When day dreaming about New Zealand it may not be the best beaches that first come to mind. Maybe it’s the rolling green hills and tremendous mountain glaciers. How about bungee jumping in Queenstown or hiking volcanos? Well in the midst of all that excitement you should remember something… Both the North and South Islands of NZ are filled with some of the most diverse beaches in the world! We traveled far and wide to discover the New Zealand beach scene and are excited to share our favorites!
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Best Beaches in New Zealand
The greatest part about the beaches in New Zealand is that they’re all so very unique from each other. From the beautiful bays and coves of the North Island to the wild West coast of the South, there’s literally every kind of scenery to enjoy.
We spent almost an entire year traveling around the country and think we’ve found some of the most amazing sands and ocean to enjoy. Now that the secrets out, let’s dive right into the best New Zealand beaches!
→ Explore all our South Island New Zealand Travel Tips & Guides
→ Explore all our North Island New Zealand Travel Tips & Guides
North Island New Zealand Beaches
1. Tapotupotu Beach
We might as well start out the North Island beaches with the most Northern point in the country! Tapotupotu Beach is located near Cape Reinga and features a beautiful stretch of white sand. The best way to visit here is actually by staying at the Tapotupotu Campsite where you’ll feel like you have the whole beach to yourself.
2. 90 Mile Beach
Wondering how to get to Cape Reinga? Oh do we have a wild route for you! Running from Ahipara to Scott Point, this New Zealand beach is actually an official highway. It’s not recommended you drive on it without a 4WD vehicle, but there are bus tours that can take you.
3. Coopers Beach
Mangonui was one of our favorite small towns and the gorgeous New Zealand beaches surrounding it are the best part! Coopers Beach is a golden sand beach just a short walk from the main town center. On your way there make a stop at the Mangonui Fish Shop which has some of the most delicious seafood in the country.
→ Mangonui New Zealand: Why This Northland Town is Worth Visiting
4. Oneroa Bay Beach
The Bay of Islands will make multiple appearances on our best beaches in NZ list, and after visiting Russell it will be easy to see why. Onerea compliments the calm town beach with its fun waves. They’re the perfect size for boogie boarding, and the turquoise water color will have you wondering if you’re in the Caribbean!
→ Russell New Zealand: Why It’s the Best Town in the Bay of Islands
5. Ocean Beach
Are you the type of person that loves to play in the waves? If so, this New Zealand beach is the one for you! There’s actually a great hike that goes from the parking lot (where you can also camp), and loops back around to the stunning Ocean beach.
6. Piha Beach
Auckland is not only New Zealand’s biggest city, but has some amazing beaches within driving distance. You may recognize the famous Lion Rock that stands proudly in the middle of Piha. It’s also known as one of the premier destinations for surfers in New Zealand!
→ Why You Should Visit Piha Beach & the Beautiful Kitekite Falls
7. Hot Water Beach
New Zealand is well known for its volcanic activity and geothermal parks. Yet, you may be surprised to know to that carries over to one unique beach.
During low tide at Hot Water Beach you can grab a shovel and dig your very own jacuzzi. The hot springs under the sand warm the water which makes for an incredibly unique experience.
→ Hot Water Beach: How to Dig Your Own Natural Spring Hot Tub
8. Tairua Beach
Tairua is a small town in the Coromandel Peninsula that is often overlooked by traveleres. However, it has a stunning New Zealand beach that sits at the bottom of a dormant volcano. Leave some time to take the short hike up Mount Paku for an unreal view of the area!
→ Tairua New Zealand: Mount Paku Hike & More Fun Things to do
9. Pauanui Beach
Across the bay from Tairua is the popular Pauanui beach which sits at the mouth of a Tairua river. Take the long drive around the river or in the summer take the ferry that shuttles you from Tairua to Pauanui.
→ Tairua New Zealand: Mount Paku Hike & More Fun Things to do
10. Mt Maunganui Beach
We don’t like to play favorites, but Mount Maunganui has a special place in our hearts! This colorful East coast mecca has everything you’d look for in a New Zealand beach town. From the glorious Mount hike to the fun restaurants and bars in town, Mount Maunganui is so worth the visit!
→ Mount Maunganui: 8 Things Not to Miss in This Fun Beach Town
11. Papamoa Beach
Just down the road from Mount Maunganui is stunning Papamoa. The Bay of Plenty has some of the best beaches in New Zealand, and this long stretch of glorious sand is a big part of it. You can even try your luck digging up some tua tua clams at low tide.
12. Ohope Beach
Ohope is one of the most popular New Zealand beaches in the summertime. It’s long flat sands are perfect for sun bathing, and the water is usually crystal clear through the small rolling waves. This is one of those beaches in New Zealand where you can spend hours boogie boarding or body surfing.
13. Tokomaru Bay
We’ve spent a lot of time showing you what the North Island has to offer, but the East Cape is a different story! The rugged coast between Gisborne and Opotiki has some insanely nice swimming spots and beaches in NZ. While some are almost too rough to swim, Tokomaru Bay is the perfect spot dive right in.
14. Ngarunui Beach
The funky town of Raglan is a favorite for surfers and yoga lovers alike. Once your done with the good vibes in town, head over to Ngarunui for some fun in the sun! Even if you’re not getting in on the surf, the massive cliffs and views above are worth the trip alone.
