So, you’ve come digging to find the best beaches in New Zealand, huh? Well, I tell ya what, I’m about to serve you up some golden (black, white and pebbly) nuggets. 

From black sand to white sand, rugged surf to crystal clear waters; the diversity of beaches across the little islands of New Zealand is mind-blowing. Whether you’re after the thrill of a day of watersports at Kaiteriteri Beach or a hike to the secluded shores of Crayfish Bay – New Zealand’s got it all, baby! 

As you’re heading to the end of the earth on a quest to find some of the best beaches on the planet, don’t be surprised if you find yourself on your own secluded stretch of sand. Take off your clothes, dance around, and have a little fun… no one’s lookin’.

As The Broke Backpackers resident Kiwi, I have been called in to reveal my top picks for the best New Zealand beaches. And guys, this was no easy mission to be tasked with. New Zealand may be known for its majestic mountains but we do beaches bloody well too. 

But, I’ve done it; I’ve narrowed down my top seven. Just for you <3

dani and friend rock jumping into crayfish bay in the coromandel, new zealand
Let’s rock jump straight into the best beaches in New Zealand
Photo: @danielle_wyatt

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When to Go to Beaches in New Zealand

Travelling in New Zealand is epic. It’s one of those places that’s amazing all year round – with the incredible snowy mountains in the winter and some of the most beautiful beaches IN THE WORLD in the summer. And today, folks, we are here to talk about New Zealand’s fine stretches of sand and sea.

Polar opposite to the UK and USA, New Zealand’s summertime thrives from December to March. This is the time when Kiwis shake off that layer of seasonal depression and enter their hot girl summer era. The sun comes out, the beaches pack out and the life starts pumping back into everyone.

Many Kiwis will agree that this is the BEST time of year. Filled with public holidays, Christmas, New Year, endless festivals, road trips and of course, beaches.

However, if you’re a surf-a-holic – don’t worry, you’ll find waves all year around. You’ll want to bring ya thickest wetsuit, booties and a hood if you are heading to the deeps of the south to ride waves.

You might not have initially thought of the beaches and coastline as one of the main reasons to visit New Zealand, but I can tell you, you won’t be dissapointed.

view from the top of Mount Maunganui, Tauranga, New zealand
View from the top.
Photo: @danielle_wyatt
  • Who It’s For: Families, surfers, friends – literally anyone who enjoys a beach. It’s an accessible beach too with mats and beach wheelchairs.
  • Don’t Miss: Hiking up Mountain Maunganui to see the views from the top.

The endless stretches of sand at Mount Maunganui entice thousands every year. The golden sands and rolling waves make for a picture-perfect day at the beach. It’s easily one of the best beaches in New Zealand.

And yes, I am probably completely biased as this is my beautiful hometown. But apparently, others think so too; it is voted the best beach in New Zealand year after year and is one of the most popular places to stay in New Zealand over the summer period.

When there is swell, you’ll see surfers all along the famous Marine Parade running to catch the waves. If you’ve never surfed before but being in the surfy town of “The Mount” has inspired you, you’ll find surf lessons along the boardwalk by the beach.

friends with surf boards relaxing at east coast beach in New Zealand
Unreal beach vibes
Photo: @danielle_wyatt

Leisure Island is also nestled nicely into the beach, it’s not actually an island as it is attached to the beach. It has rock pools to explore (great if you’ve got kids on towe!) and there is a lovely, short walk to the end. If you’re into Rock jumping, check out “the blow hole” at the end – on a calm day it’s pretty thrilling to jump off!

Fancy more of a climb than a chill on the beach? Then be sure to pack your walking boots and head for a walk up or around Mount Maunganui. I love my Salomon Women’s X Ultra 3 Low. They’re bloody great to travel with and have got me through many a journey in and across New Zealand.

Best Places to Stay Near Mount Maunganui:

Best Luxury Place to Stay
Quest Mt Maunganui
Best Luxury Place to Stay

Quest Mt Maunganui

Smack bang in the middle of town, this beautiful hotel is where you want to be to make the most of the cool surfy town while also being just a short walk to the beach.

