4 December 2019 | Written by Phoebe Joiner & Stephanie Rendall

New Zealand’s Best Beaches: Our Top 11 Picks

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To celebrate the onset of summer, we’ve put together our Top 11 best beaches in both New Zealand’s North Island and South Island.

From popular holiday spots to secluded paradises, these 11 beaches are bound to inspire your next beachside getaway. 

11. Maitai Bay, Karikari Peninsula

This slice of paradise is arguably the best swimming beach in New Zealand. Since it’s protected from the wind, here you’ll find the bright blue waters are almost completely still. This unspoiled beach is completely worth the drive, as it is one of the less populated beaches in New Zealand adding further to its wonderfully tranquil atmosphere.

If you’re looking to explore a little more head to Whatuwhiwhi on the far Northern side of the beach. Known for its three shaded beaches and sandy coves.

You can also try your hand at fishing, watch the nesting dotterels or explore a nearby cave at low tide.

View Karikaki Peninsula holiday houses here.

10. Paraparaumu Beach, Kapiti Coast


What seems like a never-ending beach, Paraparaumu Beach has plenty of golden sand perfect for building sandcastles, and water ideal for swimming and fishing. Having Kapiti Island just offshore brings plenty of birdlife too, with terns, gulls and oystercatchers to watch over an evening picnic. The charm and convenience of the nearby town makes it a holiday favourite, especially for Wellington locals.

View Paraparaumu Beach holiday homes here.

9. Ocean Beach, Hawkes Bay

Credit: Seb Pishief (YouTube)

Ocean Beach is both a scenic and entertainment delight. The well-loved beach is positioned against a backdrop of mountains with a large crescent of golden sand and good surfing opportunities. Surf life savers patrol the beach in the summer, making it a safe option for families and swimmers as well. For more information on what to do in the Hawkes Bay area, read our insider’s guide to the area here.

View Hawkes Bay holiday homes here.

8. Omaha Beach, Matakana


Being just over an hour’s drive from Auckland, Omaha is a favourite weekend getaway spot for those looking to escape the city. Framed by picture perfect sand dunes, in summer it’s filled with swimmers, surfers, families and pets – a classic scene for any Kiwi summer holiday. Surf life savers operate throughout summer, and with the right conditions it’s an excellent spot for ocean swimming. For more information about what to do in the Matakana region, check out our insider’s guide here.

View holiday homes in Omaha here.

7. Ohope Beach, Whakatane

Abundant sunshine, warm waters and safe swimming make Ōhope Beach the perfect summer holiday destination. Maybe that’s why it was voted NZ’s Most Loved Beach—with 11 km of the easily walkable white sand beach from the Ōhiwa Harbour entrance all the way to West End. The beach is extremely family friendly as well and boosts great waves, perfect for a thrash on the boogie board. This beach is a must visit for those looking for a truly Kiwi beach experience!

View holiday homes in Ohope Beach here.

6 . Tahunanui Beach, Nelson


With some of the highest sunshine hours in the country, it’s no surprise that Tahunanui Beach in Nelson makes our top 10 list. Here you’ll find flat golden sand that stretches for miles, making it an ideal setting for any beach activity from windsurfing and ocean swimming to sunbathing. This is a great option for families with small kids; playgrounds, toilets and a cafe all within a close proximity to the beach! For more information about what to do in Nelson, view our insider’s guide here.

View all Nelson holiday homes here.

5. Piha Beach, Auckland

Credit: Daniel J (YouTube)

A favourite day trip spot for both Auckland locals and visitors, Piha is filled with opportunities for adventure. In the right condition,s the surf can be massive, and there’s a fair number of walks and tracks around the beach. Piha’s black sand and dramatic scenery makes for heaps of instagram-worthy spots as well – especially from the top of Lion Rock!

View our Auckland stays here.

