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21 BEST Beaches in New Zealand (that you don’t want to miss!)

21 BEST Beaches in New Zealand (that you don’t want to miss!)

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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. 

Having lived on both islands, I have picked out some of the best beaches so you don’t have to do the work of choosing which ones to visit while in New Zealand. Each one of these beaches is unique in its own way, and whether you are visiting the country for an adventurous surfing holiday or your honeymoon, you are bound to enjoy the sandy shores!  

Don’t have time to read the full article? Here are the best beaches in New Zealand and my favorite ways to experience them!

  1. Surfing on Piha Beach near Auckland is an iconic NZ beach activity.
  2. Hot Water Beach on the North Island is the most unique beach out there!
  3. Kayak from Hahei Beach to Cathedral Cove, it’s gorgeous!
  4. Torrent Bay near Able Tasman National Park is a hidden gem and can only be accessed via boat.
  5. Wharariki Beach is the most goregous beach on the South Island!
Table Of Contents
  1. Best Beaches on the North Island, NZ 
  2. Best Beaches on the South Island, NZ  
  3. Thanks for reading!
  4. Why I Book Tours with Viator
  5. Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand
  6. Travel Insurance Has Your Back!

Best Beaches on the North Island, NZ 

1. Piha Beach, Auckland  

Birds Eye view of Piha Beach, New Zealand
Birds Eye view of Piha Beach, New Zealand
  • 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, making for a great day trip from the city. This beach is one of the famous surfing locations in New Zealand, 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 at Piha Beach. You can book a private 2-hour surf lesson in advance, which will give you one-on-one attention and let you catch a wave quicker! This is a great option whether you’re a beginner or want to sharpen your surf skills. They provide all your equipment and instructor for $115 NZD- book this surf lesson in here!

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, or pack a picnic for a memorable activity!

Piha Beach is easily reached from Auckland. If you rent a car in Auckland you can get there in less than an hour, or 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 is $185 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.  

Romantic Piha – 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 (if ever!), you can go biking or hiking later in the evening.  

Surfer’s Sunshine Cottage – 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 makes it more suitable for families.  

Related Read: To find the absolute best accommodation, check out my complete guide to where to stay in Auckland!

2. Hot Water Beach, Coromandel  

Bailey and her mum relax at Hot Water Beach
Me and my mum having a drink at Hot Water Beach!
  • 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 private New Zealand 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. The drive will take you over two hours, but the guide does a great job of breaking it up with scenic viewpoints and short bush walks so you can enjoy the beauty of this area. You’ll stop for lunch (not included in the tour) and then head over to Hot Water Beach for a few hours of relaxing!

It’s nice having a guide if this is your first time at the beach, as the hot pool’s exact location can be a bit tricky to find! If you only have a few days in Auckland and want to see Hot Water Beach, this tour is the best way to do it! This tour includes transportation, your guide, and snacks and can be booked in advance for $250 NZD.

Where to stay near Hot Water Beach: 

Hot Water Beach TOP 10 Holiday Park – 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.

Hot Water Beach Bure Wai – 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.  

Hot Water Beach Cottage – 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  

Gannet colony at Muriwai Beach NZ
The coastline around Muriwai Beach is breathtaking!
  • 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, clean restrooms, and a breathtaking view of the beach.  

If you want to go to the beach, follow the Takapu Refuge trail down to Muriwai Beach. This area is a popular spot on the North Island for hiking and sightseeing!

Surfers love this beach and 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.

You’ll then head to Muriwai to 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 wine regions! Award-winning vines grow alongside native birds such as kiwi fruit trees, how could you not love this tour?

While in wine country, you’ll stop to visit the famous Soljans Estate Winery and West Brook Wines, 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. You have to try the Sauvignon Blanc- it’s my favorite!

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 half-day tour is $175 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!

Important info – Parts of the Muriwai Beach area have been closed due to severe weather. Check for updates before you go!

Where to stay near Muriwai Beach 

Quality Hotel Lincoln Green – 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.  

Muriwai Lodge – 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  

A couple take a photo in Cathedral Cove, New Zealand
Cathedral Cove is so beautiful!
  • 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. Many different kinds of fish can be found in the waters, as well as colorful coral as it is a marine reserve. Keep your eyes peeled for a dolphin or two!

Cathedral Cove can only be reached by walking or by a boat tour – you can’t drive there. You can also take a boat (water taxi) from Hahei Beach.

To walk to Cathedral Cove Beach, you can start from 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.

Important info – The walk to Cathedral Cove has been closed due to severe weather damage. Be sure to check the trail conditions before you plan to go this route.

But the waters of Cathedral Cove remain open! My favorite way to experience the Cove is by taking a kayak tour. This 3-hour tour takes off from Hahei Beach and includes all of your kayak gear, an expert guide to ensure your safety, and even coffee and snacks once you get to the cove! Kayaking is such a fun way to experience this beautiful area, you can book this tour in advance for $169 NZD.

