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15 BEST Places to Go Surfing in New Zealand + Complete Guide

15 BEST Places to Go Surfing in New Zealand + Complete Guide

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New Zealand is one of the most famous and popular places in the world to surf! With gorgeous beaches and epic swells offered year-round, this country is a surfer’s paradise. Whether you’re a beginner just starting out, or a seasoned pro looking to carve the best waves, there’s a spot for you! 

There are so many great surfing spots in New Zealand from well-known beaches to hidden gems that locals love. I’ve narrowed it down to the best of the best with these 15 surfing spots in New Zealand.

These top surf beaches are scattered throughout the whole country on both the North Island and South Island. So chances are wherever you go, there will be a great surfing beach close by. 

So let’s get down to it and help you plan your perfect surf trip!

About Surfing in New Zealand

Bailey walks along the beach with a surfboard in NZ

Surfing is easily one of the best things to do in New Zealand! This country is famous for having strong winds, mixed currents, and waves coming in from all angles. With about 15,000 km (9,300 miles) of coastline, there’s no shortage of great beaches to surf at.

As New Zealand is in the southern hemisphere, its seasons are opposite to North America meaning you will experience the warmer summer months, between December to February, and the cooler winter months in New Zealand are between June and August. 

While the country is known for its year-round impressive swells, there are peak surfing seasons based on the area you are in. On the eastern coast of New Zealand, the optimal surfing season is normally between November and March. This is when you will find large swells approaching the shore thanks to the cyclone season. If you are planning to surf on the western coast, you will typically find the best conditions in the winter months, between March and August. 

On New Zealand’s North Island, in the Northland Region, you’ll find the warmest ocean temperatures in February where they sit around 21°C (70°F). In the summer months, the warmer temperatures mean you can surf without a wetsuit, or with a shortie. Winter water temperatures cool to 58°F (14°C) making it so you will need a wetsuit to comfortably surf.

On New Zealand’s South Island, water temperatures are cooler making a wetsuit a good idea year-round. 

Best Places to Surf on the North Island of New Zealand

1. Raglan

Surfing in Manu Bay, Raglan
Surfers at Manu Bay point break!
  • Location: West coast, 30 miles (50 km) west of Hamilton
  • Best for: Intermediate/expert surfers looking to ride a long wave
  • Type of break: Beach breaks, river mouths, and left point
  • Floor: Sand with rock sections
  • Best tide to surf: All tides, depending on which area you are in
  • Best months: May to August

The coastal town of Raglan in the Waikato region has some of the best surfing conditions in the area. Number one on our list for a reason, this area is often referred to as the surfing capital of the country. You may have heard of the area from the movie The Endless Summer which showcased the epic swells of the area.

Raglan itself is a picturesque beach town with a stunning landscape and a cool laid-back vibe full of artists, surfers, and eclectic people. Personally, it’s my favorite place to surf in the entire country!

One of the best beaches to surf is Manu Bay, also called The Point, where it has one of the longest left-handed breaks in the world, up to 300 meters (985 feet). When conditions are right, you can catch a 10-minute, 2-km/1.2-mile ride! The waves in this area are consistently perfect making it a great, and reliable, place to ride. While this is a fantastic place to surf, you’re not the only one to realize that, so this area draws in quite a crowd. 

Raglan has multiple areas that you can surf based on skill level and the type of ride you want. If you are a beginner, or just starting out, the popular, but often crowded, Ngarunui Beach is a great place to learn and practice your surfing skills. Ruapuke Beach is a less crowded spot that can be good for newer surfers with NE winds and small swells. 

North of Raglan you will find Te Akau, a great spot for those with experience during high tide. Here you will find small swells and a powerful beach break with scattered rocks. A bit of a wild card, Mussel Rock is an area at Rangitoto Point where sand moves around the rocks delivering different kinds of waves best pursued by those with experience. These unpredictable conditions delivering quick barrels, fast and hollow peaks, or slopey shoulders can also be found at Raglan Bar, the first break just south of the Tawatahi River. 

If you’re new to surfing and want to get started with some of the most epic waves, taking a private lesson in Raglan is a great idea. For $159 NZD you will get an hour and a half session with a professional surf trainer. Run by Raglan Surf School, everything is included including your surfboard and wetsuit and you will be taught in a one-on-one or one-on-two instructor ratio. As I’m still learning too, I know that having that personalized attention can help ease any nerves you might have and give you the skills to ride a wave right away!

