A summer without a trip to the beach is incomplete! While you can go to the beach anywhere in the world, (and I may be a tiny bit biased), the beaches in New Zealand are some of the most breathtaking. There are so many of them here that you may not even get to visit all of them in one trip, but you’re sure to have a memorable time no matter which beach you decide to go to.
New Zealand is divided between the North Island and the South Island. Both islands are home to many beaches, but the ones on the North Island are generally considered to be more beautiful.
That being said, I have picked out some of the best beaches on both islands, so you do not have to do the work of narrowing down which ones to visit during your holiday to New Zealand. Each one of these beaches is unique in its own way, and whether you are visiting the country for an adventurous holiday or your honeymoon, you are bound to enjoy the sandy shores!
Best Beaches on the North Island, NZ
1. Piha Beach, Auckland
- Location: 45 minutes west of Auckland city
- Activities: Surfing
- Good for swimming: Yes, but watch for strong waves and swim between the flags!
Piha Beach is a scenic black-sand surf beach on the rugged coast west of Auckland. It’s a popular spot for swimming, surfing, fishing, and picnicking. The beach is surrounded by cliffs making it a very picturesque location. In the hills surrounding the beach, there are several walking paths through the native forests where you can take a scenic hike in nature.
Piha is one of the most famous beaches in New Zealand due to its close proximity to Auckland city. This beach is a famous surfing location, but there are specific areas reserved only for swimming. Piha Beach is known for its big waves and strong currents, so it’s important to swim between the red and yellow flags that mark the safe swimming area. Surf lifesavers patrol the beach during the summer months, and there’s also a rescue helicopter on call if needed.
You can also take surfing lessons on the beach. There are always plenty of teachers available on the coast who are willing to teach. After your surfing lesson, you can set up a picnic on the shore. There are plenty of shops nearby for you to grab sandwiches and drinks from!
If you’re not a surfer, you can still enjoy the beautiful black sand beach. Take a walk along the coast, go for a swim, or just relax and take in the view. There are also several cafes and restaurants in the area, so you can grab a bite to eat or a coffee while you’re here.
Piha Beach is easily reached from Auckland, so even if you don’t have a car you can go on a tour to Piha Beach. This particular tour is great because not only does it provide transport from your hotel in Auckland to Piha Beach, but it also includes a guided rainforest walk and a small group. The tour lasts about 5 hours and includes an afternoon stroll on Piha Beach, a visit to the Arataki Center, and pickup and drop-off from your hotel in Auckland. This tour starts $172 NZD per person and can be booked online in advance.
Where to stay near Piha Beach:
If you wish to stay away from the hustle and bustle of the city, residing near Piha Beach is an excellent idea. There are plenty of options nearby so you can easily find one that suits your budget.
This hotel has exceptional reviews by couples, so if you are on your honeymoon, Romantic Piha is a hotel worth checking out. It is also located in an area that is popular for biking and hiking. So once you are bored of being on the beach, you can go biking or hiking later in the evening.
This is a perfect choice for families since you can book a whole house with a fully equipped kitchen and a washing machine to do your laundry. There is also free parking on the site, and it is a smoke-free property to make it further suitable for families.
Related Read: For more info, check out my complete guide to where to stay in Auckland!
2. Hot Water Beach, Coromandel
- Location: 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) southeast of Whitianga in the Coromandel
- Activities: Digging your own natural hot spa in the sand
- Good for swimming: Yes, but the hot water is the main attraction
Hot Water Beach is a beach on the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand, just south of Mercury Bay. It is approximately 12 km/7.5 mi southeast of Whitianga, and approximately 175 km (109 mi) from Auckland by car.
It is also one of the most unique beaches around the world, owing to its thermal water bubbling just beneath the surface of the sand at low tide. You can simply dig your own hot pool in the sand and relax! The areas where you can dig for the hot water in the sand do get covered by the ocean during high tide, so be sure to check the tide chart before you go. Visiting within two hours on either side of low tide is recommended if you want to dig your own spa!
On a regular summer day, you will find the place flocked with visitors. Most of these people will be digging a small pool on the shore to enjoy the natural hot water that emerges from underneath. The water is approximately 64 degrees Celsius (147 Fahrenheit).
The beach is not a popular spot for surfing because the stretch is hazardous, with dangerous rips across the area. These can be even more challenging for the most skilled swimmers and surfers, so it is recommended that everyone be cautious!
It’s a little far for a day trip, but possible from Auckland on the below tour.
On this 12-hour tour, you will visit the Coromandel Peninsula to experience its beautiful beaches and natural landscapes. You’ll ride a narrow-gauge railway through the native kauri forest before reaching an observation platform where there are amazing views over Hauraki Gulf! After, your professional guide takes you to Cathedral Cove and you’ll have the opportunity to soak in a thermal pool at Hot Water Beach.
Your guide takes care of all transportation from Auckland so that it’s just one day trip for everyone on board – no need to get stuck overnight or worry about getting there and back. This includes transportation, as well any hotel pickup/dropoff, and a cafe lunch. The cost for this tour is $400 NZD ($255 USD) per person.
This small-group tour is limited to nine people, so you’ll get personal attention from your guide.
Where to stay near Hot Water Beach:
This gateway is located only a 9-minute walk from Hot Water Beach. It is children-friendly and provides a free parking facility. There are also reserved BBQ spots if you wish to grill some burgers. You can camp here and take advantage of their awesome facilities or stay for cheap in the chalets and family villas.
This is located only a 2-minute walk to the beach and is the perfect romantic getaway for couples. It consists of a one-bedroom villa, complete with a queen bed and ocean views! If you wish to prepare your own food, there is also an equipped kitchen.
This cottage is located on the beach! You will have a 24/7 view of the sandy shore and hot water pools. Due to its location, the place can be a bit costly, but it’s worth it! It is a one-bedroom home complete with a kitchen and laundry.
3. Muriwai Beach, Auckland
- Location: West Coast of the Auckland Region
- Activities: Surfing, Hiking
- Good for swimming: Yes, in certain areas.