Best Budget Place to Stay
Pacific Coast Lodge and Backpackers
Best Budget Place to Stay

Pacific Coast Lodge and Backpackers

Being 500m from the beach and offering FREE surfboard use, this is the ideal place to stay if you want to dive into the waves. It’s a social hostel so you can meet buddies to go beach it with.

Most Beautiful Beach in New Zealand | New Chums Beach

dani and friends at new chums beach in the coromandel, new zealand
Quick, put your hats on and turn around.
Photo: @danielle_wyatt
  • Who It’s For: Those after a bit of adventure and a hike around to discover this secluded beach.
  • Don’t Miss: The viewpoint looking over New Chums Beach.

Hidden away in the Coromandel, nestled into the north of Whangapoua Beach, is this absolute gem of a beach. It takes around 30 minutes to get to via a fairly easy track.

Because it takes a short walk to get it, it’s less busy than other beaches around. Plus you get that dose of adventure as you trek your way around the coast to get there. However, word is trickling out and you will see a few more people to say hello to on the track.

Just before you get to the beach, you’ll see a turn-off where you can attempt the short but steep climb to the lookout point. The view is BEAUTIFUL from the top and well worth the effort. It’s pretty cool to appreciate the view from the top before you reach it.

Surrounded by lush forest, this secluded beach is not one to miss in New Zealand. You won’t find a lot when you get to the beach except beautiful sea, sand and trees. So be sure to pack a picnic, a frisbee and a good book.

Best Places to Stay Near New Chums Beach:

Best Budget Place to Stay
Studio at Matarangi
Best Budget Place to Stay

Studio at Matarangi

This Matarangi Studio is simple but cosy. It has everything you need for a comfy stay; a kitchen, sun terrace and a comfy bed. You’ll be in a great spot to enjoy Matarangi and just 20 minutes from New Chums.

Best Luxury Place to Stay
The Matarangi B&B
Best Luxury Place to Stay

The Matarangi B&B

This is the creme da la creme of B&Bs in Matarangi. Not only are the hosts incredible but the views of the sea from your bed will blow your mind. It’s an absolute dreamboat of a property and the perfect place to stay after a day exploring New Chums.

Small Pack Problems? 😉

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These are packing cubes for the globetrotters and compression sacks for the real adventurers – these babies are a traveller’s best kept secret. They organise yo’ packing and minimise volume too so you can pack MORE.

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Best Beach in New Zealand For Families | Rawara Bay

crystal clear ocean with small rolling waves
Crystal.
Photo: @joemiddlehurst
  • Who It’s For: Those wanting to pretend you’re in Fiji on the picture-perfect white sand beaches.
  • Don’t Miss: Testing out the squeakiness of the sand and see whether you leave footprints.

The white sands of Rawara Bay at the top of the north island are quite the contrast to New Zealand’s vast golden stretches of coast. Rawara’s pure white silica sand and turquoise waters will take your mind to Fiji. And as if it could get any better, you might even be the only person on it.

The beach is fairly isolated and off the main roads, so it’s unlikely you’ll find this place packed. So, all the more for you! This is not uncommon when you head up North, with fewer people venturing this far above Auckland, you’ll often find yourself travelling off-the-beaten-track.

The sand is made of almost pure quartz; the result is glaringly white sand that seems to squeak as you walk. It’s quite the experience coming to this beach – squeaky sand that doesn’t leave footprints. It blew my mind. But take a good pair of sunnies, the glare is real!

It’s my top pick for families as it provides a different experience to show the kids. The waters are clear and shallow for swimming. It makes the perfect picnic stop on the way to Cape Rienga. The beach is very “Kiwi”, you’ll find vehicles and motorbikes zooming up and down the beach every now and then.