Another great option, especially for beginners and those brand new to surfing, is taking this group surf lesson with Raglan Surf School. You will have a 2-hour lesson for $84 NZD and wetsuits and soft top surfboard rentals are included. You will start your session on the sand at Ngarunui Beach getting some valuable knowledge, learning the skills, and getting comfortable with the board. You will then head into the water with your instructor to practice on the water and catch some waves!

2. Piha Beach

Two people walking into the water with surfboards at Piha Beach, NZ
Piha is not a beginner’s beach!
  • Location: West coast, 37 miles (60 km) west of downtown Auckland
  • Best for: Intermediate to advanced surfers
  • Type of break: Beach breaks, lefts, and rights
  • Floor: Sand 
  • Best tide to surf: Low to mid-tide
  • Best months: All year round, but winters (June to August) are better left to intermediates

If you’re staying in Auckland and looking for a great surf beach close to the city, less than an hour west you’ll find Piha Beach. This black sandy beach is absolutely stunning and one of my favorite places to watch the sunset.

This is a great place to surf year-round, but you’ll need to be aware of the rough waves and strong currents. That’s why I wouldn’t rate this as a beginner’s surf beach. I have a friend who is a very experienced surfer and he says even Piha can scare him sometimes!

Summer months, between December and March, bring smaller SW and W swells that are ideal for less experienced surfers and those looking to take lessons. The best time to go if you’re a more advanced surfer is in off seasons between April and May and September and October where you will have a reliable mix of relaxed swells and stronger waves. 

If you are more experienced, you can enjoy the punchy swells that winter storms bring to the area between June and August. Just be sure to watch for the rips that come this time of year. While the beach is busy all year round, there are considerably fewer people out in the water this time of year.

When the tide is low, you can take to the north side of Lions Rock. This area picks up a good amount of power with left and right directions. In high tide, you will find bigger dumpy shore waves that are best left to advanced surfers. 

The beach here is split into two sections with a stunning volcanic stone right in the middle called Lion Rock. The south side is the more popular, and more accessible, side for surfers with smaller waves. Nice A-frame lips go both right and left that run into a rip shoulder. You can use the channel rips to get out past the breaks, but be sure to watch for stronger rips.

If you want a personalized surf lesson, this one on one surf lesson offered by Piha Surf Academy is a great option. Costing $139 NZD this 1.5-hour surf lesson includes a wetsuit and surfboard. This is a great private surf lesson option for all skill levels and starts right at Piha Beach.

If you are traveling with a group this private group surf lesson is a great option. You can choose between a morning or afternoon two-hour class for $115 NZD per person for 3-4 people. Also, run by Piha Surf Academy, this lesson is good for all skill levels. 

If you’d rather not swim here (I tend to stay out of the water personally), then take a walk along the Kitekite Falls Path and go swimming at one of the best waterfalls in New Zealand! Kitekite Falls is beautiful and it’s such a quick hike on the North Island, it’s easy to fit into your trip here.

3. Muriwai Beach

People surfing at Muriwai Beach
Muriwai Beach is very popular because it’s close to Auckland and has waves for beginners. Photo credit: Lucid Waters Depositphotos
  • Location: West coast, 28 miles (45 km) west of downtown Auckland
  • Best for: All skill levels
  • Type of break: Beach break, lefts, and rights
  • Floor: Sand
  • Best tide to surf: All tides
  • Best months: Consistent swells year round

Located slightly north of Piha Beach you will find Muriwai Beach. This is one of my favorite beaches on the North Island! Of course, the surfing is great, but there are also some beautiful viewpoints. I also like seeing the Gannet Colony here – these large, white birds nest on the cliffs and you might even catch a glimpse of a baby chick.

About 45 km/28 miles from downtown Auckland, you can expect to be at Muriwai Beach in under an hour. So rent a car in Auckland and go! The proximity makes it a great day trip from Auckland, but other people will have the same idea too. It can be crowded, but thanks to the long beach, you can often find yourself in a more secluded area.

Muriwai Beach is also known to have good waves year-round so if you’re looking to beat the crowds, be sure to go in off-seasons. 