Muriwai Beach is characterized by its black sand and cliff tops that surround it. During certain times of the year, the cliffs are covered in Gannets – birds who nest here. Seeing these birds is a highlight and a reason many people consider Murwai to be one of the best beaches in New Zealand.
The best time of year to see the Gannets is from August to March. To see the birds, park in this parking lot and walk the short marked trail up to a viewing deck. Here, you’ll also find information boards
Besides checking out the birds, there are lots of other things to do at Mruiwai Beach. You can start your day at the Beach from Otakamiro Point, which is the starting point for the Refuge track. There is also sufficient space for car parking on this clifftop and clean restrooms, and a breathtaking view of the beach.
The starting point is to the northern end of this carpark if you wish to track. If you want to go to the beach, follow the Takapu Refuge trail down onto Muriwai Beach. There is also a beach car park nearby for you to relax in. This area is a popular spot on the North Island for hiking and sightseeing.
The beach is a popular spot for surfers. Many paragliders are also on the coast due to the favorable south-westerly winds surrounding the coastline. The Muriwai Surf School is also located nearby, where you can take surfing lessons or hire a wetsuit and a surfboard.
There are many ways to see the best of what this region has to offer, but I recommend taking a guided tour to really immerse yourself in the experience. One option is this scenic wine region tour – Auckland’s wild west coast awaits you on this tour! You’ll cruise through the scenic areas of Waimaulu, Kumeu and Huapai, and enjoy breathtaking views of New Zealand’s coast.
Then you’ll head to Muriwai. Here, you can stroll along the black sand beach and learn about the history of the area. The next stop on the tour is one of New Zealand’s most picturesque regions: wine country; where award-winning vines grow alongside native birds such as kiwi fruit trees.
While in wine country, you’ll stop to visit either Kumeu River Wines, Matua Wines, or West Brook wine estate, where you’ll take part in a guided wine tasting and sampling of fine local wine varieties such as pinot gris, pinot noir and riesling. After enjoying some delicious regional wines at their estate tasting room, continue your travels past vineyards until finally heading back to your hotel in Auckland. This tour starts at $149 NZD per person and includes wine tasting, hotel pick up and drop off, transportation, and a local guide.
Muriwai is such a great spot, many people consider it one of the best things to do in Auckland, and I have to agree!
Where to stay near Muriwai Beach
This 4-star hotel is a 30-minute drive away from the west coast beaches. There are multiple dining options available within the hotel, including all three meals at The Good Home Gastro Pub. There is also room service available if you wish to eat from the comfort of your room. The hotel also has special facilities for disabled guests and 24/7 free parking.
This hotel is located only a couple of minutes down the road from Muriwai Beach. They offer 1-bedroom, 2-bedroom, and 3-bedroom apartments which are perfect for families or groups of friends traveling together. The prices are super reasonable and there is even a tennis court on the property!
4. Cathedral Cove Beach, Coromandel
- Location: Just outside of Hahei on the Coromandel
- Activities: Swimming, Hiking
- Good for swimming: Yes!
This iconic New Zealand beach is one of the top tourist destinations in the country. Cathedral Cove is located on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island and is part of Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve.
This beach is named after its unique rock archway, which was formed by years of erosion. The archway is a popular photo spot and was made famous in the Narnia films.
The white-sand beach and crystal clear waters make it a perfect spot for swimming, snorkeling, and diving. There are many different kinds of fish that can be found in the waters, as well as colorful coral. Keep your eyes peeled for a dolphin or two!
To walk to Cathedral Cove Beach, you can start from the car park at the Hahei Village Entry Carpark, which is on the outskirts of Hahei beach. From there, it is approximately a 1.15 hrs walk to the Cove.
Along the trail to Cathedral Cove be sure to stop at Gemstone Bay, which is another beautiful spot in the reserve. If you prefer a longer walk, start from the north end of Hahei Beach (as opposed to the car park.) Stay on the one-hour walking track that leads along the cliff top and then descends to the Cove.
Alternatively, this glass-bottom boat tour is the perfect way to see the amazing marine life that inhabits this bay. As you cruise through the calm waters, you’ll be able to see a variety of fish, including stingrays, eels, and even turtles! The boat has a large glass viewing area so you can get up close and personal with the underwater world. You’ll also have the chance to go for a swim and snorkel in the beautiful waters if you wish.
This is a great tour for families with small children, as the boat is very safe and secure and the glass bottom means that everyone can enjoy the views. This tour starts at $112 NZD ($71 USD) per person and lasts about 2 hours. The pickup point for this tour is at Whitianga Wharf, so this tour is best for those staying in Whitianga (or at least close enough to drive to Whitianga to start the tour).
Visitors staying in Auckland can opt for this tour of the Coromandel Peninsula, which departs from the city center. Highlights include a visit to the Hot Water Beach, Cathedral Cove, and the Waikato countryside, where you can see native New Zealand birds in their natural habitat.
This tour is perfect for those who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and explore the beauty of nature. It’s a great way to see some of the best that the Coromandel Peninsula has to offer, and the small group size means that you’ll get a more personal experience. This 12-hour tour costs $312 NZD ($200 USD) per person and includes all transport, entry fees, snacks, water, and a guide. Pick up and drop off at your hotel in Auckland is also included, so all you need to worry about is having a great time!
For those staying in Hahei, I recommend this classic kayaking and walking tour to Cathedral Cove. You’ll paddle through the picturesque waters of the cove, taking in the sights of native birds and marine life. Then you’ll walk to the top of a nearby hill for panoramic views of the coastline before heading back to your hotel.
This tour is great for those who want to explore the outdoors and get some exercise. It’s also perfect for families, as the kayaking and walking are both easy activities that everyone can enjoy. The tour includes all equipment, so all you need to worry about is showing up and enjoying the views. You’ll end the tour with some cookies and hot chocolate, making it the perfect way to relax and enjoy the beauty of Cathedral Cove. This tour is $263 NZD ($168 USD) per person and lasts about 3 hours. The pick-up and drop-off point for this tour is at Hahei Beach, in front of the beach car park.