4. Kaiteriteri Beach, Abel Tasman


Kaiteriteri Beach is a beautiful crescent of golden sand that lies at a convenient access point to the Abel Tasman National Park. It’s a popular summer holiday destination, where visitors flock from all over to enjoy time in the sun and surf. Popular activities among these beach-goers include kayaking, swimming, boating and walks. To learn more about the Golden Bay area, check out our insider’s guide here.

View holiday homes near Kaiteriteri Beach here.

3. Mount Maunganui Beach

With perfect waves for learning to swim and a large stretch of sand, Mt. Maunganui Beach is another summer hot spot. It draws people from all over the North Island with its panoramic views from the mountain summit, spacious beach and top quality cafes in the nearby town where you can find mouthwatering ice cream! Learn more about the area with our Insider’s guide here.

View holiday homes in Mt. Maunganui here.

2. Ngarunui Beach, Raglan

Sea-wave-at-Ngarunui-beach-New Zealand

Ngarunui Beach (also known as Ocean Beach) is world renowned for its quality surf, while remaining classically Kiwi with its black sand and scenery. A popular place to visit year round, it earns its place as number two in our 10 best beaches because of the undisturbed beauty of the beach itself as well as the friendliness of the locals and laid back vibe of the town. One doesn’t have to try hard to get into beach mode here!

View holiday homes in Raglan here.

1. Cathedral Cove, Coromandel

Cathedral Cove is undoubtedly one of the best beaches in the Coromandel and New Zealand. Its a beach found on many bucket lists around the country, and is often seen as a dream destination so its place as our favourite beach in New Zealand is well-deserved. What makes Cathedral Cove so distinct and popular is its unique rock formations, beautiful sand, calm surf and its secluded setting. Close to both Cooks beach and Hot Water Beach which are also found on the Coromandel Peninsula – this beach beats its neighbours for the top spot in our list in part due to its famous rock archway which is also its namesake. This stunning natural feature has featured in popular music videos and films – such as The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008).

View holiday homes in Hahei here.

Over to you…

Don’t see your favourite beach in this list? Have a secret gem you’re willing to share? Let us know in the comments below – we’d love to hear about it!

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Comments (17)

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  1. ereni clark

    Ripiro Beach Northland Westcoast near Dargaville .It is the longest driveable beach in NZ. Has the most beautiful view of the coastline from Maunganui Bluff looking south as far as the eye can see.

  2. Jane

    Little Bay in Coromandel is beautiful

  3. Terry

    Shouldn’t it be titled ‘Top 10 Beaches in the North Island’. Plenty of South Island beaches that could trump that collection.

  4. Carl

    Whale Bay,Matapouri,Sandy Bay,40min East of Whangarei.3 beaches within 10min drive of each other,all stunning.

  5. Pen

    Nothing south of Nelson? I swam in clear green water with swarms of fish at Broad Bay Dunedin this morning, and this evening in the tepid clear estuary with a sea lion at stunning Allan’s Beach.

    • Phoebe Joiner

      What a way to start and end your day!

  6. Phil

    Check out Wharariki Beach near Farewell Spit, Golden Bay. Magic.

  7. Jan

    Umm what about Tongaporutu and the beautiful Three Sisters…. amazing

  8. Jan

    You missed castlepoint in the wairarapa

  9. Kim

    There is better beaches than some of these most dangerous beaches you have mentioned

    • Phoebe Joiner

      New Zealand is full of amazing beaches, it’s hard to choose favourites! Where’s your top beach?

  10. Mike

    Definitely Taputoputo.

  11. jacqui

    Matapouri Bay by far!

  12. Sent Visser

    Pakiri all the way to the Mangawhai Heads.

  13. Peter Woodfield

    Mt. Maunganui Beach is my favorite Beach in New Zealand. I have done more first’s there than any other place in New Zealand one that always comes to mind is the First Open Water race I ever done was at the Mount

  14. Jackson

    I’m halfway through ticking them all off my list! All neat spots!!

  15. Tony

    Waihi Beach.Awesome safe Beach.

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