Muriwai Beach offers a fun variety of waves so you can expect both beginners and expert surfers in the water. Beginners should stick with the beach break but there are also left and right-handers down the beach. Be sure to watch the rips in this area as they can get quite strong. As the beach gets quite busy with swimmers in the summer months, be sure to stay alert. 

Muriwai Surf School is only a 1-minute walk from the beach. You can take lessons here for around $70 NZD or if you’re ready to hit the waves, you can hire a board and wetsuit starting at $30 NZD for two hours.

Related Read: If you’re based in Auckland, after a day of surfing, take in the views above the city on the Auckland Sky Tower!

4. Te Arai

A surfer at Te Arai Point in New Zealand
A surfer at Te Arai Point in New Zealand
  • Location: East coast, 70 miles (113 km) north of Auckland
  • Best for: Beginners, all levels
  • Type of break: Beach break
  • Floor: Sand and rock
  • Best tide to surf: All tides
  • Best months: December to April

Roughly 90 minutes north of Auckland on the east coast, you will find Te Arai Beach. This is a great place to go if you are looking for something closer to the city without the crowds of some other closeby popular beaches.

The smaller waves are pretty easy to manage making this a great place for beginners to come and practice their skills. The beach break provides great right and left-handers. 

There are surf lessons offered in the area, one of our favorites being this 2-hour surf lesson. You and a small group will learn the basics of surfing on the sand and then jump into the water and practice your skills riding the waves. The cost is $82 NZD and includes your instructor, a surfboard, sunscreen, and wetsuit rental, and is available for all skill levels.

If you are brand new to the sport or have kids tagging along, this beginner surf lesson is my pick. The waves here are very beginner-friendly and the local instructors make the experience not intimidating and really fun. The group lessons cost $79 NZD per person including everything you need to surf and some bonus photos and videos from your lesson. 

5. Shipwreck Bay

Surfer at Shipwreck Bay in New Zealand
  • Location: Northwest coast, in the township of Ahipara
  • Best for: Intermediate to advanced surfers
  • Type of break: Beach breaks, left hand
  • Floor: Sand with rocky sections
  • Best tide to surf: Low tide
  • Best months: July to October

Shipwreck Bay is really famous in the surfing community in New Zealand and chances are, even surfers who haven’t been have heard of it. While it is certainly far away being tucked away in the far north of Northland, it is a great spot to explore. Shipwreck Bay sits on the south end of Northland’s famous Ninety Mile Beach (which is actually only 89 km/55 miles long, but is still huge!).

The closest city is Kaitaia which is a short 15-minute drive from the bay. You may also recognize this beach from the movie The Endless Summer.

The bay is active and you are almost guaranteed waves here. The bay has two sections known as Shipwreck Bay and Peaks. Both areas have left-hand breaks with Shipwreck Bay coming up to the beach and Peaks being further out towards the west.

Riding Peaks you will find barrel sections that turn into wally waves that you can sometimes ride for up to 2-3 minutes. This area is most recommended for advanced surfers as there are some riptides and a few rocks around the point. 

There are two campsites here, so just make sure to follow the freedom camping rules to avoid getting fined if you want to spend the night. You can also stay only a couple minutes’ walk from the beach at the Ahipara Bay Motel which has nice rooms that are perfect if you’re traveling on a budget.

6. Surf Highway 45

Surfing in New Plymouth
Surfing in New Plymouth
  • Location: Central west coast, 255 miles (250 km) south of Hamilton
  • Best for: All levels, depending on the specific beach
  • Type of break: Beach breaks, lefts, and rights
  • Floor: Sand
  • Best tide to surf: All tides, depending on which area you are in
  • Best months: March to July

This region is located along a state highway and is referred to as “Surf Highway” by locals for a reason! Yup, there are many great surf spots along Surf Highway 45, so rent a campervan or a motorhome in Auckland and plan a surfing NZ road trip!

The highway runs along the coastline from northern New Plymouth to southern Hawera. Surf Highway 45 stretches 105 km (65 miles) along the stunning coastline passing many beautiful beaches and small towns. You won’t want to rush this drive – so plan to spend a few days (or a couple of weeks if you can!) enjoying this area.

If you are traveling north to south, your first stop will be exploring the beaches in and around New Plymouth. For a beach in the city, you are sure to be impressed by Fitzroy Beach which has great hollow waves. There is a nice boardwalk, a swimming beach, a kids’ playground, and all the amenities you’d expect with a city beach.