Where to stay near Cathedral Cove Beach:
This hotel is located approximately 300 m from the East End Beach and is designed into apartments. Each of which features 1 bedroom, and 1 bathroom, along with a dining area, a fully equipped kitchenette, and a balcony with garden views. The place is highly rated among couples, so if you are on a romantic getaway, make sure to look into this hotel.
This resort is located approximately 400 m from Hahei Beach and 1 km (0.6 miles) from Cathedral Cove. Moreover, Hot Water Beach is 7 km (4.3 miles) away, and Coroglen Farmers Market is 10 km (6.2 miles) away.
The resort itself is set on 1.5 acres of tropical gardens where you can spend your evenings quietly. You can also enjoy the views of Hahei Beach from the resort!
This hotel is located an 8-minute walk from Hahei Beach and overlooks the village. It is also only a 2-minute drive from the start of the Cathedral Cove track and only a 10-minute drive away from Hot Water Beach. There is also a hot tub!
5. Maunganui Beach, Mount Maunganui
- Location: Tauranga metropolitan area
- Activities: Swimming, Surfing
- Good for swimming: Yes
Maunganui Beach ranks among the top 25 best beaches in the world, which is why it is no surprise that it is a popular tourist destination! This beach, located on New Zealand’s North Island, is known for its white-sand beaches, crystal clear water, and lush vegetation. Maunganui Beach is situated in the city of Tauranga and is only a short drive from Rotorua.
This beach is a great spot for swimming, sunbathing, surfing, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding. The most common activity among visitors is to relax on the white sandy shore or swim in the calm waters. Surfing is also a popular activity since there are no strong currents in the water for most of the year.
You can also hike to the top of Mount Maunganui, also known as Mauao, from this beach. The summit of Mauao offers stunning views of the surrounding area and the beach below. It takes about an hour to reach the top, but it is well worth it! It is located at a height of 232 meters from the sea and is a breathtaking, picturesque spot to see the entire bay. The walking tracks leading to the top are built on an extinct volcano!
If you are looking for a place to stay, there are many accommodation options available ranging from camping grounds to luxury hotels. There are also plenty of restaurants, cafes, and bars located nearby, so you will never go hungry here.
Where to stay near Maunganui Beach:
This apartment is located a mere one-minute walk from the beach, and all the hiking tracks in the area are also located nearby. The apartment comes with one bedroom and a fully equipped kitchenette and living room.
This property is also located a one-minute walk from the beach. However, it contains two bedrooms and two washrooms instead of one. It also has a heated outdoor swimming pool for you to enjoy.
This property is two minutes away from the beach and comes with two bedrooms and three bathrooms, along with a fully equipped kitchenette! It is a perfect place to stay for families looking for a spacious location. The accommodation also has a swimming pool and a fitness center.
6. Ngarunui Beach, Raglan
- Location: Just outside of Raglan in Waikato
- Activities: Surfing, Bodyboarding, Swimming
- Good for swimming: Yes, but waves can be strong at times.
Located on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island, Ngarunui Beach is a popular spot for surfing, swimming, and relaxing on the beach. The beach is located just on the outskirts of Raglan. Raglan is a small town located about 2 hours south of Auckland.
This beach is well known for its long stretches of black sand and beautiful sunsets. Ngarunui Beach is an extremely popular surfing spot, due to the bay’s deep holes and strong rips.
The Raglan Surf School is also located on the beach. You can take surfing lessons from the school, or if you already know how to surf, you can hire boards and wetsuits and go at it on your own. Because of the occasional currents in the water, make sure to be careful while swimming. There are always lifeguards patrolling the bay, so it is quite safe to swim!
Want to take your surfing skills to the next level? This private surfing lesson is the perfect way to do it. You’ll have the undivided attention of your instructor, who will tailor the lesson to your individual needs and abilities. This is a great option for those who want to improve their surfing quickly or for those who are just starting out and need some extra help. The lesson includes your surfboard and wetsuit, as well as your private lesson with your instructor. This 2-hour lesson is $152 NZD ($97 USD) per person.
You can also hike to the area above the beach, known as the Wainui Reserve. This is one of the best things to do in Raglan and one of my favorites. There are many picnic spots, lookouts, and walking trails located here. You can also find many eating spots and toilets on the beach as well. It is also a popular spot to watch the sunset – a perfect way to end your day out!
Where to stay near Ngarunui Beach
The best places to stay near Ngarunui Beach are in the nearby town of Raglan.
For budget travelers, Raglan Backpackers on Wi Neera Street is a great choice as it has awesome beachfront views. There’s also a shared lounge, a large outdoor patio, and even a sauna. You can choose from a double room with a shared bathroom or save more $$$ and book a bed in a dorm.
If you can afford to spend a little more, why not consider the Silos Apartments on Raglan Wharf? These stylish apartments are actually converted cement silos, which is pretty cool. Some rooms have an epic view of the wharf whilst the remaining have a peaceful garden view.
If you want to splurge on a luxurious stay, Three Streams Raglan Retreat is a gorgeous stylish studio apartment set on 25 acres with a large patio and an awesome outdoor tub. Raglan town is a 5 km drive away.
7. Hahei, Coromandel
- Location: Eastern side of the Coromandel Peninsula
- Activities: Swimming, Boating, Fishing
- Good for swimming: Yes!
Hahei is a popular beach and town located on the Coromandel Peninsula on New Zealand’s North Island. It’s about 3 hours south of Auckland and is a great spot for swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, and relaxing on the beach.
Hahei Beach is well known for its clear waters, beautiful views, and pohutukawa trees along the shore. There are also drifts of pink shells at the northern end of the beach which are very pretty to look at. There are plenty of kayaks available for rent if you want to explore the coastline, or you can also go on a glass-bottom boat tour to see the marine life without getting wet.
Hahei is a great spot for swimming, as the waters are crystal clear. There is also a marine reserve on the north of the coastline, which makes it a popular spot for diving and snorkeling. There are also many different kinds of fish that can be seen here. If you’re lucky, you might even see a stingray! The sheltered beach is also ideal for boating, fishing, and picnicking. You can even catch some fish and then BBQ it for lunch!
