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With 17,000 kilometres of coastline, New Zealand is bound to have a few good beaches, right? Absolutely!

New Zealand has some wonderfully scenic beaches. Along the East Coast of the country you’ll generally find golden sandy beaches – the best of which are in Northland, the Coromandel and Golden Bay. These are the most popular places for a classic Kiwi summer – camping, swimming and evening BBQs. The West Coast is home to black, volcanic sand beaches which can be just as pretty in a moodier way – great for long walks, sunsets and surf. The West Coast is home to many of the bigger surf breaks.

Compared to our other Pacific neighbours, the seas that lap at New Zealand beaches aren’t all that warm. You probably won’t want to swim in the sea outside of the summer season or further south than Nelson.

Always swim between the flags as drownings are an all too frequent occurence. The water may looks calm enough on the surface but this can be deceptive. Know how to spot a rip and avoid it. Check out this video on beach safety.


Best Beaches in New Zealand


Here’s my pick of ten best beaches in New Zealand


Langs Beach

Source: Birger Hoppe, on Flickr

Langs Beach

About an hour and a half north of Auckland, on the East Coast, you’ll find Langs Beach. The sand is powdery, the water is great for swimming & body surfing, Rata trees line the beachfront and uninhabited islands dot the sea in the distance. Lang’s is a popular spot for holidaying Aucklanders and many of the holiday homes here belong to the city’s elite. It makes a great stop if you’re driving North to Whangarei.


Piha Reflections

Source: Nita W, on Flickr


Piha is Auckland’s favourite surf beach. Drive through the Waitakere Ranges and stop off for a walk in the native rainforest before hitting the beach. Surfer’s will be in heaven. The beach is patrolled but can be dangerous for swimming, so much so that there’s a reality show about the lifesavers who work here (Piha Rescue).  Less than an hour from Auckland’s CBD, Piha makes for a lovely day out on the wild West coast.


Hot Water Beach.

Source: Hot Meteor, on Flickr

Hot Water Beach

The Coromandel Peninsula, two hours from Auckland, is home to many of the best beaches in New Zealand. Hot Water Beach is a favourite with tourists. An underground river of volcanically heated water runs beneath the beach and at low tide you can dig your own thermal bath right on the beach. Plan on arriving an hour before low tide and bring something to dig yourself a hole (cutting the end off a plastic milk bottle works well). You won’t be the only one doing it! It’s very popular with tourists.



Source: Neville10, on Flickr


Whangamata is the gem of the Coromandel. It’s a beautiful white sandy beach with a big enough town making it a good place to stay for a few days. There are great cafes, plenty of holiday homes for rent, hostels and campgrounds. Book ahead in summer as it’s an incredibly popular spot for New Year’s Eve and school holidays.


Castlepoint Elevations

Source: James @ NZ, on Flickr


Castlepoint is fantastically scenic but a little out of the way. An hour’s drive from the small town of Masterton or two hours from Wellington, Castlepoint is a great place to watch the sun rise or surf.


Pohara Beach

Source: Winam, on Flickr


Golden Bay sits at the very tip of the South Island, it just out so far that it’s actually further North than Wellington. As the name suggests, the beaches in Golden Bay and the neighbouring Abel Tasman National Park glisten with golden coloured sand. If you’re in New Zealand during Summer it’s well worth the trip even if the road between Motueka and Takaka is gut-wrenchingly windy. It’ll take almost two hours to reach Pohara from Nelson.



Punakaiki Beach


You’ll find some of New Zealand’s best scenary down on the wild West Coast of the South Island. Black volcanic sands are hammered by big, choppy waves which provide an achingly beautiful backdrop for aspiring photographers. After you’ve taken a walk around the famous pankcake rocks, sunset is a perfect time to see the beaches at Punakaiki. While there’s accommodation in town, there isn’t much else so you’re probably better to daytrip from Greymouth which is only 30 minutes away.




Source: kevgliss, on Flickr


Literally translated to where the mountains met the sea, Kaikoura is the best place in New Zealand for observing nature in all it’s glory. You may visit for the abundance of wildlife including whales, dolphins, seals and penguins… but you’ll stay for the jaw-dropping vistas of a perfectly curved stony beach set against the backdrop of snow capped mountains. New Zealand at it’s unadulterated best.



Le Bons Bay, Banks Peninsula

Le Bons Bay

Not far from Christchurch, Akaroa is an adorable village out on the Banks Peninsula that retains it’s French heritage and attracts tourists in their droves. You can swim with dolphins, lunch at wineries and sample gourmet cheese. With a little extra time you can quickly get away from the bus-loads of daytrippers and find yourself your own quiet little beach. If a long walk on a lonely beach is what you crave, Le Bons Bay is the perfect spot.


Moeraki Boulders, Koekohe Beach

Source: sheilaellen, on Flickr

Koekohe Beach

If it’s other wordly you seek, you’ll find it on Koekohe Beach – home to the Moreaki boulders. Scores of boulders dot the beach’s landscape in a most peculiar way, smoothed and shaped over time producing clusters of spheres that look more like an art installation than a natural feature. You’ll find Koekohe beach on the drive between Oamaru and Dunedin. Keep an eye out for penguins along this stretch of coast.


Have you been to any of these great beaches in New Zealand? What’s your favourite? If you haven’t been to New Zealand yet, which of these looks the most appealing to you?


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Showing 16 comments
  • Kate - CanuckiwiKate

    Nice choices! As of this weekend, I’ve been to 6.5 of them! I say .5 because I’ve been out to Akaroa (and loved every minute of it) but I don’t think I was at that specific beach 😉

    Interesting about Kaikoura too! I was under the impression that it had to do with the many crayfish (koura) in the area.

    Looooove NZ beaches! I reckon 90 Mile would make an honorable mention – most beautiful state highway at least 😉

  • Matthew Hirtes

    I’m lucky enough to live in the Canary Islands. But that doesn’t stop me wanting to visit these beaches. Fantastic selection, well done.

  • Lillie - @WorldLillie

    Sheesh… As if I needed another reason to make me ache to visit New Zealand… 🙂

  • Sofia

    Hot Water Beach and Punakaiki are my favorites as well, I also really liked the little beaches around Golden Bay.

  • Cat of Sunshine and Siestas

    I have been pining to get to the beach! Like Matthew, I reside in Spain, but it’s been all rain and cold here recently in the Northern Hemisphere!

  • Kim

    I love the photo of Punakaiki Beach, it looks quite rugged. One of these days I will find myself in NZ:)

  • Penny Sadler

    Looks beautiful. Will share your photos.

  • Kate @30Traveler

    Great post as usual Bethaney – you’ve listed some good ones like Langs that are relatively unknown except to locals.

  • Larissa

    The scenery is so beautiful in New Zealand, so even though the water may be cold the beaches are still worth the trip. We spent a week in Taieri, south of Dunedin. The rocky coast was beautiful, and I loved all the lupine growing in the dunes!

  • D.J. - The World of Deej

    Awesome spots…being from Florida, I’m a little jaded for the beach. But we don’t have beaches like this in Florida!

  • Bret @ GGT

    As if I didn’t already wanna visit New Zealand badly enough after Laurence’s post about the heart of Hobbit country, now you gotta make it worse with beautiful beaches? Booooo… I think one of you Kiwis needs to put in a good word for us with New Zealand’s Tourism Board so we can stop dreaming about it and start exploring! 😉

  • Cole @

    While I am glad you included Whangamata on there, I am going to disown you for not including Mount Maunganui 😉

    • Bethaney Davies

      I tired to distributed them fairly throughout the country Cole… otherwise that might have ALL been in the Coromandal!

  • TammyOnTheMove

    Aww, Langs beach looks so lovely!

  • Abbi

    Great post – and some stunning photos – despite living in NZ for over 2 years, I reckon i’ve only been to 2 of those beaches. I’ll have to return!

  • Annabella Dean

    I’ve been lucky to have visited three of the beaches found on this wonderful list. I would also recommend folks check out Wharariki Beach at the top of the South Island, it’s well worth the drive. Thank you for sharing Bethaney 🙂

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