Will with a car on the beach in New Zealand
Will channelling his inner Kiwi with a ute on the beach.
Photo: @willhatton__

Rawara is also home to an incredible DOC campsite that gets you right on the beach. If you’re up for a dose of camping, this is a pretty damn cool spot to set your tent up (or park up if you’re campervanning around NZ).

Best Places to Stay Near Rawara Bay:

Best Budget Place to Stay
Tealuca Holiday Home
Best Budget Place to Stay

Tealuca Holiday Home

With limited places to stay around Rarawa Beach, you’d think the options would be rather unsatisfactory – but you’d be wrong! Just ten minutes away from the beautiful Rarawa Beach, this holiday home can squish in up to seven peeps – ideal for families or groups dreaming of a beach escape.

Best Luxury Place to Stay
Shore & Coco
Best Luxury Place to Stay

Shore & Coco

This gorgeous spot in the Karikari Peninsula is the best place to stay if you’re after views of the sea and a taste of luxury. This holiday home will have you nestled into the simplifity of life in the far north and just a ten minute drive from the shores of Rawara Bay.

Best Beach in New Zealand for Swimming | Crayfish Bay

  • Who It’s For: The adventurous who are up for an expedition over the hills to find the bay
  • Don’t Miss: Rock climbing and snorkelling

This one is COOL, like super cooool. Hidden behind Opito Bay (which is outrageously beautiful itself), Crayfish Bay is perfect for swimming, rock jumping and snorkelling. It’s a horseshoe-shaped rocky bay that will no doubt take ya breath away.

There is a little trek to the beach. If you drive to the far end of Opito Bay, you’ll find a big car park. From there, you’ll be on foot walking down the beach until you see a faint sign to turn off to Crayfish Bay. The track is pretty easy; but it does involve walking across sand and grass, as well as jumping over a fence.

This spot has been pretty quiet over the years, but as with all good things… word slowly starts to get out. If you’re heading to Crayfish Bay in January, it’s unlikely you’ll be completely alone here. But for now, it’s not too busy and has secured its spot on my list of the best New Zealand beaches.

Nic snorkelling in near the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, Australia.
Let’s find some fishies!
Photo: Nic Hilditch-Short

The bay is pretty protected, so it serves as a safe place for sea creatures to hide out – which is great for us snorkellers. You’ll find cool fish, crabs, starfish and the odd stingray now and then.

The rock jumping is pretty EPIC. Just out from the rocky shores, you’ll find bigger flat surfaces that are much nicer to relax on. From here, you can leap off the side and into the turquoise depths below. You’ll find a makeshift ladder to help you back up.

So, pack your snorkel and your sense of adventure; Crayfish Bay awaits!

Best Places to Stay Near Crayfish Bay:

Best Budget Place to Stay
Leighton Lodge
Best Budget Place to Stay

Leighton Lodge

Leighton Lodge is easily one of the best budget spots in Opito Bay; with incredible views of the sea and a beautiful family to host you. Just 200m away from the shores of Opito Bay, you’ll be in the perfect spot for a beachy retreat. Oh and did I mention there’s an outdoor pizza oven? Yeah, it’s pretty cool.

Best Luxury Place to Stay
Opito Perfection - Opito Bay Holiday Home
Best Luxury Place to Stay

Opito Perfection – Opito Bay Holiday Home

Opito Bay is a slice of luxury in itself, but add this Opito Bay Holiday Home into the mix and you’ll livin’ like royalty! Surrounded by rolling, green hills and with a perfect view across the sea – this modern home is an ideal place to come back to after a day of rock jumping at Crayfish Bay!

Is This the Best Backpack EVER???
Aether Backpack

We’ve tested countless backpacks over the years, but there’s one that has always been the best and remains the best buy for adventurers: the broke backpacker-approved Osprey Aether and Ariel series.

Want more deetz on why these packs are so damn perfect? Then read our comprehensive review for the inside scoop!