If you want to stay in the area, there are plenty of camping grounds and holiday parks nearby. However, if you’re wanting to stay right on the beach, there are only a few private lodges available. Tje town of Hahei, which is right on the beach, also offers a few cafes, restaurants, and shops.
Where to stay near Hahei
This property is located at a 5 minutes walk from the beach and a 3-minute walk from the center of Hahei. The Cathedral Cove is also only 3.3 km from the holiday home. The Beach Bach consists of one bedroom, a modern bathroom, and a living room.
The hotel offers breathtaking sea views and is located only 7 km (4.3 miles) from Cathedral Cove. The accommodation is also only 300 m from East End Beach, and there is free private parking available on-site.
The apartment features 1 bedroom and 1 bathroom, along with a fully equipped kitchenette and a balcony with garden views.
This property is only a 10 minutes walk from the beach and a 5-minute walk from Hahei Village. Each room features a private patio with outdoor seating and garden views.
The accommodation Church is also only 7.4 km (4.6 miles) from Hot Water Beach and a 10-minute drive away from Whitianga Passenger Ferry Terminal.
8. Ninety Mile Beach, Northland
- Location: Very top of the North Island
- Activities: Surfing, Bodyboarding, Swimming
- Good for swimming: Yes
Ninety Mile Beach, contrary to what the name suggests, is actually 89 km (55 miles) long! It’s located on the North Island’s east coast and is about 3 hours north of Auckland. This beach stretches from Ahipara to Scott Point, 5 km (3.1 miles) south of Cape Maria van Diemen. Its southern end is close to the headland of Tauroa Point, to the west of Ahipara Bay, near Kaitaia.
This beach got its name from European settlers who thought it was 90 miles long, due to how long it took them to cross the beach on horseback. In short, this is one very long beach!
Ninety Mile Beach is a great spot for swimming, fishing, surfing, and boogie boarding. Once a year, in late February or early March, 90 Mile Beach hosts a five-day fishing competition, and people from across the country flock to the beach, striving to catch the biggest snapper.
As long as you have a 4WD vehicle, you can drive across this beach. However, you need to be cautious of the tides- if they are high, it will be unsafe to drive. Make sure to check the tide times before you attempt to drive across the beach. The waves here can get pretty big, so be cautious if you’re swimming or surfing. It’s always best to swim where there are lifeguards on duty.
There are plenty of campsites along this beach where you can stay for free (or for a fee). Just make sure to follow the freedom camping rules so that you don’t get fined.
While you can drive to Ninety Mile Beach, it isn’t your only option. On this scenic flight tour, you’ll depart from Kerikeri or Paihia and soar above Ninety Mile Beach before landing for a minibus tour at the top end of New Zealand’s North Island. There you’ll visit the iconic Cape Reinga Lighthouse, where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean, and stroll along the beach at Tapotupotu Bay. Here you’ll have the chance to surf the sand dunes of Te Paki if you wish!
On the return 1-hour flight, soar over the spectacular coastal scenery of the North Island and enjoy picturesque views of the Great Exhibition Bay and the remote Parengarenga Harbor. This 4.5-hour tour costs $469 NZD ($300 USD) and also includes morning tea and round-trip hotel transfers.
If you’re looking for a unique way to experience the beauty of New Zealand’s Northland region, then this flight tour is a must! This is an amazing opportunity to see one of the most beautiful and remote regions in New Zealand.
Where to stay near Ninety Mile Beach:
This holiday house is an 8-minute walk from the beach. The property has outdoor space, with BBQ spots, table tennis, and a children’s playground. Kaitaia Golf Course is also located next door, and Kaitaia town center is just 15 km (9.3 miles) away.
This property is just 3 minutes away from the beach by foot and has been rated highly by recent guests. Rooms are equipped with a double bed, and some also come with a kitchen. It is a very budget-friendly option and excellent for those who only need to stay for one night!
This is a beachfront accommodation designed in an 1870s villa design. There are hammocks all over the property where you can relax in the evenings while sipping on your summer drinks.
9. Sandy Bay Beach, Northland
- Location: On the East Coast, two hours north of Auckland.
- Activities: Swimming, Surfing
- Good for swimming: Yes, but only with cation and for strong swimmers.
Sandy Bay Beach is one of the East Coast’s most popular beaches, and it attracts many tourists all year round. This beach is located on the east coast of North Island and is about 2 hours north of Auckland.
The most popular activity on the beach is surfing, since the beach has strong waves all year long. But because there are no lifeguards on the beach, it is recommended to take caution while surfing, of course. And while the beach is safe enough for swimming, it would be better to swim somewhere where the sea is calmer, and there are lifeguards patrolling the area. If you’re an inexperienced swimmer, I’d recommend avoiding this beach, or finding some other non-swimming activities here to occupy your time.
Sandy Bay Beach is also a great place for fishing, both from the shore and from a boat. There are many different types of fish that can be found in these waters, so it’s a great spot for both beginner and experienced fishermen.
If you’re not into surfing or fishing, you can still enjoy the beach by relaxing on the sand or taking a walk along the water’s edge. There are also plenty of rocks to explore, so you can find some good spots for crabbing or just take in the scenery. A few restaurants and cafes are in the area nearby, so you can get something to eat or drink while enjoying the view.
The sunsets at the beach are also known to be some of the best! The sky frequently lights up with hues of pink and orange.
There is parking available near the beach at all times, so if you want to take your car to the beach, there will be no problem!
Where to stay near Sandy Bay Beach
There is actually a free camping spot located on Sandy Bay! This area is first-come-first-serve though, and as such, usually fills by around noon in the summer months.
If you’re looking for nearby accommodation, you’ll have to drive a little to the town of Matapouri for any options. This small town doesn’t offer any hotels but does have plenty of holiday homes to choose from.