→ 8 Best Things to Do in Raglan New Zealand On Your First Visit
15. Back Beach
New Plymouth is one of the most extraordinary towns on the North Island, and Back Beach is a huge reason why. Here you can walk the black sand with Paritutu Rock and the Mount Taranaki volcano in the background. This spot has the scenery of the South Island but with the wild nature of the North mixed together.
→ 10 Fun Things to Do in New Plymouth New Zealand
16. Freyberg Beach Wellington
How about a city beach to round out the North Island New Zealand beaches? Wellington is known for a lot of things, but people often forget it’s right on the ocean! So in between riding the famous cable car and trying some delicious craft beer, make sure to stop at Freyberg for a swim.
→ 10 Fun Things to do in Wellington On Your First Visit
South Island New Zealand Beaches
17. Kaikoura Beach
Our introduction to the South Island starts at none other than Kiakoura. The glacier blue water with the Kaikoura Ranges as your back drop is simply mesmerizing.
When you’re done admiring the scenery of one of the most stunning beaches in NZ, it’s time for a walk. Wander over to the Kaikoura Peninsula and say hello to the local fur seals!
18. St Clair & St Kilda Beach
These long sandy beaches are the go-to spots on your visit to Dunedin. It’s the best of both worlds here as you can walk for hours, or grab a surf board and hit the waves.
Afterwards, head down to nearby Tunnel Beach! The views are unreal on the hike down, but note that it’s a little too rough to swim here.
19. Queenstown Beach
If you’re planning a trip to New Zealand you’ve surely heard of Queenstown. And when you’re not bungee jumping or skydiving in the adventure capital of the world, the best thing to do is hang out at the local beach. Lake Wakatipu is New Zealand’s 3rd largest lake and the water is considered so clean you can drink it!
→ 18 Fun Things to do in Queenstown On Your First Visit
20. Wanaka Beach
The South Island shows that some of the best beaches in NZ are actually on lakes! We thought this was a nice switch up from the North, and Lake Wanaka became one of our favorite towns. Make sure to go for a bike ride around the lake and hike up the famous Roys Peak.
21. Kawatiri Beach Reserve
While many of the beaches on the West coast of New Zealand’s South island are pebbly and rough, Kawatiri is a long stretch of sand. The West coast is sunset paradise and they sure are magical at this beach in Westport.
22. Wharariki Beach
If you thought many of the best beaches in New Zealand are off the beaten track, then Wharariki should be no surprise. However, the landscape, dunes, and Archway Caves truly separate it from anywhere else!
→ How to Visit Wharariki Beach and the Amazing Archway Islands
23. Kaiteriteri Beach
Kaiteriteri feels like a tropical escape. The light blue water reflects against the golden sand like something out of a dream. Also, there is the pick up and drop off location for the ferry shuttle to Abel Tasman National Park.
24. Little Kaiteriteri
In the next bay over from Kaiteriteri Beach is Little Kaiteriteri! At low tide you can walk on the rocks to make it to this beach, but later on you’ll have to walk up and over to the scenic outlook. Little Kaiteriteri is often less crowded than it’s neighbor, but just as gorgeous!
25. Abel Tasman National Park
Abel Tasman is one of New Zealand’s most stunning National Parks. Many of the hiking trails go right onto some of the best beaches in NZ. Here you can camp, or simply enjoy the ocean and nature.
→ Abel Tasman Hike: Fun Day Loop From Totaranui Beach
Have any questions on the best beaches in New Zealand, or want to mention one that isn’t on our list? Let us know in the comments below!
Brigitte & Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
New Zealand Travel Planning
Jucy Van: The best way to explore New Zealand is with a Jucy camper! We spent over six weeks driving around the North and South Islands in a van and loved every moment.
Rental Car: If you’re not renting a van you’ll still need a vehicle to get around. We use Discover Cars when traveling and enjoy having the freedom to get around.
Flights: It’s easy to find cheap flight deals using Skyscanner and Kayak. That’s how we got flights from Auckland to Queenstown for $40 USD, and New Zealand to Fiji for less than $150!
Accommodation: Compare multiple sites for the best deal such as Booking.com and Agoda! Also, Hostelworld should be your go-to source if you’re traveling on a budget.
Tours: Check out Get Your Guide to find activities all over New Zealand! They have everything from a Milford Sound cruise with underwater observatory, to a Otago wine tour with gourmet wine & lunch, and even a Kaikoura whale watching cruise!
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without being covered. We’ve been using SafetyWing for insurance the last few years and they are always there when we need them.
Packing Lists: Find all the inspiration you need with our Amazon packing lists. Including our electronics and camera gear, must-have medical items, and long flight essentials!
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How could you not put taupo bay on any list of best beaches ..
It’s ALWAYS ON AUCKLAND READER POLL best beaches in all New Zealand ..
argue ably one best swimming beaches ,and top surfing spot ,
Great campground/ vacation rentals , boat ramp .
Mile of beautiful sand clear water .
Haha funny enough… We were headed here one day and didn’t think our campervan would make it down the road! We only put beaches we have traveled to so we’ll have to save it for next time. Thanks for the tip though (-:
These are just the popular tourist spots. There are a lot more amazing beaches which fly under the radar. Such as Ruakaka beach.
We loved Ruakaka, too! There’s so many amazing beaches in New Zealand. It was hard to narrow it down to just these ones on the list. Hope you can forgive us (:
Where is New Chums Beach?
We wanted to only write about the beaches we actually visited, but one of our biggest regrets in NZ was not making it to this beach! At least we saved something awesome for next time (: