Summer on New Zealand's best beaches

Our beloved New Zealand beaches are among the most stunning in the world. From the magnificence of our golden sandy coastlines that seem to stretch on forever to the moody drama of wild and rugged black-sandy beaches, and picturesque bays, dotted with boaties and beach “toys”, we Kiwis are truly blessed when it comes to the opportunity to get some sand between our toes.

What are your favourite beaches to spend your summers and to take wild winter walks on? Here is a list of some of our favourites at SWABBO. We tried to keep it to 10 but found it almost impossible! Tag us on our

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Mt Maunganui 

Going to “The Mount” has been an iconic Kiwi holiday for decades and the main beach’s white sandy stretches have been voted the best in New Zealand by visitors through TripAdvisor. With the extinct volcano of Mount Maunganui – Mauao – jutting out from the peninsula and providing panoramic views of Bay of Plenty beaches, it’s popular with walkers, swimmers and surfers. The Mount is a vibrant spot and attracts young and old alike.


Piha is often dubbed New Zealand’s most famous surf beach and is perfect for those with an adventurous spirit. The stunning black sands in the western coastal reaches of Auckland is a mecca for surfers seeking awesome surf, which rolls in from Tasman sea. Its wild and windswept terrain – featured in the multi-Oscar winning movie The Piano – is divided by Lion Rock, where brave fishing enthusiasts try their luck. A tricky spot for swimmers due to notorious currents, world-class life guards keep people safe, while walkers trek the seashore and dunes to soak up the negative ions of the windy, moody and sometimes misty beach. 

Waihi Beach 

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more idyllic Kiwi spot than beautiful Waihi Beach. In a small Western Bay of Plenty settlement, many families flock to its long, white sands on weekends and holidays to soak up the sun and indulge in day-long swims and treats like ice cream and fish and chips for an old-school, peaceful and picturesque holiday. 

Onetangi, Waiheke island 

Onetangi is the longest beach on Waiheke Island, a popular holiday spot often called the jewel of the Hauraki Gulf near Auckland. Two kilometres long and flat, it’s the perfect walking beach and is also mainly safe for swimming. Lucky visitors might see dolphin pods dancing through the bay and can gaze at Onetangi’s sparkling waters from ocean-side cafes. In the right conditions, it’s also a popular spot for boaties to spend the night and also provides a refreshing break for those visiting the many nearby vineyards.

Koekohe Beach 

Koekohe is a long, sandy beach on Otago’s coast in the South Island. Besides being breathtakingly beautiful, it’s super-famous for the Moeraki Boulders, which some people think look like dinosaur eggs! Some of these prehistoric-looking rocks, which have large cracks in them, measure 3 metres and are hollow since technically, they’re not rocks but septarian concretions. A visit to Koekohe Beach, treasured by locals, is a must for anyone visiting the majestic south.

Lyall Bay Wellington

This beloved beach close to the capital is a popular surf spot and also famous for its rock pools and snorkelling. Lyall Bay is also a great place for walkers on the 1-km stretch of sand and climbing the tracks of Te Raekaihau (meaning “where the headland meets the wind”) which showcases vistas of Wellington’s windswept south coast.

Awaroa – “The People’s Beach”

This remote and breathtakingly beautiful beach is nestled in the Abel Tasman Coast in the South Island. Though secluded, its pristine waters are sought-after and prized by many: it was even purchased by Kiwis in a famous crowd-funding campaign to keep it out of private hands. This spectacular spot now belongs to the Department of Conservation and is accessible by those walking the Abel Tasman Coastal Track – many stay at DOC’s ocean-front beachside lodge, hut or campsite – or can be seen via helicopter.

90 Mile Beach

No visit to Northland is complete without experiencing this vast and majestic stretch of coastline between Ahipara to Scott Point. In actual fact, 90 Miles Beach is 88 kilometres long and is  classified as an official highway, which makes it popular for 4WD enthusiasts. It’s also famous for mesmerising sunsets and for having one of the most sought-after left-hand surf breaks in the world.

Cathedral Cove

Straight out of a postcard or travel brochure is the magical Cathedral Cove, near Hahei in the Coromandel. A truly stunning spot, it sits on the edge of Mercury Bay and is accessible by a scenic walking track (about 45 minutes each way) and is awesome for boaties and kayakers who want to visit by water. 

Wainui Beach 

Near Gisborne, Wainui is a magnificent beach with stunning surf and was nominated by the NZ Automobile Association as one of the 101 Must-Do Places for Kiwis. With its grand golden sands and big skies perched on the Pacific Ocean, Wainiu is famous for legendary surf breaks and is also a classic spot for Kiwi camping holidays.

Waimarama Beach

This epic beach is a treat for those visiting the Hawke’s Bay and a sought-after spot for people seeking great swimming and walking. For those looking for kaimoana, crayfish, pipi and flounder can also be found at Waimarama. This picturesque and tiny seaside settlement is about 20 minutes drive from Hastings and is a popular weekend and picnic spot for locals and visitors to the Bay.

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