For a luxurious stay, you can’t pass up on Matapouri Bayside Retreat. Located only 150 meters from the beach, this 4-bedroom holiday home is in an ideal location. Inside, you’ll find a full kitchen with modern amenities, air conditioning, and a big outdoor deck with a BBQ. It sleeps up to 9 people.
A little more budget-friendly option is Matapouri Cabin By The Beach. This one-bedroom chalet is perfect for couples wanting a romantic getaway in New Zealand. The room features a small kitchenette and a private balcony. It’s located only a 2-minute walk from the beach!
10. Waihi Beach, Bay of Plenty
- Location: Western end of the Bay of Plenty
- Activities: Swimming, Cycling, Hiking
- Good for swimming: Yes
Waihī is a beautiful town with many boutique shops, restaurants, and cafés. Situated on the east coast of the North Island, this village is nestled between two stunning beaches – Waihī Beach and Bowentown Beach.
Waihī Beach is a safe and family-friendly beach with gentle waves, golden sand, and crystal-clear water. It’s a great place to swim, sunbathe, paddleboard, or just relax on the sand. There are also a number of restaurants and cafes in the area, so you can enjoy a meal or a drink while taking in the stunning views.
There are also several tracks in the village, where you can hike or cycle. To the north of Waihī Beach, there is the picturesque Orokawa Bay. It is accessible by foot or boat and is also a popular picnic spot. Once you hike deeper inland, there is a breathtaking waterfall to be discovered called the William Wright Falls. This waterfall is hidden away but definitely worth the effort to find it.
Continue hiking in this direction towards the north end, and you will reach Trig walk. On this path, near the reservoir, you will reach a height. From here, you will see stunning views of the beach from above!
Where to stay near Waihi Beach:
This hotel is located in an area that is popular for fishing and hiking. It is within walking distance from the beach – only 750 meters away! The room features a huge jacuzzi bathtub, kitchenette, and air conditioning.
This property is a 10-minute drive away from the beach. They offer self-contained units, with different numbers of bedrooms and one washroom.
This is a beachfront property with exceptional reviews! You can also hire bikes from the accommodation, free of cost. There is a large garden for you to wind down in and water sports facilities to enjoy as well. They offer both a studio apartment and one-bedroom apartment for couples, as well as a two-bedroom apartment that sleeps up to four people.
11. Oneroa Beach, Waiheke Island
- Location: 35-40 minute ferry from downtown Auckland
- Activities: Relaxing, Swimming
- Good for swimming: Yes
Oneroa Beach is one of the most popular beaches on Waiheke Island and for good reason. Located about 35-40 minutes away from Auckland by ferry and just a short walk from the ferry terminal, this sheltered bay has gentle waves, crystal-clear water, and plenty of space to relax on the sand.
If you’re looking for things to do, there’s plenty to keep you busy at Oneroa Beach. You can go for a swim, sunbathe on the sand, paddleboard or kayak in the bay, or go for a walk along the water’s edge. There are also a number of shops and galleries in the area, so you can explore the local arts scene.
Oneroa Beach is a great place to relax and soak up the stunning scenery. It’s also a popular spot for swimming, so be sure to take extra caution when entering the water. There are no lifeguards on duty, so always swim with a friend and be sure to obey all signs.
The white sandy beach will make you want to relax on the shore for hours, and when the skies are clear, you can even see the Coromandel Peninsula in the distance! There are also many walkways on the hub where you can stroll for hours if you need a break from swimming.
Oneroa town is also known for its vibrant cafe culture – there are plenty of cafes and restaurants lining the beachfront, so you can enjoy a meal or a drink while taking in the stunning views. You can never go hungry for too long in this town! Oneroa town is also home to many arts and crafts shops as well as souvenir shops where locals sell their wares.
The best time to visit Oneroa Beach is during the summer months, when the weather is warm and perfect for swimming and sunbathing. However, it’s also worth visiting in the winter, when you can enjoy the quieter atmosphere and stunning views.
For a unique way to see the sights of Waiheke, a segway tour is a great way to see Waiheke Island in a short amount of time. You’ll be able to cover more ground than you would on foot, and the segway is easy to use so you can focus on taking in the sights!
This 2-hour segway tour starts with a training session to get you comfortable using the segway. Then you’ll head off on a guided tour of the island, taking in stunning views of the Blackpool Beach and Oneroa Village. You’ll also get to see some of the island’s vineyards and olive groves. The tour costs $122 NZD ($78 USD) per person.
Where to stay near Oneroa Beach
The inn is a 2 minutes walk from the beach. The modern property is designed with wooden flooring and wooden furniture – total beach vies! You also get a complimentary breakfast from the inn. Rooms are only for 2 people and come with air conditioning.
This accommodation includes three apartment options: a studio, a two-bedroom, and a large 5-bedroom house. There is a garden on the property for you to wind down, and you can also enjoy a splendid view of the ocean from most of the rooms.
Each unit on this property comes with an attached balcony and bathroom. The lodge offers a complimentary breakfast, and while it is a little further from the beach, it is perfect for guests who wish to enjoy the wilderness instead.
12. Oriental Beach, Wellington
- Location: Suburb of Wellington
- Activities: Swimming
- Good for swimming: Yes
Oriental Beach is thought to be Wellington’s own little Riviera! Located on Wellington’s South Coast, this beach is a great spot for swimming, sunbathing, and picnicking. It’s actually right in the city, and as such, is one of the best things to do in Wellington.
The views here are stunning – you can see the CBD skyline as well as the Cook Strait and beyond. Oriental Bay is one of Wellington’s most popular beaches for good reason. It has everything you could want in a beach – golden sand, crystal-clear water, and plenty of space to relax.
Oriental Bay Beach is also considered an excellent spot for swimming, so if you’re looking for a place to take a dip, Oriental Bay is the perfect spot. Since the shore slopes gently into the ocean, you will have to go quite ahead to be neck-deep in the water. You can sit back on the sandy shore for hours and take in the majestic view of the bay and the northern hills in the distance. The water here is clean and refreshing, and the gentle waves make it great for swimming.
