20 New Zealand Beaches

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Ask anyone who has visited New Zealand and they are likely to tell you that it’s one of the world’s most spectacular and diverse locations. New Zealand is quite simply like nowhere on earth, with stunning landscapes of mountains and rivers to glaciers, lakes, hobbit holes and beaches. Due to its remote location and the fact the country is divided into two separate islands, the beaches of New Zealand are uniquely spectacular and home to unusual sights and playful wildlife.

The best way to explore New Zealand’s beaches is on a road trip to both islands, but if you’re short on time, take a few days to see a couple of these beaches and you won’t regret it. Here are the 20 best beaches in New Zealand for your bucket list.

20 Best New Zealand Beaches

Beaches in New Zealand – North Island

1- Wainui Beach, Gisborne

A long stretch of flawless coastline, which continues all the way to the Makarori headland, Wainui beach is unforgettably beautiful.

Reachable in just 10 mins from Gisborne, it’s the perfect spot to watch the sunset, take a bike ride, stroll along the sand and enjoy swimming, fishing and surfing.

The beach continues to Okitu Beach, another stunning and relaxing destination to grab a bite to eat or something to drink.

2- Ninety Mile Beach, Northland

Ninety Mile Beach nz beaches
Ninety Mile Beach in New Zealand’s North Island is one of the longest beaches in the world.

As you can imagine, Ninety Mile Beach is a seemingly never-ending strip of sand renowned for some of New Zealand’s best sunsets.

Although the beach is 88km (55 miles) in length, there is no shortage of beauty.

Some of the best activities here, aside from swimming, are bodyboarding down the epic sand dunes and digging for tuatua (local shellfish).

The waters are teeming with marine life, and if you visit at the start of the year, you might catch the annual fishing festival where people compete to hook the biggest snapper they can.

3- Ocean Beach, Hawkes Bay

One of New Zealand’s more rugged and less developed beaches, Ocean Beach is more popular with locals than tourists, making it more of a hidden gem.

Popular with surfers, swimmers and people diving for crab and shellfish, it is best to visit in summer or at low tide.

There are also some lovely scenic walks heading both south and north on this beach which can easily take up half a day.

There are lifeguards here, but watch out for strong currents and getting caught out at high tide.

4- Te Werahi Beach, Cape Reinga

beaches of new zealand Deserted sand beach coast at Tasman Sea between Cape Reinga and Cape Maria van Diemen at northern tip of North Island of New Zealand
A remote Tasman Sea beach between Cape Reinga and Cape Maria van Diemen in the north of New Zealand’s North Island.

Situated just above Ninety Mile beach, Te Werahi is a part of the Cape Reinga hiking trail, so it takes about 30 minutes of walking before you reach it.

This means not many people venture here, and even in summer, it doesn’t get crowded.

Once you arrive, you’ll see a sandy headland stretching into the ocean, where you can explore the dunes, paddle in the water and explore the multitude of nearby hiking and walking trails.

As the area is quite remote, remember to bring lots of water and snacks for the day as it’s unlikely you’ll see many other people.

5- Mangawhai Heads, Northland

north island new zealand beaches (mangawhai)
Of all the North Island New Zealand beaches, Mangawhai Beach is one that’s great for surfing.

A little off the beaten track town, Mangawhai is only 90 minutes north of Auckland and sits between two beautiful beaches, one of which is its namesake.

The dunes that back the beach are filled with all kinds of native New Zealand birdlife, such as oystercatchers and dotterels.

Charter a boat for a fishing or diving experience off the coast here, which makes for a relaxing day trip.

On top of this, you can participate in water sports and visit the nearby winery, golf course and museum.

For more beaches around the world read:

6- Ohope Beach, Bay of Plenty

new zealand beaches north island (Ohope Beach)
There are several amazing New Zealand north island beaches, including the golden Ohope Beach.

Often voted as New Zealand’s most loved beach, Ohope is in the sunny Bay of Plenty on the North Island.

The beach stretches for 11km and makes for a beautiful walk, as well as the opportunity to go swimming, surfing and SUP (stand up paddleboarding).

The two hiking trails have sweeping views over nearby Whale Island, a wildlife sanctuary, and White Island, an active marine volcano.

As Ohope is home to many wading birds, this beach is particularly popular with bird-watchers.

If you’re more into local activities, you’ll find some great food and views at nearby West End, a mecca for surfers.

7- Kuaotunu Beach, Coromandel

Best beaches north island New Zealand (Kuaotunu Beach dry grass and green lush hill
One of the best beaches on the north island of New Zealand for a tranquil escape is Kuaotunu Beach.

Located on the world-famous Coromandel peninsula, Kuaotunu is a small seaside settlement where you’ll find more than one soft white beach.

Kuaotunu is a top New Zealand beach to go for simple pleasures such as swimming, bird-watching and relaxing with a great book.

You may spot a dolphin or two swimming by in the right season.

Close by in the town, you’ll find an abundance of local stores, artists, cafes and restaurants, so this is a must-visit while you’re in Coromandel.