Alternatively, this glass-bottom boat tour is a unique 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 $140 NZD 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). You can book this tour in advance here!

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 can be booked for $250 NZD 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!

Where to stay near Cathedral Cove Beach:  

Cathedral Cove and Sunrise – This hotel is located approximately 300 meters 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.  

Tatahi Lodge Beach Resort – This resort is located approximately 400 meters 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!  

Hahei Sea Vista – 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 

A person sits on a rock overlooking Maunganui Beach, Mount Maunganui, New Zealand
The coastline along the Bay of Plenty is breathtaking!
  • 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 one of the best places to visit in Mount Maunganui. It is situated very close to 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 (761 feet) 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: 

Absolute 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.  

Ocean Retreat – 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.  

Eleven at Williams – 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 

Ngarunui Beach, Raglan on a sunny day in New Zealand
This is a great surf beach for beginners!
  • 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 small group surfing lesson is the perfect way to do it. Because it’s a small group, you’ll have lots of attention from your instructor, they can watch you and give instant feedback so you can excel. 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 instructor. This 2-hour lesson is $94 NZD and can be booked in advance here!

If you don’t fancy getting in the water, this harbour sunset cruise will be the perfect fit! The sunsets here are goregous – trust me – so what better way to experience it than sailing around the harbour with a drink in hand? This cruise lasts 1.5 hours and is timed perfectly to catch the golden hour and then watch the pretty sunset colors fill the sky. Best of all, this cruise is only $60 NZD, and drinks can be purchased at the bar- book this sunset cruise before it fills up here!

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.

Raglan Backpackers – 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 money and book a bed in a dorm. 

Silos Apartments – 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. 

Three Streams Raglan Retreat – 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 (3 miles) drive away.

7. Hahei, Coromandel  

Hahei Beach on the Coromandel in New Zealand
The waters here are really calm!

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 and marine life.

You can also take an hour-long boat tour to explore Cathedral Cove from Hahei, which is a super convenient way to see it! If you don’t fancy getting wet, this is a great option to see the coast, sea caves, and stunning rock formations that make this area so unique. Plus, being only an hour gives you plenty of time to enjoy the beach itself and get a bit of exploring in. You can check the details and book this tour for $125 NZD.

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.

Many different kinds of fish can be seen here and 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 want to stay right on the beach, there are only a few private lodges available. The town of Hahei, which is right on the beach, also offers a few cafes, restaurants, and shops.

Where to stay near Hahei 

Hahei Beach Bach – This property is located at a 5-minute walk from the beach and a 3-minute walk from the center of Hahei. Cathedral Cove is also only 3.3 km (2 miles) from the holiday home. The Beach Bach consists of one bedroom, a modern bathroom, and a living room.  

Cathedral Cove and Sunrise – The hotel offers breathtaking sea views and is located only 7 km (4.3 miles) from Cathedral Cove. The accommodation is also only 300 meters 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. 

 The Church Accommodation – This property is only a 10-minute 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 Church Accommodation is also only 7.4 km (4.6 miles) from Hot Water Beach and a 10-minute drive away from Whitianga Passenger Ferry Terminal. 

Why I Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! I almost always book tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here!

8. Ninety Mile Beach, Northland   

Ninety Mile Beach, New Zealand
There is so much beach to explore!
  • 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 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). If you rent a campervan in Auckland, you’re in for a great time exploring the North Island. My favorite campervan rental company is JUCY! 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 $492 NZD 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 booking this scenic flight 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: 

Ahipara Holiday Park – 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. 

Ahipara Bay Motel – 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!  

Endless Summer Lodge – 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  

Tents camped at the freedom camping spot at Sandy Bay Beach, Northland 
Enjoying one of the best free campsites in New Zealand
  • Location: On the East Coast, two hours north of Auckland.
  • Activities: Swimming, Surfing  
  • Good for swimming: Yes, but only with caution and for strong swimmers.  

Sandy Bay Beach is one of Northland New Zealand’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 lifeguards are 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. Many different types of fish 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 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.

Matapouri Bayside Retreat – If you’re looking for luxury, you’ll love the 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.

Quality Hotel Oceans Tutukaka– Located 15 minutes down the road in Tutukaka, this is a great budget-friendly option. Better yet, it is located right on the marina, with incredible views and even better reviews!

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10. Waihi Beach, Bay of Plenty 

Two people walk along Waihi Beach, Bay of Plenty
Waihi Beach is also home to a freedom camping spot with direct beach access!
  • 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 a handful 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. The falls are hidden away but definitely worth the effort to find it as it’s one of the best waterfalls in New Zealand!