If you’re not a fan of swimming, don’t worry – there are plenty of other things to do at Oriental Bay. You can go for a walk or a run along the waterfront, rent a kayak or paddleboard, or just relax on the sand and soak up the sun.
Oriental Bay is also a great place to people watch. There’s always something going on – whether it’s locals and tourists alike taking a dip, strolling along the waterfront, or playing volleyball on the sand.
Where to stay near Oriental Beach
James Cook Wellington is just a 15-minute walk from Cuba Street and Courtenay Place so you can easily enjoy the nightlife of the region. The hotel is also just 500 m from Lambton Harbor, and the rooms offer a view of the harbor too!
The hotel is strategically located in Wellington’s business and entertainment district center. The ferry terminal is also only a few minutes’ drive away from the hotel.
This property is a one-minute walk away from the beach. Each apartment consists of 1 bedroom and 1 bathroom, along with a fully equipped kitchenette and a balcony.
Best Beaches on the South Island, NZ
13. Wharariki Beach, Pūponga
- Location: West of Cape Farewell
- Activities: Horse Riding, Swimming, Hiking
- Good for swimming: Yes
One of the most iconic and certainly one of the most picturesque beaches in New Zealand has to be Wharariki Beach. This beach is located on the west coast of the South Island and is well known for its sandy shores, turquoise waters, and dramatic cliffs. It’s also famous for being many people’s screensaver!
To get to the beach, you will have to hike through spectacular farm paddocks and a section of a coastal forest. When you finally get there, you will have a beautiful shore waiting for you. You can spend your day relaxing at the beach while looking at the distinctive scenery.
Wharariki Beach is the perfet place for swimming, surfing, sunbathing, and fishing. It is also a popular spot for kayaking, as there are many different caves and rock formations to explore. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also go for a walk along the coastal track. This track takes you to some of the most spectacular views in New Zealand.
Just be sure to take extra caution when swimming at Wharariki Beach, as the currents can be strong. There are also no lifeguards on duty, so always be sure to take caution and obey all signs.
The best time to visit Wharariki Beach is at low tide – this way, you can easily walk across the length of the coastline and enjoy horseback rides along the shore for hours. If you are looking to go to a beach that is not too crowded or too secluded, Wharariki Beach is the one. I would recommend visiting Wharariki Beach early in the morning or late in the afternoon if you can, as this is when the light is at its best. However, it’s also worth visiting at night, as the stars are incredible here!
Where to stay near Wharariki Beach
The lodge is rated highly for cleanliness and is just 400 meters from the Abel Tasman National Park entrance, which features countless restaurants and cafes, along with many water sports activities.
This holiday home contains two self-contained cottage units and two studio units. The cottage is located within a garden setting. Each unit has complete cooking facilities, while the studio apartments only have a partial kitchen. All rooms have queen-sized beds, and the units also have single beds.
The motel is rated highly for its location, cleanliness, service, and value. It is also centrally located, making it near all activities in the region.
14. Torrent Bay, Abel Tasman National Park
- Location: Near the towns Motueka, Takaka, and Kaiteriteri
- Activities: Kayaking, Hiking, Swimming
- Good for swimming: Yes
Torrent Bay Beach is the perfect place to reconnect with nature and relax on the sandy shores. Located on the Abel Tasman National Park coastline, this beach is a hidden gem. The village of Torrent Bay is only accessible by water taxi or a long hike, but it is well worth the effort. The beach is beautiful and the surrounding area is full of native bush.
There are many different things to do in Torrent Bay. You can go for a swim, go kayaking or canoeing, go for a walk or hike, or just relax on the sand and soak up the sun. You can also explore nearby landmarks such as the Abel Tasman National Park.
A popular activity on the beach is an early morning kayak in the tidal lagoon. It is also the perfect way to watch the sunrise! Later in the day, you can take a short walk up to Cleopatra’s Pools, which is a natural rock pool with a moss-lined waterslide.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also try your hand at rock climbing. There are many different routes to choose from, so there is something for everyone. Locals here say that you can get an awesome elevated view of Torrent after a short climb at the northern end of the beach, so I definitely recommend giving it a go!
Where to stay near Torrent Beach
If you are looking for luxurious accommodation, Tasman Lodge should be your pick. It also has a good location, with Abel Tasman National Park at a 14-minute walk distance. Marahau Beach is away by a 7 min walk, and the Abel Tasman Coast Track is away by a 9 min walk.
This accommodation has a total of 35 rooms. It is an 18-minute walk away from Abel Tasman National Park and a 4-minute walk away from Marahau Beach.
15. Kaikōura Beach, Kaikōura Beach
- Location: Kaikōura Area
- Activities: Swimming, Fishing, Surfing, Whale and Dolphin watching
- Good for swimming: Yes – in the summer months
Located on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island, Kaikoura Beach is a must-visit for anyone who loves the outdoors. The area is renowned for its natural beauty and its abundance of marine life. The beach is located right in town, also called Kaikoura.
Kaikoura Beach is the perfect place to relax and take in the stunning scenery. The beach is clean and the water is crystal clear. Kaikoura beach is also a great place for swimming, surfing, sunbathing, and fishing. There are many different types of fish that can be found in the area, including snapper, kahawai, blue cod, and kingfish.
Dolphins are often seen swimming offshore, and dolphin and whale watching tours are also available. Tours are extremely popular in the area and the best way to ensure you get to see whales and dolphins up close!
There are plenty of things to do in Kaikoura, and the beach is just one of them. Other activities include hiking, cycling, kayaking, and horse riding. There are also many different shops and restaurants in the town, so you’ll never be bored.
Kaikoura Beach is only safe to swim during the summer months, and even during these months, make sure to swim near the southern end of the beach and when the surf is under 1 meter. It is also better if you do not let kids swim on this beach, as there are no lifeguards patrolling this beach. Always be sure to take extra caution when swimming in any unfamiliar waters.
Where to stay near Kaikōura Beach
This property is a 1-minute walk from the beach. You can choose accommodation with a balcony or patio and lovely ocean, mountain or garden views. There are also many shops and cafes near the residence for you to explore in the evenings.