View on Osprey View on REI

Best Beach for Surfing in New Zealand | Purakaunui Bay

sea lion on the beach in the catlins, new zealand
Ol’ mate out for a stroll
Photo: @danielle_wyatt
  • Who It’s For: Surfers up for braving the chill of the southern Catlin seas.
  • Don’t Miss: The sea lions making their way slowly but surely up the beach.

In the depths of the south, you’ll find this unique but incredible surf spot at Purakaunui Bay in the Catlins. But I’m not going to beat around the bush here – this place gets cold. You’ll want to pack your wetty, booties and hood (and be at least a few mm thick). But mate, it’s worth it.

You’ll find both left and right-handers here, as well as consistent, powerful surf – no matter the tide. If the wind direction is northwest, you’re in for a treat. It’s one of the best New Zealand beaches for all you surfers out there.

If you dream of consistent waves and no one else in the water – go to the Caitlins. Well, actually, you may have company but it’s likely to be in the form of the local dolphin colony, yellow-eyed penguins or friendly sea lions. Yes, you read that right, I said sea lion… not seal. These big boys have a mane and all.

The sea lions provide enough entertainment in themselves to make a trip to the catlins worth the visit. These guys loooove to sunbathe. Especially in the dunes which are quite a trek from the sea and these are some heavy pups.

They will run for a few seconds before they get tired and flop on the sand. It’s pretty fun to watch them making their way to and from the dunes.

Best Places to Stay Near Purakaunui Bay :

Best Budget Place to Stay
Tram Track Cosy Cabin Reserve
Best Budget Place to Stay

Tram Track Cosy Cabin Reserve

Shack up in this cosy cabin after a day in the surf. Surrounded by nature, it’s the perfect place to wind down and relax. With a big ol’ deck to enjoy the views from and a create location to explore from, you don’t even notice that your room is well… rather cosy!

Best Luxury Place to Stay
Tahakopa Bay Retreat, Catlins, South Otago
Best Luxury Place to Stay

Tahakopa Bay Retreat, Catlins, South Otago

Nestled into the hills, this BEAUTIFUL modern home is the sprinkle of luxury you didn’t know you needed in your life. With panoramic coastal views, this secluded retreat is the perfect place to crash before or after chasing the waves at Purakaunui Bay.

Quietest Beach in New Zealand | Maitai Bay

Maitai Bay beach and clear blue sky and rolling green hills.
Photo: Department of Conservation (Flickr)
  • Who It’s For: Those after a secluded getaway to calm waters and minimum other humans.
  • Don’t Miss: Pack your walking shoes and trek the Maitai Bay Headland Track.

Another far-north gem in New Zealand, Maitai Beach does not disappoint. This crescent-shaped bay sparkles in the summertime; the big ball of fire in the sky shimmers off its turquoise waters and golden sand. It’s the perfect place to spend a summer’s day and was an easy addition to my list of the best New Zealand beaches.

The waters are calm and clear, ideal for swimming and snorkelling. It’s also the perfect place to explore the coast on a paddleboard or kayak. Whether you want to be in the water, or on top of it – it’s pretty lush either way.

As I’ve mentioned, the north is pretty undiscovered compared to loads of other parts of New Zealand. This means that this is another beach that you’ll often find you have all to yourself – magical.

It’s a great place to stop on the way to Cape Rienga – take a stroll, pack a picnic or maybe even pitch a tent at the DOC Maitai Campsite. Nestled into the beautiful and native Pohutukawa Trees by the sea, it’s a postcard-worthy camping spot.

Best Places to Stay Near Maitai Bay:

Best Budget Place to Stay
Karikari Lodge
Best Budget Place to Stay

Karikari Lodge

Located in Whatuwhiwhi, just a ten-minute drive from the gorgeous Maitai Bay; this lodge is the cosiest spot to stay nearby. You can’t go wrong with a cosy room, lovely hosts and a bangin’ breakfast. Don’t forget to pick the friendly hosts’ brains on the best things to see and do nearby!