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: 

Beach B&B – 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.

Athenree Hot Springs & Holiday Park – This property is a 10-minute drive away from the beach. They offer self-contained units, with different numbers of bedrooms and one washroom.  

Two Bare Feet – 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  

Oneroa Beach, Waiheke Island
If calm bays and beautiful weather are what you’re looking for, Oneroa Beach is perfect!
  • 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, but 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. I especially love Fenice Cafe, which is an Italian restaurant where you can get a great cappuccino and tiramisu. Or if you’re really hungry, try the pizza! 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.

If you’re looking to get a little active while on Waiheke Island, you can rent an e-bike and explore all of its beaches, bays, and outdoor beauty! You can pick up an e-bike right at the ferry terminal and spend a few hours exploring the island before you get lazy at the beach. This also lets you explore the further reaches of the island, so maybe you’ll find a new beach that is completely empty! E-bikes can be rented for $99 NZD for the full day, but if you’re staying the night you can also hire it for two days.

Where to stay near Oneroa Beach 

The Oyster Inn – The inn is a 2-minute 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.

Cable Bay Views – 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.  

Waiheke Island Punga Lodge – 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 

Oriental Parade Beach in Wellington, New Zealand
Not many people expect a beach so beautiful in Wellington!
  • Location: Suburb of Wellington 
  • Activities: Swimming 
  • Good for swimming: Yes 

Oriental Bay 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 on 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. Oriental Beach is an easy addition to the best beaches in New Zealand and makes for a great day trip in Wellington!

Where to stay near Oriental Beach 

James Cook Hotel Grand Chancellor – 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! 

Mercure Wellington Abel Tasman Hotel – The hotel is strategically located in Wellington’s business and entertainment district center. The ferry terminal is also only a few minute’s drive away from the hotel.  

Oriental Bay At Its Best – 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.  

Related Read: Explore all of New Zealand’s amazing beaches by catching the ferry from the North Island to the South Island.

Best Beaches on the South Island, NZ  

13. Wharariki Beach, Pūponga 

The famous Wharariki Beach, Pūponga with a reflection of the rock formation
This beach is the famous Microsoft screen saver!
  • 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. Don’t worry, South Island hikes are my favorite thing to do and are totally worth the effort! 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 perfect 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 

Abel Tasman Lodge – 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.  

The Station House – 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.  

Mohua Motels – 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 

Torrent Bay, Abel Tasman National Park 
This is one of my favorites!
  • 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. You can even take a guided tour to cut down on the difficulty of getting there!

On this full-day tour you’ll hike, take a scenic cruise along the goregous blue waters, and enjoy a gourmet lunch on Torrent Beach- how cute is that!? It will end by taking a hike along the Torrent Bay estuary and then returning to Nelson via water taxi and van. You can check the details and book this full-day tour for $499 NZD per person.

There are many other 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. Don’t forget about exploring the gorgeous 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!

Related Read: If you love the outdoors, consider visiting a few more of New Zealand’s 13 national parks!

Where to stay near Torrent Beach 

Abel Tasman Lodge – 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-minute walk, and the Abel Tasman Coast Track is away by a 9-minute walk. This also makes it a great place to stay if you’re hoping to join one of the tours in Abel Tasman National Park.

Adventure Inn Marahau – 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 

Bailey on Kaikoura Beach, New Zealand
Kaikoura 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.

The most popular activity in Kaikoura is whale watching, as sperm whales live here year-round and there is an abundance of dolphins and other marine life! You can go on a dolphin and whale watching tour, where you’re almost guaranteed to see a plethora of wildlife. With over 1,700 positive reviews, you know this will be an epic experience. A traditional boat-style whale watching tour is $169 NZD and operates all year, so book this tour in advance here!

Alternatively, if you’re looking for more of a thrill (or a way to avoid seasickness) you can take a helicopter whale watching tour! This lets you see just how gigantic these creatures are, and you can take in the goregous aerial views. However, my favorite way to see whales in Kaikoura is on a sea kayak tour where you get up close to the marine life- crazy right!? Spend 3.5 hours paddling around the ocean with whales, dolphins, and seals swimming all around you for an unforgettable experience.

Both the helicopter whale watching tour and the sea kayak tour will leave ample time to relax on the beach for the rest of the day, so you can fit it all into your agenda!

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.

Important info – 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 

The White Morph – 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 – 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 Pier Hotel – 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 

Tahunanui Beach, Nelson, New Zealand
I’d love to live on the cliffs overlooking this beach!
  • 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 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 

Apex Motorlodge – This property is a 5-minute 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.  

Beach Side Apartment Nelson – 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 – Beaches Nelson is just a 5-minute 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 

Queenstown beach in summer
Beach day on the lake anyone?
  • 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 it is on the shores of a lake, it is still one of the best beaches 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!

