Yes, New Zealand is located in the exotic South Pacific, not far from popular island destinations like Fiji and Samoa. But, unlike some other islands in the area, New Zealand is not really known for its beaches. Because of the country’s rather temperate climate, people don’t flock to beaches here year-round like they do in other parts of the South Pacific.
But that doesn’t mean that locals and tourists don’t head for the sand when the weather gets warm. In the summer months (December-February), relaxing on the beach is a popular activity no matter where you are in the country. Here, then, are some of the best beach regions in New Zealand.
Northland/Bay of Islands
If you want picture-perfect white sand beaches, definitely head north. The beaches in the far north of New Zealand are characterized by white sand and sweeping views. The far north also gets some of the warmest summer weather in the country, making it an ideal region to catch some sun. Beaches on the east side of the country (the Pacific Ocean side) tend to be more popular and have better conditions, though the Pacific never gets very warm.
Popular beaches in this region include 90 Mile Beach and its sand dunes; Pakiri Beach; Spirits Bay near Cape Reinga; Sandy Beach in the Bay of Islands; beaches along the secluded Karikari Peninsula; and the pohutukawa-shaded Coopers Beach in Doubtless Bay.
Some of New Zealand’s most well-known beaches can be found near the country’s largest city, Auckland. Auckland, as well as the nearby Coromandel Peninsula, receives a decent amount of sunshine each year, and has an all-around mild climate. The beaches in this region vary from rough surf beaches near Auckland to geothermally-heated beaches near Whitianga to quiet family beaches near Hahei — so basically there’s something here for everyone.
DOWNLOAD OUR TRAVEL GUIDES
Popular beaches in this region include Piha Beach in West Auckland, one of the country’s best surf beaches; dark-sand Karekare Beach, which was made famous in the movie “The Piano”; Mission Bay, Auckland’s city beach; Hot Water Beach near Whitianga, where you can dig out your own hot tub; and the beach at Cathedral Cove near Hahei.
Bay of Plenty
The long curving Bay of Plenty coast, stretching from the North Island town of Tauranga all the way to the East Cape, is very popular with locals during the warm, sunny summer months.
By far the most popular beach in this region is Mt. Maunganui’s Ocean Beach, which has it all — sun, surf and sand. The beach has good weather year-round, as well as a nice cafÃ© scene to compliment its beach atmosphere.
Golden Bay/Tasman Bay
Located at the very top of New Zealand’s South Island, Golden Bay and Tasman Bay receive the most sunshine hours in the entire country. The beaches here are characterized by their golden sand, and make perfect holiday and camping spots. The two bays are separated by Abel Tasman National Park, which has some beautiful secluded beaches of its own.
Popular beaches in this area include Milnthorpe and Wharariki beaches in Golden Bay, the latter being home to dramatic rock and sand dune formations; Awaroa Inlet in Abel Tasman National Park; and Kaiteriteri Beach in Tasman Bay, which is one of New Zealand’s most popular beaches thanks to it being very swimmer-friendly.
You won’t find much sand or very warm water on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island. What you’ll find instead are pebble beaches, looming mountains, and some stunning views. People don’t visit the 600 kms of West Coast beaches to swim, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth stopping for. The weather in this part of the country is often wet and stormy, and the Tasman Sea often performs quite a show as it dashes itself against rocks and the shore.
Gillespies Beach (near Fox Glacier) is probably the most dramatic and well-known beach in this region, but just about any beach in this area would be worth stopping at.
Photos all are by Amanda Williams