If you head south on the highway, at the city’s edge you will find Back Beach. The waves here are great and offer shifting sandbanks that intermediate surfers will enjoy. 

As you drive further south on the highway, you will hit the small town of Ōakura where you will find many great surf spots such as Ahu Ahu and Komene Beach. The smaller waves at Komene Beach make it a great spot for beginners and those just learning how to surf to test their skills. In this area, you will also find the famous Kumera Patch, an area well-known by intermediate and advanced surfers for delivering epic long left-hand waves. Access to this surf spot is through private land so be sure to ask before going and be respectful to the locals. 

Continuing south, you will find many local secret surf spots that are harder to get to but deliver great surfing. South of Warea you will find Stent Road which is a great surf spot with a shallow reef and right-hand waves. As you continue south towards Ōpunake you will pass by other great surf beaches including GraveyardsArawhata Road, and Green MeadowsKaupokonui Beach, just before Manaia, is another great surfing spot towards the end of Surf Highway 45. 

Related Read: Take a detour off Surf Highway 45 to explore Egmont National Park. It’s one of the best national parks in New Zealand with epic views of Mount Taranaki!

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7. Great Barrier Island

  • Location: Island off the northwest coast of Northland
  • Best for: Intermediate to expert surfers
  • Type of break: Beach break, right point, and river mouth
  • Floor: Sand
  • Best tide to surf: All tides
  • Best months: All year round

For an off-the-beaten-path surfing spot, Great Barrier Island is my pick. It’s a remote island that is the largest of the Hauraki Gulf Islands close to Auckland. The island actually helps break up the waves coming in from the ocean before they land at Auckland Harbor. So you just know that surfing here is epic!

You’ll need to plan ahead to get here though. You can catch a Sealink ferry from Auckland that takes around 4.5 hours and costs $110 NZD each way (and an extra $300 NZD if you’re bringing a car along). If you want to get to Great Barrier Island more quickly, you can also catch a 40-minute flight with Barrier Air for around $150-$200 NZD.

So while this may not be an easy place to get to, it’s totally worth it once you’re here. There aren’t the same crowds here and there are three main surf beaches to choose from!

Whangapoua Bay is on the northeastern end of the island and is a great spot with big waves. The main break is on the southern end of the beach, a right-hander on the river mouth. There are a few peaks up the beach offering both right and left-handers. These punchy hollow waves are best left for intermediate/advanced surfers as the river mouth brings a strong rip.

Medlands Beach is a crescent-shaped beach on the eastern side of the island that frames Oruawharo Bay. Medlands Beach has sandbars throughout the entire length of the beach. There are several peaks around the beach with both right and left-handers. For expert surfers who want more of a thrill with powerful hollow waves, you can head to the south end, an area called Shark Alley, which has steep fast barrels.

Awana Bay is a beautiful spot on the eastern coast of the island located midway between Medlands and Whangapoua. Located just north of Kaitoke Beach, you will find this stunning beach that has large year-round waves. There are multiple peaks in the area depending if you’re looking for right or left-handers. At the north end of the beach, by the river mouth, there’s a good left-hander while the southern end has some good right-handers. 

Both Whangapoua Bay and Medlands Beach are known for sharks in the area so be sure to stay alert.

8. Lyall Bay – Wellington

Lyall Bay - Wellington surf waves
  • Location: Southern tip of Northland, in Wellington city
  • Best for: All skill levels
  • Type of break: Beach break
  • Floor: Sand
  • Best tide to surf: All tides
  • Best months: May to August

If you are looking for a place to surf in the city, Lyall Bay is located in downtown Wellington and offers some decent waves. Wellington is actually one of my favorite places in New Zealand! Even though it’s the capital of New Zealand, it has these small-town vibes about it that I love.

Lyall Bay is an incredibly popular surf spot in New Zealand so you are almost guaranteed to have some huge lineups when surfing. There are a lot of surf lessons happening in this area, so as typical with urban surf spots, you can expect surfers of all levels at this beach. This means you won’t feel out of place if you’re still learning the ropes like me!

While this is certainly not the place to go if you’re looking for epic swells, the proximity to town makes it a perfect day trip from Wellington for surfers. There are lots of peaks along the beach making it so you can paddle out just about anywhere to ride. There are some strong winds in this bay which make the waves not as reliable in this area. Conditions are quite temperamental but when conditions are right, you will know as the water gets quite crowded. 