8- Tawharanui Beach, Auckland

best beaches new zealand sandy cove with olive green trees and aquamarine water
Tawharanui Beach on the North Island of New Zealand.

Just 90 miles north of Auckland, Tawharanui is a perfect postcard stretch of golden sand with great swimming, surfing and rockpools.

You’ll also find a marine reserve and eco-sanctuary here.

The best time to visit this New Zealand beach is in summer when the pōhutukawa are in full bloom. The stunning red trees are New Zealand’s answer to the Jacaranda.

As the area is protected both on land and in the sea, there aren’t any predators for the wildlife here, meaning you’ll find a wealth of bird and marine life, including dolphins and orcas if you’re lucky.

Bring all the items you need for a day, as there aren’t any shops in this area.

9- Piha Beach, Auckland

surf beaches new zealand Lion Rock
Lion Rock is a feature at beautiful Piha beach near Auckland, New Zealand.

A 45-minute drive southwest of Auckland is Piha Beach, one of the country’s most rugged and spectacular beaches and a world-renowned surf spot.

You can’t get public transport to this beach, meaning its unusual black-iron sands and jagged cliffs are largely untouched.

The most famous attraction here is Lion Rock, an ancient volcanic rock which you can climb for spectacular panoramic views.

Adventurous beachgoers can also try abseiling down Piha Canyon, and if you need to catch your breath, there are a couple of excellent cafes nearby with outdoor seating where you can grab a snack while enjoying the view.

10- Hot Water Beach, Coromandel

beautiful beaches in new zealand a few people on the beach wide view from a distance
Hot Water Beach in the Coromandel is one of the stunning beaches in New Zealand for your to-visit list.

Although when you think of Coromandel, Cathedral Cove might come to mind, Hot Water Beach is an unmissable sight while you’re here.

It gets its name from the thermal water bubbling just under the surface of the sand, which might not mean much usually, but at low tide, you’ll discover something fun.

People flock here from all around at low tide to dig a big hole in the sand, full to the brim with hot thermal water so you’ll have your very own natural hot tub.

This activity is also a better bet than swimming as the rips and currents can be very dangerous.

New Zealand Beaches – South Island

11- Taylor’s Mistake, Christchurch

best beaches in south island new zealand (taylor's mistake beach with houses on the hill in the background
The quirkily named Taylor’s Mistake is one of the best beaches in the South Island of New Zealand.

This little sheltered cove, which in Maori is called ‘Te Onepoto’ (Little Beach) is only 400m, but it well-and-truly makes up for its small size with its natural beauty.

It is located just over the hill from Sumner’s Beach, which means not many people discover it – even locals.

This beach is a great place for surfing due to the large waves that roll through the narrow cove, swimming in the shallows and fishing a little further out.

It’s also the starting point for Godley Head Walk, a popular three-hour loop.

12- Wanaka Lakefront, Wanaka

new zealand beaches Famous tree at Lake Wanaka at sunrise in autumn
The famous tree at Lake Wanaka is a stunning landmark on this South Island beach in New Zealand.

Although strictly speaking not a beach, Lake Wanaka is an absolute must-see when visiting New Zealand.

There is no doubt you’ll have already seen stunning images of the famous Wanaka tree.

Located in Central Otago, this is a pebble beach, but it is comfy enough to plant yourself on for a while amid the sweeping vistas of the lake and mountains.

Aside from photography opportunities, you can also kayak and paddleboard on the lake, and there are some shops and cafes nearby when you start to get hungry.

Otherwise, there is an endless stream of activities here, including horseback riding, cycling, skydiving, quad biking and climbing.

You might have a hard time choosing how to spend the day.

13- St Clair & St Kilda, Dunedin

Beaches in New Zealand (St Clair Beach with houses dotted on the hill in the distance
If you’re visiting Dunedin, one of the beaches in New Zealand to tick off your to-see list is St Clair’s Beach.

Easily the most famous pair of beaches in the area, St Clair and St Kilda are a pure mecca for surf enthusiasts and pros alike, mainly because there is nothing between these beaches and the Antarctic, so the waves are unstoppable.

Behind St Clair, you’ll find a quaint promenade which you can stroll along and stop for a coffee before ending up at the famous St Clair Hot Salt Water Pool.

The heated pool is right by the ocean where the salty waves crash into the boulders below you, and great if you want to enjoy the saltwater but don’t want the chill.

On St Kilda, there is far more sand, the dunes are higher, and there’s a more wild feel.

Riding the Ocean Beach Railway is a fun activity if you’re travelling with kids.

14- Torrent Bay, Abel Tasman National Park

new zealand beach
Looking for the best New Zealand beaches to visit? From the north island to the south island, there are plenty to choose from.

Abel Tasman National Park is a spectacular and untouched destination on the South Island’s northwestern tip.

Torrent Bay is well known for its large tidal lagoon, and the beach here is backed by thick forest while the sand is golden and the ocean is breathtakingly blue.

Unsurprisingly due to its beauty, there are many privately owned beach houses here, and the locals closely protect this slice of paradise.

