What do you prefer? Beaches or mountains and country side?
I am a beach person, simply because there is no better feeling than the sand and the salty water around your feet, artful waves and the sound of the ocean. No matter what time of the day or if it´s sunny or raining, being at the beach for me means absolute freedom, making new dreams and leaving the rest of the world behind.
And who does not love to watch the sun rise or set beyond the endless horizon of the ocean? And the many colors that turn the sky and the sea into flames of red and orange?
For that I have listed below my personal favorite beaches in New Zealand so far.
Why so far?
Well simply because NZ is to 100% surrounded by the sea and even though I went to manyyyyyy places yet I haven´t been to all. NZ is full of surprises and unknown places and I am pretty sure that this list will grow a lot in the next years. NZ never failed to surprise me every time I came back and that is something I am always looking forward to when coming back.
My Top 10 beaches in NZ
(North Island, Whangarei Heads Peninsula)
I came across Ocean Beach just by surprise, I did not know about that beach until I reached it. All I did one day was just driving back from the Northland to Auckland when I saw that long road on the map that lead from the highway to a nearby peninsula. I just followed the road to the end and could not be more happy when I reached the beach. It was so remote – I was the only person there and had the whole beach by myself. Wandering around and climbing up a sand dune was really fun. From the dune I could see the other side of the beach that stretched very far. I knew that I wanted to come back in summer as I just wanted to jump in the water and to swim. Until today that wish did not come true. That day was the only day I visited Ocean beach and I still hope it was not the last one.
(North Island, near Auckland)
Beaches for me are not only so special because of the sand and the water. But also for their different wildlife that you can spot. One day my friend and I drove to Muriwai Beach. One of the western black sand beaches near Auckland. It does not even take an hour to reach that area from the city. Muriwai Beach is another very popular spot for surfing but you should always keep an eye open for sharks, because attacks did already happen here in the past. But that is just a warning.
On the day we went it was very stormy but still beautiful. The sea was Rough and it was cold and windy so we did not go for a swim. Instead we did visit one of NZ´s biggest gannet colony. Walkways lead from the beach up to the Colony (be careful not to get wet at the rocks where the water hits) and we spent a long time here just watching the birds and enjoying the views. The only bad thing we noticed was the smell from the nests but we got used to that quickly.
(North Island, Waitakere Ranges near Auckland)
On a hot
summer day it can feel like all locals from Auckland escape the city
to go to the west, where black sand beaches and big waves await. Piha
beach is a true paradise for surfers, surrounded by the big, lush
forests of the Waitakere Ranges. The black sand is glittering and
shining in the sun, like many little diamonds. In summer it is
perfect for a day on the beach. But you should be good in running!
Because of the black color the sand can get very hot and roast your
feet, if you are not fast enough in the water.
Driving from Auckland to the beach takes around 45 minutes. The way leads on a curvy road through the forest to the coast, where you also have great opportunities to stop at some lookouts and to take great pictures of the coast and the beach.
The area around Piha also has some beautiful nature walks and waterfalls which are worth a visit.
Ninety Mile Beach
(North Island, Northland Region)
Of course this famous endless seeming beach has to be on the list. So each time I traveled to the far out Northland I often drove until the end of New Zealand. A stop at the Ninety Mile Beach was always a must. Being at the beach I personally think that it has a very unreal and almost mystical atmosphere or it might be because of the legends of the Maori that exist here. It says that the souls of the Maori travel along the beach up to their homeland, the very top of the country at the end. It seems to be a bit of a scary story but when you see how the winds let the sand fly across the beach I always imagined it to be the wandering souls.
A beach as a highway
Beside legends, Ninety Mile Beach is part of the official highway system in New Zealand! That is right, you are official allowed to use the beach like a normal road and drive on it along as far as you want with the normal speed limit of 100km/h. BUT only if you have a 4WD or you go with a tour in special buses. If you take your normal car you can bury it in the sand or in the ocean when high tight is coming, so don´t take the risk! If you come with a normal car, park it somewhere and walk to the beach and use the normal roads. Sometimes you even have the chance to spot some wild life like seals.
No one really knows how the beach got the name “90 Mile”. In fact it is only 55 miles long (88 kilometers) but not less impressive and still one of the longest beaches in the world, with Cape Reinga lying at the end of the beach and the end of New Zealand.
Pakiri Beach and Goat Island Marine Reserve
(North Island, near Matakana)
Are you up for a little road trip? Of course!!! Drive two hours north of Auckland and you come to one of the most beautiful white sand beaches in the area. Pakiri beach is another mile long beach and beautiful for a day trip out of the big city. Just be aware that a part of the road is uneven surface but you don´t necessarily need a 4WD.
