Ninety Mile Beach, Northland
This huge sweep of beach (which is actually 90km long) is also a highway. Bus tours travel from Kaitaia to Cape Reinga or vice versa, depending on the tides. You can make the trip in your own car but it’s really only suitable for 4WD vehicles (hire companies prohibit driving on the beach). The big sand dunes flanking the beach are popular for bodyboarding.
Driving out west to Piha feels like you’re entering another world – it’s hard to believe you’re only 40 minutes from the city. This is a wild, rugged coastline and the beach – with its iron-sand and distinctive Lion Rock – lends itself to long, windswept walks. The town fills up fast during summer months but be aware that swimming here can be dangerous due to strong undercurrents.
New Chums Beach, Coromandel Peninsula
There’s no vehicle access to this beach and reaching it requires a 30-minute hike through native bush – but boy is it worth it. White sand fringed by large pohutukawa trees and crystal-clear waters. Your own private paradise!
Raglan is famous for it’s world class surf and laidback lifestyle. Ngarunui Beach is a good spot for walking, sunbathing, swimming (lifeguards in summer) and learning to surf, while the points at Manu Bay and Whale Bay offer long, lefthand waves for experienced riders. There’s no beach at either Manu Bay or Whale Bay, but you can sit on the rocks and watch the action.
Ocean Beach, Kawhia
Kawhia is a sleepy little backwater on Kawhia Harbour. The beach is windswept and wild but come two hours before and after low tide and you can dig your own hot spring in the sand. Just like Hot Water Beach on the Coromandel but without the crowds!
Wainui Beach, Gisborne
The perfect spot for lazy beach lounging. Catch a wave, top up your tan or stroll the shoreline.
Ocean Beach, Mount Maunganui
A beach right in the thick of the action, the Mount is a popular summer hangout for families and young people. Cafes and shops are just a short stroll from the water, and it’s a good spot for swimming, surfing and bodyboarding.
Kaiteriteri Beach, Nelson
Golden sands and clear blue water make this one of the most popular beaches in the South Island. Head behind the camping ground to find Withells Walk, a 45-minute excursion into native bush, with great views of the bay.
Gillespies Beach, West Coast, South Island
A pebbled beach with dramatic views of the Fox Glacier, Gillespies is one of those out-of-the-way spots that few people stumble across. Access is via a gravel road but there’s a free, DOC campsite and an old mining settlement to explore when you get there.
Curio Bay/Porpoise Bay, Catlins
Remote and rugged – your fellow beach goers will likely be the wildlife. In the summer, Hector’s dolphins frolic in the surf, while yellow-eyed penguins nest around Curio Bay and fur seals and sea lions regularly wander the shoreline.