Kaikoura Boutique Hotel is in a stunning historic 1880s building! It is absolutely stunning and a unique place to stay! The location is also ideal only a 10-minute walk from the center of Kaikoura Town.
The hotel is located in Kaikoura. Each room has a private balcony, and the hotel serves complimentary breakfast each morning. There is also a bar in the lobby for you to enjoy.
16. Tahunanui Beach, Nelson
- Location: Rocks Road, Nelson
- Activities: swimming, paddle boarding, kitesurfing, and kayaking
- Good for swimming: Yes
Tahunanui Beach is situated in the town of Nelson, on the northeastern coast of the South Island. The word Tahunanui is loosely translated in Māori to mean big (nui) sandbank (tahuna), and it certainly lives up to its name! Tahunanui Beach sits along a 1.75 km (1.1-mile) stretch of sand, which provides plenty of space for everyone.
There are many things to do at Tahunanui Beach. You can go for a swim, relax on the sand, play volleyball, go for a walk or run, or even try your hand at surfing. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also go parasailing or skydiving! They even have amenities here like a hydroslide, BMX and go-kart tracks, mini-golf course, playground, skatepark, roller skating rink, laser tag course, trampoline park, sack slide, beach volleyball court, bumper boat park, and even a zoo just a few steps away from the sand dunes!
The perfect time to visit Tahunanui Beach is at low tide. At this time, you can see a wide variety of rock pools that have many small crabs, fish, and sea snails. The bay has a thriving marine life, which includes thrives with marine life, snappers, kahawais, blue cod, and even kingfish. You can also spot dolphins and stingrays in the ocean when the water is calm!
You could easily spend a few hours (or even a whole day) here and not get bored.
There are plenty of restaurants and picnic spots on the bay too. Dining with a seaside view is an unparalleled experience, and Tahunanui Beach ensures that you can enjoy most of it. There are also several pubs in the area where you can enjoy your evenings!
Where to stay near Tahunanui Beach, Nelson
This property is a 5 minutes walk from the beach! The hotel also offers an outdoor swimming pool and many different rooms and apartments that sleep up to 6 people. The hotel also has a very cooperative staff that can assist you in arranging visits to the Abel Tasman National Park or for water sports activities.
This property is an apartment that is located within 300 meters from Tahunanui Beach. It also has a tennis court and you can also enjoy views of the mountains and ocean from your room. It is a studio apartment with a small kitchenette and balcony.
Beaches Nelson is just 5 minutes walk from Tahunanui Beach. The accommodation offers self-contained accommodation (studio, 1-bedroom, and 2-bedroom apartments) all with a private balcony or patio. Each unit also has a fully equipped kitchenette and is fully air-conditioned. They also offer free bicycle rentals, which you can take advantage of and explore nearby areas.
17. Queenstown Beach, Queenstown
- Location: Queenstown center
- Activities: Water Sports, Swimming
- Good for swimming: Yes, if you can brave the cold water!
Who knew that there was a beach in Queenstown? Well, there is! And although this beach is on the shores of a lake, it is still one of the best in NZ. Queenstown Beach is located on Lake Wakatipu and is pretty much right next to the town center. This makes it the perfect place to go for a swim, sunbathe, or relax after a long day of exploring.
The water at Queenstown Beach is clean and clear, although it can be quite cold! The sand is also clean and there are plenty of trees for shade. This beach is a great place to go for a walk or run, as there is a path that runs along the shoreline.
Queenstown Beach is also a popular spot for picnics, as there are plenty of tables and chairs located around the beach. Locals tend to gather here on warm summer days in Queenstown listening to music and drinking. Did you know that drinking alcohol is allowed on Queenstown Beach before 10 pm! It can actually be quite the vibe, and to me, enjoying a beach day is one of the best things to do in Queenstown!
Where to stay near Queenstown Beach
This accommodation is located only a short walk from Queenstown Beach. Each unit offers a balcony with a lake view along with a fully equipped kitchenette. They also have free parking for all residents, along with a garden for you to enjoy your evening tea. There are also BBQ facilities available if you wish to use them.
This property is a 6-minute walk from the beach and a 5-minute walk from Queenstown’s center. Each unit is a self-contained 1 and 2-bedroom apartment that are serviced daily and have kitchenette facilities. Self-service laundry facilities are also provided on-site.
18. Porpoise Bay, The Catlins
- Location: Southeast of Southland region
- Activities: Swimming, Surfing
- Good for swimming: Yes
Porpoise Bay is located in The Catlins, on the southeastern coast of New Zealand. This secluded beach is known for its dramatic cliffs, beautiful forest, and stunning wildlife. It’s the perfect place to go for a hike, swim, or simply relax.
Porpoise Bay is also a great place for swimming, as the water is clean and refreshing. However, the waves can be strong at times, so it is important to be cautious. There are also many tide pools to explore, which are a great way to cool off on a hot day.
One of the most popular things to do at Porpoise Bay is to spot wildlife. The bay is home to tons of wildlife and sea life, including Hector’s Dolphins, Yellow-Eyed Penguins, Little Blue Penguins, New Zealand Fur Seals, and Sea Lions. You may even be lucky enough to spot a whale or two! There are information boards located all over the beach that explain more about the local wildlife, and how you should act around them, so be sure to read them.
Be sure to also visit the nearby Petrified Forest at Curio Bay. This is a super interesting walk and one of the best short hikes on the South Island. Visitors often see penguins here too!
Where to stay near Porpoise Bay
There aren’t many places to stay in Porpoise Bay, your options are really limited.
Waikawa House Is a great option just down the road from Porpoise Bay. It’s a 3-bedroom holiday home that has everything you could ever need and more!
If you’re camping, check out Curioscape Campground, which is also nearby. It’s a huge holiday park that’s located on the cliffs of Curio Bay. The facilities here are top-notch, and there is also an onsite cafe.