If you are a more experienced surfer, head to the eastern end of Lyall Bay where you will find higher wally breaks. If you are new to surfing, beginners should stick to the western end of Lyall Bay where you will find easier waves that are great for practicing. This is the area the local surf schools tend to stick.  

Related Read: While you’re in Wellington, make sure to pop in to visit the Zealandia Ecosanctuary! It’s the first fully-fenced urban ecosanctuary on the globe and feels like a complete escape from the city.

9. Taupo Bay

taupo bay surfing in New Zealand
  • Location: Northeastern coast of Northland
  • Best for: Beginners, all levels
  • Type of break: Beach break
  • Floor: Sand
  • Best tide to surf: Mid-tide, all tides
  • Best months: December to March

Taupo Bay is a great spot for surfers of all skill levels to enjoy some quality waves. Located on the eastern coast of Northland about 35 miles (57 km) east of Kaitaia (don’t get this mixed up with Taupo which is 7 hours away from here!).

Taupo Bay is quite popular with both surfers and swimmers and for good reason! This is a gorgeous beach where beginners can get a feel for the waves and practice their skills, but it’s still fun if you have some experience too.

The waves are powerful and hollow with a solid beach break. There are multiple peaks to choose from, both left and right-handers. To the south end, you will find a good right-hand break that offers good barrels. 

If you are looking for a more in-depth surfing experience, this full-day surf lesson gives you five hours of instruction. It’s the perfect crash course if you’ve never surfed before or a way to knock off the rust if you’re coming back from a break. The lesson is 5 hours long for $138 NZD and your group won’t have more than eight surfers. Surfboards and wetsuits are included in the price and while you start on dry land to learn the skills, you will spend your day bouncing between some of the best beaches in the area.

10. The Coromandel 

Tairua Beach surfing in New Zealand
Tairua Beach
  • Location: East coast,180 miles (290 km) east of Auckland
  • Best for: All levels, based on the specific beach
  • Type of break: Beach break
  • Floor: Sand
  • Best tide to surf: Varies based on the specific beach 
  • Best months: December to April

Coromandel is a region of Northland located just across the Hauraki Gulf from Auckland. You can take a 2-hour ferry ride from Auckland or drive 4-5 hours to get here.

This region is incredibly popular with both locals and tourists simply because it’s incredibly beautiful! Think white-sandy beaches, lush forests, and mountain ranges. For surfers, there are some excellent surf beaches to choose from, but I’ll narrow it down to just four!

Whangamata Beach is on the southern end of the peninsula and has quality waves in all tides and is a great beach for surfers of all levels. One of the most popular beaches on the peninsula, Whangamata Beach has several breaks with right and left-handers that can be hollow with a fast drop in. 

Tairua Beach is best left to intermediate surfers as it has a heavy shore break. The beach offers lots of peaks with both right and left-handers delivering powerful hollow waves. The best time to go is in low to mid-tide where you will find some barrels. 

Te Karo Bay, also known as Sailors Grave, is a great place to surf for more experienced surfers as waves can get quite powerful and there is a heavy shore break. There are multiple peaks to choose from with right-handers found on the south end and left-handers on the north end of the beach.

Hot Water Beach is an incredibly beautiful beach for surfing and it has the added perk of being able to soak in one of the best natural hot pools – that you dig yourself! Yup, just dig in the sand in the right spot at the right time (two hours before or after low tide), and the thermal water bubbles up from below the sand!

While it gets busy, Hot Water Beach is long with lots of peaks offering plenty of different places to surf. Lucky for you, it’s best to surf in low tide (when the hot pools are accessible too!). To the north, you will find great left-handers while the south is known for right-hand breaks. 

11. Mount Maunganui

A group of people learn to surf in Mount Maunganui
  • Location: West coast, Bay of Plenty region in the Tauranga metropolitan area
  • Best for: All levels, depending on the specific beach
  • Type of break: Beach break
  • Floor: Sand
  • Best tide to surf: All tides, depending on which area you are in
  • Best months: November to February 

About a 3-hour drive southeast of Auckland, on the northeastern tip of the Bay of Plenty region, you will find Mount Maunganui. I’ve found this place has a chill vibe and fun atmosphere that is perfect for a weekend away or if you want to stay a while!

