From world-renowned surfing spots and remote coves to urban beaches and island hotspots, there’s a beach in New Zealand for every type of beach-goer. Bask in the sun at one of Auckland’s top beaches, combine hiking with sun and sand at some of the country’s more secluded spots near Abel Tasman National Park, and enjoy sprawling views at all of them.
These are some of the top New Zealand beaches to visit on your trip of a lifetime.
A 45-minute ferry ride from the heart of Auckland will land you on one of Waiheke Island’s most popular beaches. The mile-long Onetangi Beach is the island’s largest, and draws visitors with its impressive vista, gazing across the Hauraki Gulf, out to the Great Barrier and Little Barrier islands in the distance.
Whether you choose to lounge on the sand and soak up the views, stretch your legs on a stroll, or indulge in a seaside picnic, Onetangi Beach is an enjoyable place to spend the day and one of the best beaches in Auckland.
Explore the areas near the beach for added island adventures. Known for its lush hiking trails and wineries, it’s easy to find something exciting to do.
Gain a different perspective of Onetangi Beach and the seaside cliffs with a trek along the Hidden Gems Path where you’ll be treated to views as well as native forest, dotted with pōhutukawa trees.
The entire trail takes approximately one hour, but with various access points, it’s possible to embark on just a portion of the path.
After, sample fine New Zealand wines and fill up on local cuisine at the picturesque vineyards located in close proximity to the beach. Time spent at Onetangi Beach is time spent at one of the best beaches in New Zealand.
Head to the idyllic coast of New Zealand’s South Island, and discover paradise at Koekohe Beach, just an hour north of the city of Dunedin on the Otago coast. In addition to being a gorgeous beach, this stretch of sand is known for its unique rock formations.
The Moeraki Boulders decorate the sands of KoeKohe Beach and were formed more than 60 million years ago. They weigh several tons each and lie on a protected area of the beach.
This is a popular spot for those interested in photography, as well as ancient Maori folklore, as it’s believed the boulders came from gourds and remnants of Araiteuru, a legendary canoe, washed ashore hundreds of years prior.
Mount Maunganui Beach
Referred to as “The Mount” by locals, Mount Maunganui Beach on New Zealand’s North Island is hailed as one of the country’s favorites.
The stretch of white sand is in the Bay of Plenty’s town of Tauranga, on the east coast and a favorite among surfers and swimmers. The wooded Mount Maunganui frames one end of the beach, so the scenery is stunning, too.
Enjoy a meal at one of the numerous seaside cafés and restaurants, or simply laze on the beach and watch all of the activity. One of the most exciting things to do in Tauranga for leisurely dipping and activities like stand-up paddleboarding is to venture to the opposite side of the harbor, where the calm Pilot Bay awaits.
What’s more, for one of the best hikes in New Zealand, take the opportunity to trek to the summit of Maunganui; a 30-minute effort will land you at the top. Marvel at 360-degree views of the surrounding area and gaze down on the blue ocean below.
If you have time, stroll “Mount Mainstreet,” the shopping district filled with boutiques, coffee shops, and restaurants. Browsing for souvenirs and indulging in a refreshing ice cream cone is the perfect way to cap off your day at Mount Maunganui Beach.
Scorching Bay Beach, Wellington
Venture to the southern tip of the North Island to soak up some sun at Scorching Bay Beach in Wellington. This popular stretch of sand is ideal for its water-fueled activities or simply relaxing with a book.
Situated on the shores of the Miramar Peninsula, this beautiful beach is a blend of sandy and grassy areas, and having a picnic here is one of the best things to do in Wellington.
Cool off with a swim, or snorkel above the rocky area to discover some of the rich marine life such as a variety of fish species, anemones, and crayfish. Enjoy some refreshments at the famous seaside café; they’re known for great coffee and milkshakes.
Sumner Beach, Christchurch
Visit Christchurch’s favorite beach, a wide expanse of sand with the ocean on one side and jaw-dropping mountain views on the other. Located just 20 minutes from downtown, this beach destination has a little something for everyone.
Stroll the seaside promenade, a paved pathway enjoyed by walkers, joggers, and bike riders, stretching for almost three-quarters of a mile to Scarborough Beach. Take a dip in the shallow waters, lounge on the sand, or relax at one of the many seaside cafés and bars and take in the view.
Visiting at low tide will allow you to explore one of the beach’s famous features, Cave Rock. Venture into this mystical tidal cave, which you can use as a portal to the other side of the beach.
This natural feature makes for fantastic photo opportunities. Make sure to climb to the top as well, where you’ll be treated to panoramic views.
After spending some time on the sand, browse some of the quaint boutiques lining the coast and purchase a souvenir as a memento of your time in Christchurch.
Surfing enthusiasts won’t want to miss one of New Zealand’s most famous surf breaks at Piha Beach. Transport yourself to paradise in just 45 minutes from the city of Auckland, where you’ll swoon over the picturesque scenery and a wide expanse of black sand beach backed by towering cliffs and the vibrant Tasman Sea.
The uncrowded shores of Piha Beach are known to be where Malibu board riding in the country began. It was also the location of New Zealand’s very first surf boat race in the 1930s.