But if you manage to go, you’ll be in for a day of sunbathing and swimming on one of New Zealand’s best beaches.

15- Queenstown Bay, Central Otago

best beaches in new zealand A parasailing boat on Lake Wakatipu
The beaches on Lake Wakatipu are great for adventure seekers.

Much like Wanaka, Queenstown Bay beach borders the spectacular lake Wakatipu, the country’s third-largest lake.

Backed by the snow-capped ‘Remarkables’ mountains in the distance, unsurprisingly named for their beauty, this beach is a great place to head with friends for some drinks or a picnic while you watch the world pass you by.

While you’re here, tour the lake to visit famous spots, and the trout fishing is pretty good too.

16- Tautuku Bay, The Catlins

Tautuku beach aerial blue sky and aqua water
Some might consider Tautuku Beach one of the best beaches in New Zealand in the South Island.

The Catlins coast has more than one rugged and windswept beach, but Tautuku Bay is easily one of the best.

There is a large sweeping crescent of white sand backed by trees and grassy hills, there is a small lake and boardwalk to explore.

Otherwise, you can take a long walk along the soft sand and enjoy the sunshine.

Most recommended here is the Florence Hill Lookout, located just above the beach, where you will get panoramic views of the beach below.

Although you can do a day trip here, making the Catlins into an overnight trip will ensure you see the best beaches in the area.

17- Wharariki Beach, Tasman

New Zealand Beaches Wharariki Beach elephant rocks reflected in glassy water with purple sky
One must-see beach on your New Zealand beaches list is Wharariki Beach, where the Elephant Rocks is a stunning feature.

There’s no question you’ve seen this beach before – on your Windows screensaver!

Wharariki is one of the world’s most beautiful and famous beaches, with its large weathered rock formation standing imposingly in the sand and other-worldly sand dunes.

On the South Island’s northern end, the beach is as remote as you can get, so it can only be accessed by car, not public transport.

Here you’ll find locals and tourists alike looking for an adventure, as well as (unsurprisingly) photographers.

For some sporty fun, a board and go sand dune surfing, take a scenic horse-riding excursion or explore the surrounding caves.

If luck is on your side, you might get to see some of the beach’s local residents, the playful seals who make their home here.

18- Allans Beach, Otago

allans beach blue sky, pale sand and foamy waves
Allans Beach is another of the pristine secluded New Zealand beaches with few people.

Allans Beach is famous for one thing (aside from its beauty), and that is sea lions.

You’ll find loads of adult and baby sea lions lounging around the beach here, soaking up the sunshine, which is an exciting experience if you’ve never seen them before and makes for some incredible photography opportunities.

Aside from the friendly sea lions, you might also be lucky enough to see some yellow-eyed penguins.

The scenery is spectacular, the water is crystal clear, and the surf is very popular.

For unparalleled views, hike up to Sandymount or Mount Charles.

19- Koekohe Beach, Moeraki

beaches new zealand sunset and long exposure of rocks in the ocean
The Moeraki Boulders on Koekohe beach is an ethereal landscape on the east coast of New Zealand.

Rated among popular media as one of the 50 best beaches on earth, this unusual beach, located in Moeraki, is famous for its unique ‘Moeraki’ boulders.

More than 50 huge dome and half-dome shaped boulders are scattered along the sand.

The boulders have been slowly formed over millions of years, although according to the Maori legend, they are what’s left of eel baskets washed up from the wreck of the ship that originally brought over the ancestors of the South islanders.

They make for a fun photo spot and many people jump and climb on them.

If boulders aren’t your thing, the raw natural beauty of Koekohe beach is still captivating, with wild sweeping views towards the headland stretching out before you.

A short distance away, you’ll also find a yellow-eyed penguin sanctuary, families of sea lions and dolphins just off-shore.

20- Sand Fly Bay, Abel Tasman

Sandfly Bay, much like its other Abel Tasman counterparts, is well-protected by local secret-keeping.

Located in a tiny bay, it is essentially a crystal blue lagoon formed by the nearby sandspit that curves around it.

As this cove is so remote and tiny, it is extremely difficult to reach unless you charter a private boat or join an organised tour.

The bay is so closed off, it is almost like being beside a lake which makes it tricky to navigate even with a boat.

On the other hand, if you manage to get here, you’ll be rewarded with an entirely empty stretch of sand and sparkling waters, backed by lush green forest.

There is nothing around for miles, being in a national park, so it is wise to bring everything with you, but on the plus side you’ll get to experience the remote beauty of this beach all to yourself. 

For more things to do in New Zealand read:

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India Jayne trainor
India-Jayne Trainor is a British/Australian freelance writer, photographer and contributor to various online blogs and travel websites. She has travelled to almost 30 countries, most recently Cuba and Sri Lanka. Her work focuses on solo female travel, having spent two months backpacking alone through South East Asia as well as living in Germany for a year. Her favourite country to date has been Hong Kong, but she is happy in any country by the ocean. Her next destinations are Uzbekistan and a road trip through the American Mid-West. India is currently based in London, UK.