If you’re looking for the perfect beach day, I always head to Maunganui Beach. Not only does it have great surfing, but this large beach is only steps away from excellent cafes, ice cream parlors, and shopping. Plus there are showers and change rooms once you’re done at the beach – something I always appreciate to get all the sand off!

While experienced surfers love it here, you won’t feel out of place as a beginner either. You will have luck in all tides and find peaks all along the beach with the best right-hander off Moturiki Island at the south end. 

Arataki BeachTay Street, and Papamoa Beach are located slightly south of Maunganui Beach, but still in the city. There are several peaks at each of these beaches, both right and left-handers delivering punchy waves that are great for beginners. 

Puni’s Farm is another spot to head to if you’re up for a day trip. You’ll need to take a ferry from Mount Maunganui to get to Matakana Island for low tide. Once you’re here, this beach offers several peaks, both right and left-handers, and is great for intermediate surfers looking for powerful hollow barrels. 

If you can, make sure to take a break from surfing and take on one of the best hikes in New Zealand by trekking up Mount Maunganui. I find it only takes about 40 minutes to get to the top and your reward is panoramic views of the Bay of Plenty!

Related Read: For a fun road trip, enjoy the drive from Hamilton to Tauranga, there are some great stops along the way!

Best Places to Surf on the South Island, New Zealand

12. Kaikoura 

Kaikoura surfing
  • Location: Northwest coast, 181 km (112 miles) north of Christchurch
  • Best for: All levels, depending on the specific beach
  • Type of break: Beach break
  • Floor: Rock and pebbles
  • Best tide to surf: Low to mid
  • Best months: June to August

Surfers travel from across New Zealand (and from around the world!) to come here. It’s no doubt that surfing is one of the best things to do in Kaikoura! This town has one of the longest breaks in the country and some giant swells.

The waves here are most consistent during the winter months, but that’s also when the water is the coldest. I’d make sure to have a wetsuit that’s good for cold water as the water temperature averages around 13°C (55°F). But if you can brave the chilly water, the payoff at the different beaches along the rocky coastline is totally worth it.

Kaikoura has so many places to surf and some of the best spots are hidden gems only the locals know about! I always like popping into a cafe like Beach House Cafe to ask for tips. Then you’ll know where the best waves are that day and you’ll be fueled up with coffee and breakfast before you go!

Mangamaunu is just north of Kaikoura and is the surf beach that attracts the most visiting surfers to the area. It’s more suited to surfers with experience, but even if you don’t want to get in the water, you can come watch! The beach is stunning and it has some of the longest breaks on the South Island.

If you are a beginner surfer, Gooch’s Beach is in Kaikoura and, if you find yourself here on a good day, can have fun peaks with both lefts and rights. Okiwi Bay is another great option that surf schools frequent to take on the chill waves here. South of Kaikoura town you will find Oaro which is typically not crowded and good for beginners looking for punchy A-frames and both left and right-handers. 

If you are looking for more of a thrill, head to spots like Meatworks which, much as the name suggests, can be gnarly and is best left to experienced surfers. The surf here is quite unpredictable but you will often find fast take-offs with hollows – just be aware of all the large rocks! Kahutara is the place to go for the most experienced surfers looking for punchy swells that get up to 12 ft (3.6 meters) in height. 

If you don’t mind a quick road trip from Kaikoura, Ward Beach is about an hour away and on the way towards Picton. This beach wasn’t a super-popular spot, but an earthquake in 2016 shifted things around and now it’s one of the most popular surf beaches on the South Island! It’s good for intermediate surfers who come for the big swells and you might even spot dusky dolphins.

Related Read: After surfing, you can head out on the water for another activity … the whale watching in Kaikoura is top-notch!

13. Sumner Beach

view of the beach in Sumner in Christchurch
The beach in Sumner!
  • Location: East coast of Christchurch
  • Best for: Beginners, all levels
  • Type of break: Beach break
  • Floor: Sand with some rocks
  • Best tide to surf: Low to mid tide  
  • Best months: April to August

Sumner Beach is a popular day trip from Christchurch since it’s only 12 km (7.5 miles) from downtown – or about a 20-minute drive. This white sand beach is over 400 meters (1,312 feet) long, so it’s not typically crowded, which I really like. I’ve spent many a summer’s day relaxing on the beach here and enjoying the waves!

