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New Zealand beaches: see the best beaches in New Zealand

by Pilar Dujan | December 28, 2023
Discover the essential New Zealand beaches to fit in your itinerary

New Zealand is a wonderful destination for beach lovers. After all, it is an island. There are so many New Zealand beaches to visit, and it’s very difficult to narrow it down. 

This list of the best beaches in New Zealand will help you plan your trip successfully. Don’t forget your sunscreen!

Hot Water Beach (The Coromandel)

People creating hot springs in Hot Water Beach

This beach is pretty on its own, but there’s something that makes Hot Water Beach unique, and its name is a hint. 

To really make the most out of Hot Water Beach you need to pack a shovel and arrive early in the morning, at least two hours before or after the low tide. The low tide exposes some sandy spots along the beach and, if you dig some holes in the sand, you will create your own natural hot spring. Plus, the hot water is full of minerals, which is great for your health.

If you get bored or the ocean ruins your self-made spa, you can drive or hike up to the next entry on this list.

Cathedral Cove (The Coromandel)

Famous New Zealand beaches include Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove is one of the most photographed New Zealand beaches. If you look it up, you’ll see why. Its landscape is breathtaking! In Cathedral Cove there’s a natural stone archway that’s one of the most-photographed locations in all the country. 

Cathedral Cove isn’t only one of the best beaches in New Zealand, but it’s also one of the most famous beaches in New Zealand! Its unique and beautiful landscape was featured in the 2008 hit movie The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.

You can get there by kayaking, walking or taking a boat. However, after massive rainfall during this year, it has become a risk of landslides and you can’t walk there anymore. You can still reach it by boat or kayak, but New Zealand’s Department of Conservation has advised against standing beneath the archway for the risk of rockfall. 

If there aren’t any more security alerts by the time you travel, bring your snorkeling gear: Gemstone Bay is perfect for this activity. 

Maitai Bay (Northland)

New Zealand beaches Maitai Bay from above

Maitai Bay is one of the most beautiful beaches in New Zealand. It’s a great place to relax at, enjoying its soft, white sand and clear water. It’s also a perfect spot for snorkeling and swimming around! You can also go camping to enjoy this beach at night time.

If you’ve had your fill of New Zealand beaches and want to mix it up, from Maitai Bay you can get to the Karikari Estate to explore the vineyard and winery

Abel Tasman National Park (Nelson Tasman)

This may be the smallest national park in the country, but it’s one of the things to do in New Zealand that you should never miss out on. It’s filled with some of the most stunning New Zealand beaches you will find. 

Some of the essential beaches you could visit in Abel Tasman National Park are Torrent Bay, Anchorage Bay, Sandfly Beach, Awaroa Beach and Kaiteriteri Beach.

Vegetation and coast in Abel Tasman National Park

Awaroa Beach (Nelson Tasman)

This beach is so beautiful that it deserved its own spot on the list. Also known as Golden Bay, it’s surrounded by green forest and filled with different forms of wildlife (which means it’s protected by the Department of Conservation).

This beach is also special due to its history: it was actually bought by the people of New Zealand so it could be part of their country. It’s so beautiful and tranquil that you can easily see why they wanted to keep it open to the public.

There’s a campsite nearby if you wish to spend the night in the area. 

Wharariki Beach (Nelson Tasman)

There are seals in New Zealand beaches like Wharariki Beach

This is one of the wild New Zealand beaches that are perfect for a bit of adventure. You will be able to enjoy sea caves, sand dunes and rock pools while looking at the waves (but not from the sea: it’s too rugged for swimming). You can also go seal spotting in Wharariki Beach! 

If you can, get to this beach to see the sunrise or sunset, it’s a stunning view! Don’t forget to bring your camera.

Rarawa Beach (Far North)

Rarawa Beach, Far North, New Zealand

This beach has sand so white that you'll need sunglasses to protect your eyes. It’s also incredibly soft. 

Rarawa Beach is protected by the Department of Conservation because of the nesting birds that live in the surrounding dunes. Tourists need to be very careful to avoid endangering or disturbing these animals.

Once you’ve enjoyed this beach enough, you can take a 15-minute drive to the northernmost pub in New Zealand: the Houhora Tavern. You can also visit the Cape Reinga lighthouse or enjoy sand boarding in the dunes.

There’s a camping site nearby if you’ve fallen in love with this beach and don’t want to leave. 

Piha Beach (Auckland)

Piha beach in Auckland, New Zealand

Piha Beach is located an hour away from Auckland, one of the biggest cities in New Zealand and the largest in all the North Island. 

It’s a famous surfing beach with black sand and an island in the sea called Lion Rock, making it one of the most unique New Zealand beaches. While you’re here, take the chance to visit the beautiful Kitekite Falls.

If surfing’s not your thing, you can of course go swimming, but be careful: make sure there are lifeguards around and always swim between the flags because of the strong currents. 

Maunganui Beach (Bay of Plenty)

Best beaches in New Zealand like Maunganui Beach

On the front, white sand and a clear sea. On the back, a dormant volcano. That’s what awaits in Maunganui Beach, one of the best beaches in New Zealand. 

It’s loved by tourists and locals for its surfing and many cafes, but the possibility of hiking Mount Maunganui or Mauao is what sets it completely apart from the other New Zealand beaches. There are also hot natural pools to help you relax. 

New Chums Beach (Waikato)

Lush and wild vegetation behind New Chums Beach

This entry of the best New Zealand beaches is noteworthy because of its isolation: you have to walk for half an hour from the nearest car park, there are no roads leading directly to New Chums Beach. Even though it’s quite a workout, the destination is totally worth it.

Like most beaches in New Zealand, this one is also great for surfing, but the water is also calm enough for swimming

Map of the New Zealand beaches

Screenshot of the map with the selected New Zealand beaches

The New Zealand beaches located in the South Island are:

  • Abel Tasman National Park (and its Awaroa Beach)
  • Wharariki Beach

The New Zealand beaches located in the North Island are:

  • Rarawa Beach
  • Maitai Bay
  • Piha Beach
  • New Chums Beach
  • Hot Water Beach
  • Cathedral Cove
  • Maunganui Beach