On the way I can highly recommend that you make a stop at Goat island, a little island just a few meters of the shore. But don´t expect to see goats – there are none… But the beach and the island are very famous for fish so make sure to bring your snorkeling gear. A bit up a hill you can find the Goat Island Marine Center, they also offer glass bottom boat cruises around the island, if you don´t want to go to the water but still wanna see the fish. If you walk from the marine center further up the hill you will have beautiful views of the ocean and the area and Pakiri beach in the distance.
(South Island, near Dunedin)
When I visited Dunedin in 2013 I heard about that Tunnel Beach and thought why not check it out. So I took the bus from the city to the entrance of the walkway to the beach. The trip took around one hour. Even though it is already six years ago when I went there I still remember how beautiful it was, how deep blue the ocean was and how amazing the sandstone cliffs looked. The view over the coast with the lime stones and the “tunnel” looked spectacular. The water was very rough and powerful and would always blow up in the water holes. You can walk above the tunnel and sit in the grass and relax or if there is low tide you can walk throw the rocks and cliffs down another tunnel and reach the beach. Unfortunately I did not take a lot of pictures back then, so that is one more reason to travel back to one of my most favorite beaches again soon!
West Coast Beaches
(South Island, between Greymouth and Westport)
One more thing to add to your NZ bucket list! Travel to the south island and drive along the west coast!
That´s all! 🙂 I did not list any particular west coast beach because that is simply impossible. Being at the west coast means you will find heaps of wild, unspoiled and breathtaking beaches and ocean views along the way so just stop on your journey everywhere you want. Mostly you will have the beaches all for yourself. Not many tourists stop on the way. Find a good place to watch the sunset but don´t forget a mosquito spray because there are many nasty sand flies.
Mount Maunganui Beach
(North Island, Bay of Plenty Region)
No wonder this beach is on my list. It has been rated on Trip Advisor as NZ´s number one beach in 2019 and that is not a big surprise. Simply because the beach stretches along the coast of the bay of plenty for many miles and has pretty much everything to offer. It´s super clean, the water is shinny blue, it is convenient located next to one of NZ´s best holiday towns and with a beautiful nature area around. Next to the beach you can climb up the Mount to have some of the best views of the area. Mount Maunganui is an three hour drive away from Auckland and is also reachable by bus from Hamilton, Rotorua or Whakatane.
(North Island, Coromandel Peninsula)
Welcome to Coromandel Peninsula! One of the most beautiful parts of the North Island in NZ and also the place where both of my most favorite beaches are located. Next door to each other. When you get here it is easy to say why people love this beautiful part of NZ. A trip to Coromandel means automatically to stop at Hahai beach, not only because from here you can walk to the Cathedral Cove and combine both beaches together.
Walk on white and pink sand
Hahai beach stretches along the shore with shiny clear water and white sand that even has a shade of pink from little sea shells if the light is optimal. I love especially the view across the bay with the little islands and rocks in the water. From the beach a walk way leads along the bays to Cathedral Cove. You can even take the water taxi from here which is very cool. Or you can do a kayak trip along the coast and the bays. If you walk from Hahai beach to the other direction to the southern end you can access a walk way up a hill with more beautiful views across the bay and the beach. Hahai township has some very nice lodges and a camp site, a small café and convenience shop. The town can be easy reached by daily bus services from Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga.
Cathedral Cove Beach
(North Island, Coromandel Peninsula)
Wanna escape life for a while? Then head to the Coromandel Peninsula and drive all the way to Hahai and from there take the walkway down to the bays and the beautiful beach of Cathedral Cove and step into the world and film location of Narnia. This place could not be more magical and beautiful as it looked in the movie. And best of it – it is real!
Not because it has been in a movie but because nature offers everything you wish for when looking for a calm, quiet and secluded place far away from everything. But only if you plan your visit well and beat the crowds. I would avoid going here in the busy summer months of January and February, this place will be crowded and won´t be the same as you might expect.
Also if you plan to go early in the morning or in the evening you will find less people on the beach and you will have the place almost just for yourself.
As I mentioned before another great way to reach the beach is to come here via the water taxi from Hahai beach or if you book a kayak tour around the bays, that is a lot of fun!
Cathedral Cove is a must when coming to New Zealand, a place you will for sure not forget!
Let the waves hit your feet & the sand be your seat
This decision was not easy to make, as each and every beach in NZ has a special place in my heart. But if I would have to choose the best ones, it would be those.
Which beaches in NZ do you choose?
But you should make that decision for yourself and pick your own personal beaches and highlights next time you visit Aotearoa.
Let me know your most favorite beaches below in the comments. Doesn´t have to be in NZ, it can be anywhere in the world. Australia, Philippines, Brazil, Hawaii or Iceland? Which ones do you recommend? I am excited to hear your stories! 🙂
Lot´s of love! Alice ❤