the local community store for the best fish and chips in the area.