Watch surfers navigate the notorious waves, bask in the sun, and absorb the stunning coastal landscape.
Photographers will enjoy shooting the beach’s resident rock, which divides the beach into two; Lion Rock has long been a favorite highlight on this gorgeous stretch of sand.
Although the swell at Piha Beach is best only for surfers with advanced skills, this beach is nonetheless a spectacular place to visit.
Hikers will enjoy an adventure along the multiple hiking tracks located in close proximity to the beach. The protected natural area is at the edge of the Waitakere Ranges and features subtropical forest.
Exploring here is the perfect way to split your day between beach and hiking. Piha Beach is one of the unmissable New Zealand beaches.
Combine your beach day with possible wildlife viewing at Sandfly Bay, located on the Otago Peninsula. Accessed by a 1.8-mile walking track featuring sand dunes and an impressive coastal vista, Sandfly Bay is also one of the best spots to birdwatch.
Known for the resident colony of hoiho, (yellow-eyed penguins), Sandfly Bay is a fantastic opportunity to view this species in its natural environment. Make sure to keep at least 150 feet of distance if you do see a penguin, so as not to disturb them.
While visiting Sandfly Bay, you might also be lucky enough to get a glimpse of New Zealand fur seals and sea lions, sunbathing on the rocks. Keep an eye out for other seabirds as well, like oystercatchers, spotted shags, and sooty shearwaters.
Even if you don’t spot any local wildlife, Sandfly Bay is a worthy destination for the ruggedly beautiful scenery, including coastal rock formations and giant sand dunes, as well as the enjoyable hike to get there. Walk the beach, pack a picnic, or bring a frisbee—Sandfly Bay is your oyster.
Kaiteriteri Beach, Abel Tasman National Park
Situated in close proximity to Abel Tasman National Park, Kaiteriteri Beach is one of the South Island’s gems, favored by many. This stretch of sand is also considered one of the most spectacular beaches in the world.
Kaiteriteri Beach is one of the main launching and access points for exploring Abel Tasman National Park, a natural wonder with immense beauty.
Expect to be swept off your feet by one of New Zealand’s most beautiful places. Golden sands, turquoise waters, and lush headlands create a real-life postcard. Soak up the sun and get active with stand-up paddleboarding, swimming, or kayaking on the sparkling water.
Hop aboard one of the water taxis to experience the world-famous National Park, with hiking trails through native forest, picturesque and unspoiled bays, and ancient Maori ruins.
Wildlife is abundant as well; you may spot fur seals, gannets, cormorants, blue penguins, and tui birds. Mountain bike enthusiasts will relish in the Kaiteriteri Recreation Reserve Mountain Bike Park.
Get your adrenaline pumping on a wide variety of tracks that cater to all skill levels. At the top of the hill, the stunning vista across Tasman and Kaiteriteri Bays will take your breath away. Kaiteriteri Beach is without doubt one of the best beaches in New Zealand.
Otehei Bay Beach, Urupukapuka Island
On the North Island’s striking Bay of Islands, Otehei Bay Beach is one of the country’s most tranquil stretches of sand. Accessed by a 40-minute ferry ride from the towns of Paihia or Russell, this off-the-beaten-path seaside destination offers a peaceful beach experience as well as hiking opportunities.
Urupukapuka Island curves around this gorgeous bay, complete with white sand and azure water, ideal for swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding. Clear water and schools of fish make Otehei Bay a great snorkeling destination.
Lace up your hiking boots and venture along the Otehei Loop Tracks; a 30-minute walk will have you absorbing the terrain while listening to the songs of native birds.
If it’s a longer trek you’re interested in, consider hiking around the whole island. This five-hour adventure is one of the best things to do in the Bay of Islands as it offers an all-around taste of the island, on foot.
Make sure to fuel your day’s activities with a visit to the popular Otehei Bay Café, where you can sink into a giant beanbag on the lawn with a glass of wine and take in the splendid views.
Ocean Beach, Motuihe Island
Explore untouched landscapes on New Zealand’s Motuihe Island. A 45-minute ferry ride from the heart of Auckland will land you at a destination rich in Maori culture and later on, military history. Although it’s the closest beach to the ferry boat dock, Ocean Beach feels worlds away; a true paradise.
With white sand, blue seas, and nearby hiking trails, visiting this secluded stretch of sand is one of the best things to do in Auckland to get in touch with nature. Sunbathe or take a swim, while gazing at views that stretch across the gulf and the surrounding islands.
Stretch your legs on the Tieke Bush Track, a walking trail that starts right from the beach. In addition to beautiful views, you may see native birds like tuataras and kiwis along the way.
Whatever you choose to do, you’ll make memories of a lifetime at Ocean Beach in the Hauraki Gulf.
Catch a wave, swim in settings of unparalleled beauty, and immerse yourself in New Zealand’s laid-back culture. Between the North Island and the South Island, the country’s coastal landscape is an outdoor and beach lover’s playground.
A luxury cruise is a fantastic way to experience some of the best beaches in New Zealand. Browse our cruises to New Zealand and book your next unforgettable adventure.