Sumner can get busy, but luckily there are multiple surf breaks with both right and left-handers on the long beach. The mellow waves here make it a great spot to practice your skills. Be sure to watch for rocks if you choose to surf at high tide. If you’re a bit more experienced, head to the east end of Sumner to Scarborough Beach. It’s where the locals like to go because of the big breaks.

If you’re hoping to book a surf lesson, this is a popular beach for that! You’ll find a bunch of surf schools at the end of Stoke Street offering lessons. Learn to Surf is a highly-rated school with a great deal – you can get a two-hour lesson followed by a two-hour board rental to practice on your own for only $89 NZD.

After you’re done surfing, take a walk along the boardwalk that runs along the entire beach. There are lots of places to eat and shop here if you need a snack or some retail therapy (count me in!).

14. Dunedin

Surfer wearing wetsuit with surfboard watching ocean waves at St Clair Beach
A surfer going to catch the perfect wave at St Clair Beach
  • Location: Southeast Southland
  • Best for: All skill levels
  • Type of break: Right and left hand
  • Floor: Sand
  • Best tide to surf: All tides 
  • Best months: April to June

Dunedin is one of those underrated destinations on the South Island that is totally worth a visit. This city calls itself the “wildlife capital of New Zealand” and you may even find yourself surfing with fur seals or dolphins!

To get here, you can drive from Christchurch to Dunedin or take a road trip from Queenstown to Dunedin. They are both scenic drives I’ve done and really enjoyed.

If you don’t mind the cold water temperatures, surfing is a blast here. It doesn’t tend to get very busy, so you’ll have lots of space and waves to catch.

Now if you’re wondering where to go, St Clair Beach, on the southern end of Dunedin, is the most popular surf beach around here. I’d say it’s kind of like the New Zealand equivalent of the famous Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia. It’s well-known in the New Zealand surfing community for having a super consistent surf break.

You can easily rent boards here or get a pro’s help with a surf lesson from Esplanade Surf School. Some of the best surfers in the area are here during the summer to give lessons! You can book one-on-one lessons for around $120 NZD, group lessons for $70 NZD, and there are special kid-only lessons on Saturdays for $35 NZD.

After surfing, you can warm up with a dip in the St Clair Hot Salt Water Pool at the end of the beach. It was built way back in 1884 and is heated to a lovely 28°C (82.4°F)!

Additional surfing spots are east towards Saint Kilda Beach where you will find punchier waves with both left and right-handers. Further east but still in the city, you will find Smails Beach which is a small beach with some good waves. Heading east to the Otago Peninsula also has some good surfing conditions.

15. Colac Bay

  • Location: West of Invercargill, on the southern tip of Southland
  • Best for: Beginners, all levels
  • Type of break: Beach break
  • Floor: Sand
  • Best tide to surf: All tides
  • Best months: December to March

If you were just in Dunedin, then take one of my favorite South Island road trips and make the drive from Dunedin to Invercargill. You’ll pass through the wild and beautiful Catlins region that is filled with incredible waterfalls!

Invercargill is the southernmost city in New Zealand making it quite a remote destination. But it is still the fourth-largest city on the South Island, so you’ll have all you need for a good surfing trip. Again, the water around here is colder, but if you have a good wetsuit, the waves are great for all levels of surfers.

You can’t really get more south on the South Island than Colac Bay. It’s especially popular with new surfers looking for fun waves to learn on with a nice beach break. With wally waves and a solid beach break, surfing here is reliably fun. 

Related read: If you’re taking a surf trip as a couple, check out more of the top romantic getaways in New Zealand to help plan your trip!

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 with a surfboard in New Zealand on the beach smiling at the camera
Thanks for reading!

Wow, writing this has me excited to go surfing again! New Zealand has some of the most epic waves in the world and there are so many amazing places on the North Island and South Island to go surfing. These 15 top surf spots in New Zealand just scratch the surface, but they are the best of the best!

Hopefully, this guide on the best places to go surfing in New Zealand was helpful as you’re planning your own surf trip. Whether you’ve never surfed before or are a seasoned pro, I just know you’ll love surfing here. If you need any more ideas on what to do in New Zealand, make sure to have a look at other popular guides like these:

16 Things You NEED to Know Before Renting a Car in New Zealand

10 BEST Tours of New Zealand (Multi-Day Guided Tours)+ How to Pick One!

9 BEST Wine Regions in New Zealand (that you just have to visit!)