With 15,000 kilometres of coastline, New Zealand is heaven for beach-lovers. Its diverse shores dish up everything from lazy days and blazing sunsets, to active adventures such as swimming, kayaking and surfing. Finding a great beach is easy; to find an unforgettable one, read on…
Ninety Mile Beach
It’s a poorly kept secret that Ninety Mile Beach is in fact only 88km, but there’s no way you’ll feel short-changed here. Starting near Kaitaia and ending close to Cape Reinga (Te Rerenga Wairua) – New Zealand’s spiritual northern point – it’s an epic expanse of sand and endless ocean, backed by massive dunes that are guaranteed to put sand in your pants. Just shy of the Cape is Te Paki Stream car park. A walkway from here leads to the beach and northwards to Scott Point.
The popular TV show Piha Rescue follows the heroics of this beach’s busy surf-lifesaving crew. But while Piha is infamous for unruly surf and strong undertows, it well deserves its mantle as Auckland’s most popular seaside playground. Sizzle yourself on its hot black sand, frolic amid foamy white rollers (always swim between the flags), and wander the beach and surrounding walking tracks to better admire the shapely headlands of Lion Rock and Taitomo Island.
New Chums Beach
Beautiful beaches are ten a penny on the Coromandel Peninsula, but New Chums stands out for its isolation. It’s actually only half an hour’s walk from Whangapoua car park, but such is the rock-hopping and scampering required that many don’t even attempt it. The reward is a beach so golden, a sea so glittering, pohutukawa trees so gnarled (and resplendent in red blooms around Christmas), that its beauty may bring a tear to your eye. What’s more, you might have it all to yourself.
Sweet and salty little Raglan is waxhead central, with serious surfers heading to Manu Bay, rumoured to have the world’s longest left-hand break. Mere mortals are better off at nearby Ngarunui, where friendlier surf allows for safer swimming, even more so from October to April when the beach is patrolled by lifeguards. It’s a busy and entertaining place on fine, summer days, especially when the grommets of Raglan Surf School are giving this surfing lark a go. Could that be you?
Meaning ‘big water’ in Maori, it’s no surprise that New Zealand has more Wainuis than you can poke an oar at. Just up the coast from Gisborne, this Wainui is a cracker: it offers great swimming and a quality surf break, backed by a series of dune and bush reserves. Wainui sustains a close-knit community of ocean-lovers including stalwarts of the surf-lifesaving club, as well as Wainui Store which fries up good fish and chips.