Best Luxury Place to Stay
Beautiful architecturally & interior-designed home
Best Luxury Place to Stay

Beautiful architecturally & interior-designed home

This beautiful home attracts all of the beaming light that heads its way. With a light and wooden feel to it, it’s the kind of place that just makes you feel happy and free. With space for up to 6, bring ya mates along and make a weekend of it.

Best Beach in New Zealand for Watersports | Kaiteriteri Beach

A Catamaran cruising in the ocean just a few metres from the beach from a birds eye view.
  • Who It’s For: Action-packed lovers. Paddleboarders, Kayakers, Abel Tasman hikers.
  • Don’t Miss: Exploring more of the Abel Tasman – pack those hiking boots and enjoy the tracks.

The Abel Tasman is known for its epic hiking trails that go along the coast, between the beautiful golden beaches. But even if you’re not up for the gruelling days of hiking (which are so totally worth it), you can opt to chill on the world-class, golden sand beaches.

Even better news for you, there are multiple to choose from in the Abel Tasman National Park in New Zealand. From Split Apple Rock to Torrent Bay – there are some incredible stretches of beach. But in terms of watersports and ease of getting to without hiking for miles, Kaiteriteri Beach takes the cake for the best beach in New Zealand.

From kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding to jumping on a sailboat, there are loads of watersports at your fingertips here. Rental places line the beach, there is no shortage of activities to get involved in.

You can also set sail from Kaiteriteri Beach to explore the rest of the coastal magnificence of the Abel Tasman on a day sailing adventure. It’s a beautiful way to soak in the views.

Even if you’re not up for an action-packed day, it’s also a beautiful place to relax and soak in Mother Nature’s work of art here. Crystal waters, golden sands and lush green forests – she’s outdone herself here.

Best Places to Stay Near Kaiteriteri Beach:

Best Budget Place to Stay
Kaiteriteri Abel Tasman Inlet Views
Best Budget Place to Stay

Kaiteriteri Abel Tasman Inlet Views

Save those pennies on accommodation and put them toward the epic watersports at Kaiteriteri Beach. Even though it doesn’t break the bank, you won’t be sacrificing on comfort by staying here. With modern rooms and mountain views, it’s no a hardship crashing here that’s for sure.

Best Luxury Place to Stay
The Treehouse - Kaiteriteri Holiday Home
Best Luxury Place to Stay

The Treehouse – Kaiteriteri Holiday Home

Who hasn’t dreamed of staying in a Treehouse before? Especially a fancy modern one! Well, let me introduce you to this Kaiteriteri Holiday Home. This luxury take on a home amongst the trees is beautiful and makes for a pretty damn cosy, secluded getaway. The perfect spot to come home to after an action-packed day at Kaiteriteri Beach.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance for New Zealand

Unfortunately, things can go wrong when you least expect it. This is why good travel insurance is essential before you head on your trip to New Zealand.

ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing.

They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.

SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to it!

Click the button below to learn more about SafetyWing’s setup or read our insider review for the full tasty scoop.

Final Thoughts on the Best Beaches in New Zealand

Narrowing down the best New Zealand beaches was BLOODY tough. New Zealand is packed with some incredible stretches of sand and sea. Whether you like it rough or after more of a gentle touch, New Zealand pulls through with a perfect mix to satisfy everyone’s needs.

New Zealand in the summertime is a Godsend; festivals are pumpin’, roadies are ON and the beaches are absolutely glowing. The only downside to the Kiwi summer is the intensity of the sun, with no ozone layer the beaches are not the only thing that ends up glowing on a hot day. Be smart-smart and “slip, slop, slap and wrap” and the locals say… and worst case, invest in some good Aloe Vera.

If you’re on a mission to visit New Zealand’s best beaches, I wouldn’t miss any of these spots off the list. But I know you’ll probably come across more goodies too. If you do, I’d love to hear about them… let me know in the comments and I’ll add them to my list to visit!

van parked up on a beach in New Zealand
When the sun is out, you’ll find me here.
Photo: @danielle_wyatt
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