19. St Clair Beach, Dunedin
- Location: Five kilometers from central city Dunedin
- Activities: Surfing, Swimming
- Good for swimming: Yes
Located in Dunedin, on the southern coast of New Zealand, St Clair Beach is a must-visit for anyone in the area! This sandy beach is known for its clear water and soft, white sand. It’s the perfect place to spend a day swimming, sunbathing, or simply relaxing.
The waves here can be quite strong at times, so it is important to be cautious when swimming. Nevertheless, the waves also make it a great spot for surfing!
Surfing is actually what makes this beach so popular. There are surfing lessons and board hire available, making it the perfect place to learn how to surf. This beach is also a great place to go for a walk or run, as there is a concrete path that runs along the shoreline. From here, you can admire the beautiful view of the sea as well as the many surfers catching waves.
Located only a few minutes away from the city center, it is a common spot for locals to socialize, especially since there are many dining options. These restaurants and cafes are especially crowded during the summer months and are an excellent way to merge with the locals.
At the end of the beach sits the St Clair Hot Salt Water Pool, which dates back to 1884 and is one of the only heated seawater pools in New Zealand! Definitely come take a dip in here to relax your muscles after a long day at the beach! The pool is open daily from 7 am to 7 pm all year round, and entry is $7.20 NZD for adults and $3.20 NZD for children.
Where to stay near Saint Clair Beach
Some of the best hotels in Dunedin are located near St Clair Beach, including:
This property is 4 minutes walk away from the beach and 5 minute drive away from Chisholm Links Golf Club. There are a variety of cafes and restaurants within 200 m of the property. Each room has a fully equipped kitchen, and if you do not wish to prepare your own meals, there is an award-winning Italian restaurant at the hotel too!
This property is a 1-minute walk from the beach and only a 5-minute walk from St Clair Salt Water Pool. The accommodation offers free parking on site, as well as rooms with a separate living room and a fully equipped kitchen.
This property is a 2-minute walk from the beach and is just a 10 minutes drive from central Dunedin. It is a luxurious hotel with all of the amenities you could ever need and more. Some of the rooms even have an ocean view!
20. Moeraki Beach, Moeraki
- Location: North Otago coast
- Activities: Swimming, Photography
- Good for swimming: Yes
Moeraki Beach is another stunning beach on the east coast of New Zealand, approximately an hour and a half drive from Christchurch. This beach is famous for its boulders that are spread across the shore. These boulders are perfectly round and an impressive site to see. In fact, visiting is often considered one of the best things to do in New Zealand.
When you first arrive at Moeraki Beach, you will be amazed at the size of the boulders. They are absolutely massive! Each boulder weighs several tons and has a height of up to two meters each! They are believed to have formed about 65 million years ago and are a result of erosion. A common legend in New Zealand-Maori legend claims that these boulders washed ashore from the great voyaging canoe Araiteuru hundreds of years ago.
You will also see many people walking around, as this is a popular spot for tourists to visit. Visiting the beach early in the morning or late in the afternoon are the best hours for taking pictures on the shore with the boulders.
This beach is also a popular spot for swimming, as the water is clean and refreshing. The waves are also gentle, making it perfect for children to play in. However, do take note that there are no lifeguards on duty, so please be cautious when swimming.
The best time to visit Moeraki Beach is during the summer months, as the weather is warm and sunny. However, even in winter, the beach is still beautiful, with the boulders providing a stunning contrast against the grey skies!
Where to stay near Moeraki Beach
The accommodation is located opposite the beach and is only a 20-minute walk from Moeraki Boulders and cafe. From the garden of the residence, you can sit back and admire the sea views. For your evening meals, you can visit the popular Vanessa’s cafe, which is only a 5-minute drive away.
This property is a 2-minute walk from Moeraki beach and is 100 m from Koekohe Beach. The motel also offers free parking for residents, along with a garden and private beach area for residents to enjoy! Keep in mind that all rooms are family rooms, and each has its own terrace!
The property is only a 3-minute walk from the beach and each holiday home consists of 3 bedrooms and 1 bathroom, a fully equipped kitchen, and a patio from which you can see the sea. The accommodation also offers free parking to all its residents.
21. Governors Bay Beach, Picton
- Location: A 20-minute drive from Picton
- Activities: Swimming
- Good for swimming: Yes
This white sandy beach is located only a short drive from Picton, at the very top of the South Island. It is a serene and beautiful place, with stunning views of the sea and mountains of the Malborough Sounds.
To get to Governor’s Bay Beach you’ll need to walk for 15 minutes from the parking lot. This trail is well-marked and easy. This trail keeps the beach peaceful, far enough away from the road and deters some people from visiting, making it a peaceful place to relax.
To get to the parking lots for Governor’s Beach, you’ll have to drive about 20-minutes from Picton on Queens Charlotte Drive. This stretch of road is stunning as it winds its way through the Marlborough Sounds. In fact, it is often considered one of the best road trips on the South Island!
Where to stay near Governors Bay Beach
The best place to stay near Governor’s Bay Beach is in the town of Picton where there are plenty of hotels to choose from.
Budget travelers will love the Atlantis Backpackers. I stayed here once when I was transporting my car from Auckland to Queenstown and simply wanted a cheap place to stay. The hostel is fun and it’s easy to meet other travelers. It’s located close to the marina and right next to Picton Memorial Park.
If you can spend a little more, then you’ll really get a nice upgrade. Harbour View Motel is one of my favorite hotels in Picton because of its location and views. Stare out at the gorgeous marina and enjoy sunset drinks on your balcony – my favorite!
If you don’t mind spending a little more, the Picton Waterfront Luxury Apartments are one of the most luxurious options in Picton. The hotel’s location is as waterfront as you can get and the rooms come with large balconies and ocean views.
Thanks for reading!
These are some of the most majestic beaches in New Zealand, and if I do say so myself, around the world too! I hope you enjoy your visit to this beautiful country. If you have any questions regarding where to visit in New Zealand, don’t hesitate to leave me a comment below. Happy traveling!
If you enjoyed this post about the best beaches in New Zealand, stick around and check out some of my other posts for ideas of places to visit in New Zealand: