The Bay of Plenty’s Best Beaches
The Bay of Plenty is home to New Zealand’s best beaches. From the coastline sweeping from The Mount to Maketū, to the white sands of Waihī Beach, Pukehina, and Ōhope, there’s a beach for everyone, and it’s no wonder the area is such an iconic summer playground.
With so many warm sands and clear waters to choose from it can be hard to decide on your next holiday spot, so we’re counting down our top 7 Bay of Plenty beaches…
Waihi Beach stretches over nine kilometres of white sand and awesome surf. Look to either end and you’ll see the bush covered hills of Waihi and Bowentown through a haze of sea spray.
While the surf is big enough in places to make Waihi Beach popular with surfers, you can swim anywhere, with the safest spot being at the northern end thanks to the Waihi Surf Lifesaving Club. Keen for a spot of fishing? Head to the more sheltered Anzac, Cave or Shelly Bays in Bowentown for great fishing spots.
With small car parks dotted along the length of the beach, drive along until you see one with fewer cars, and you might be the only person there. Or skip the carpark altogether and stay in a beachside holiday home – we love Waihi Bliss and Bella on Broadway which are both right on the edge of the beach!
There are cafes, take aways and shops at the Waihi and Bowentown ends of Waihi beach, and the occasional corner dairy in between if you need an ice cream or some extra sunscreen.
Waihi Beach is an hour from Tauranga, ninety minutes from Rotorua and less than two hours from Auckland, making it an ideal day trip from these areas if you’re not staying in Waihi itself!
6. Pukehina Beach
Enjoy the best (beach) of both worlds at Pukehina Peninsula, with a sheltered estuary on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other!
Pukehina Beach is an awesome choice for fishing, especially if you’re a keen surf-caster. Head to Dotterel Point at the north-west end of the beach, where fish congregate around the underlying reefs and rocks, for the best chance of hooking dinner.
Popular with surfers, windsurfers and kitesurfers Pukehina can get some big waves, and it’s best to swim near the northern end where there are usually lifeguards on duty near the Pukehina Surf Rescue Club.
You can also go boating, explore the estuary, or just lie on the beach and gaze out at Mōtītī Island and Moutohorā (Whale Island) which are both a short distance out to sea.
5. Matakana Beach
You’ll need a boat, kayak or a Kewpie Cruise ticket to reach Matakana Island, but it’s worth it to experience the ‘Jewel of the Bay’. The lush green pine forest and farms are edged by 20 kilometres of white sand beach, an untouched paradise which just happens to be one of New Zealand best beach breaks for surfing!
Matakana island forms one side of Tauranga Harbour’s main entrance and sits directly opposite Mauao at the tip of Mount Maunganui’s peninsula. Matakana’s surf side is also home to nesting sites for a large variety of sea birds, including the endangered New Zealand dotterel, making it ideal for bird watching.
The best Bay of Plenty beach if you’re seeking a unique experience, Matakana Island is privately owned and home to several heritage sites, so stick to those idyllic beaches and please be respectful.
4. Pilot Bay
Pilot Bay Beach is calm and sheltered, making it one of the best swimming beaches in the Bay of Plenty! Nestled beneath Mount Maunganui on the harbour side of town, it sits on the edge of Tauranga Harbour, sheltered from the open ocean.
Pilot Bay’s gentle waters are perfect for swimming, paddle boarding and kayaking, and it’s a favourite beach for young families. The grass area is dotted with BBQ’s and picnic tables, and there’s plenty of parking along the road. The sunsets here are legendary, so grab some fish & chips at the port end of Pilot Bay, sit back and watch the sun sink behind the boats.
If you’re keen for some exercise before that Kiwi style dinner, take the 3.4km walking track from the northern end of Pilot Bay. It’ll take you around the base of Mount Maunganui, or if you’re feeling more adventurous, up to the summit for some breathtaking panoramic views across the bay.
3. Ohope Beach
Voted New Zealand’s ‘Most Loved Beach’ by AA Traveller in 2018, Ōhope Beach is 11km of white sand and family friendly waters just 15 minutes drive over the hill from Whakatāne.
Ōhope is possibly the prettiest beach in the Bay of Plenty. On a clear day you can relax on the sand enjoying unparalled views of Moutohorā (Whale Island, named because it’s shaped like a whale), and Whakaari (White Island) sitting on the horizon. You might even spot pilot whales swimming offshore. In the summer flowering pohutakawa trees and towering norfolk pines line the beach with red and green.
While all this beauty makes Ōhope ideal for lazy days of relaxation, active types won’t be disappointed. There’s plenty of short walks nearby if you don’t feel like swimming, and a 20 minute walk over the headland will get you to Otarawairere Bay, a sheltered lagoon area with crystal clear rock pools perfect for kids to explore.
Ōhope Beach is popular with locals and visitors, but with 11km of gently curving beachland it’s rarely crowded and you can easily pop to the nearby shops if you need anything. Stay at Beach Barn Haven to make the most of the picturesque views!
2. Pāpāmoa Beach
Sprawling Pāpāmoa Beach hugs 16km of coastline between Mount Maunganui and the Kaituna River. It’s a quieter beach than Mount Maunganui, but just as good for swimming, wind surfing, kite surfing, or playing a game of beach cricket in the sunshine. When the swell gets big it’s also a favourite spot for local surfers.
Banked with dunes and coastal grasses, Pāpāmoa Beach wild and stunning (Instagram ready for those holiday snaps!) Get up early and you’ll catch an unforgettable sunrise over the horizon. Plenty of people walk their dogs on Pāpāmoa Beach morning and night, but the beach is big enough that you’ll never feel crowded.
Pāpāmoa is a busy little community 15 minutes from Maunganui, with restaurants and shops just up the road from the beach, making it one of the best beaches for families.
1. Mount Maunganui
Mount Maunganui’s Main Beach isn’t just the Bay of Plenty’s best beach, it’s been named New Zealand’s Best Beach by TripAdvisor’s Traveller’s Choice awards for six years in row!
‘The Mount’ as Kiwi’s affectionately call it, also has the fourth best beach in the South Pacific according to TripAdvisor. Stretching from the base of Mauao (Mount Maunganui), Main Beach is the quintessential backdrop to an NZ summer, a wide white sand beach with clear green waves and uninterrupted views towards the Pacific Ocean.
Main Beach is paradise for swimmers and surfers, with sea temperatures rising to 21 degrees or more in the summer! An artificial reef installed 250m offshore creates perfect waves for surfers, and there’s usually lifeguards on duty to keep everyone safe.
The primo swimming conditions mean Main Beach can be a bit busy for fishing, so head across the nearby bridge to Moturiki Island where kahawai, snapper and gurnard hang around the rocks.
Cafes and shops line the road next to the beach (Make sure you stop by Copenhagen Cones for an ice cream, their house-made waffle cones are a Mount tradition!) While there’s parking all the way along the beach too, Mt Maunganui is busy in the summer, so it can be easier to walk or catch an Uber if you’re staying nearby – we recommend Marine Magic as the perfect Mount Maunganui base, it’s nestled at the mountain’s base just across the road from beach!
Have a favourite Bay of Plenty beach? Tell us why it’s the best in the comments below!
Explore New Zealand’s best beaches from a Bay of Plenty Holiday Home.