This beach is open all year round and is free to visit. Parking is also available, although it can be quite limited during the summer months. Definitely add this beach to your Queenstown itinerary!

Where to stay near Queenstown Beach  

Driftaway Queenstown – 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.  

Amity Serviced Apartments – 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 is serviced daily and has kitchenette facilities. Self-service laundry facilities are also provided on-site. 

18. Porpoise Bay, The Catlins 

Porpoise Bay, The Catlins 
Porpoise Bay is filled with marine life!
  • 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 local NZ 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 in New Zealand. 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 – This 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 

St Clair Beach, Dunedin 
A beautiful end to the day at St Clair Beach, Dunedin!
  • Location: Five kilometers from central 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 $7.60 NZD for adults and $3.50 NZD for children.

You can see the highlights of Dunedin, including St Clair Beach on this 3-hour city tour. Dunedin is a quirky city with lots of history, so you can dive into its charm by visiting Baldwin Street (the steepest street in the world) or the Dunedin Railway Station. Then finish off the tour by visiting the picturesque St Clair Beach to enjoy the views! This city tour can be booked in advance for $195 NZD.

Where to stay near Saint Clair Beach 

Some of the best hotels in Dunedin are located near St Clair Beach, including:

The Hydro Esplanade Apartments – 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 meters 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! 

Majestic Mansions – 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.  

Hotel St Clair – This property is a 2-minute walk from the beach and is just a 10-minute 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 

The Moeraki Boulders between Christchurch and Dunedin
The Famous Moeraki Boulders at sunset!
  • 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 3.5 hours south of Christchurch and one hour north of Dunedin. 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 2 meters (6.5 feet)! They are believed to have formed about 65 million years ago and are a result of erosion.

A common legend in New Zealand/Maori culture 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 of year to visit Moeraki Beach is during the summer, 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 

Noah’s Boutique Accommodation – 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. 

Moeraki Beach Motels – This property is a 2-minute walk from Moeraki Beach and is 100 meters 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!  

Haven on Haven – 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  

Governors Bay Beach, Picton, NZ
Governors Bay Beach, Picton, NZ
  • 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.

Governor’s Bay Beach is famous for its clear water, which is perfect for swimming and kayaking. It’s no surprise that it’s one of my favorite places on the South Island to explore!

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.

Atlantis Backpackers – Budget travelers will love 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.

Harbour View Motel – If you can spend a little more, then you’ll really get a nice upgrade at Harbour View Motel. This 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!

Picton Waterfront Luxury Apartments – If you don’t mind spending a little more, these 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.

Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand

Bailey stands in front of a right green JUCY campervan
JUCY is one of my favorite campervan rental companies (read below for a discount code!)
Bailey stands behind her Mad Campers campervan cooking in the kitchen at Piha Beach
I also really like Mad Campers!

Let’s face it, you’re going to need wheels to get around New Zealand. Although a small country, buses between destinations are infrequent and expensive. Plus, some of the best experiences you can have in NZ are on road trips!

You have three options when it comes to getting wheels in New Zealand; a car, a campervan, or a motorhome. Here’s what you need to know about each and where to get them:

  • Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to rent a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
  • Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It’s what most budget travelers use for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping…and be prepared for an adventure of a lifetime! My favorite campervan rental company is JUCY because they have a huge selection of campervans to choose from, plus multiple pick-up/drop-off locations. You can browse JUCY’s campervan selection online here. Alternatively, you can easily compare all campervans available in NZ on Motorhome Republic here.

EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT CODE: I’ve managed to snag a discount code for 5% off for my readers if you book your JUCY or Star RV campervan or motorhome before the end of June 2024! Simply click here to select your JUCY campervan, or click here to select your Star RV motorhome, and then use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off – it’s that easy! One thing to note is that this code is only valid for travel before Dec 21, 2024.

Travel Insurance Has Your Back!

Life can be unpredictable and when you’re traveling abroad, the last thing you want to worry about is getting sick or injured and having to pay out of pocket for treatment.

If this concerns you, SafetyWing can help! SafetyWing specializes in very affordable and comprehensive medical and travel insurance that is aimed at digital nomads, remote workers, and long-term travelers. It costs just $45 USD per 4 weeks!

To start coverage, you must purchase it after leaving your home country, so we usually buy it as soon as we land at the airport.

Since using SafetyWing we’ve been reimbursed thousands of dollars when we’ve gotten sick. During the pandemic, they’ve even gone as far as to pay for our last-minute flights back to Canada before the border closed!

Thanks for reading!

Bailey at a beach in New Zealand
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:

22 FREE and Cheap Things to Do in Wanaka

10 BEST Tours in Auckland, New Zealand + My Personal Top Choice

15 BEST Hotels in Queenstown That You’ll Love