10 Best NZ Beaches
New Zealand has a fortuitously long coastline (over 15,000 km) compared to the country's size - almost the same length as mainland USA's coastline. Even though New Zealand is only about the same size as the state of Colorado, the plentiful coastline results from the many irregularities and indentations that create countless coves, bays, harbours, sounds, and fiords for you to discover on your campervan road trip.
1. Onetangi Bay, Waiheke Island: Accessible by ferry from downtown Auckland (which you won't be able to take your rental campervan on - but just park up in Auckland city and enjoy the island's excellent transport options) this bay’s wide stretch of golden sand lets you see for miles. Gaze at the steep pinnacles of Great Barrier Island and Little Barrier in the distance, and indulge in deliciously warm swims.
2. Cape Kidnappers: Situated in Hawke’s Bay, southwest of Napier, here you’ll find spectacular geological cliff formations and a gannet colony – soaring seabirds that nest on the cliffs. You can get there by bus, beach tractor or on foot (mind the tides).
3. Kawhia: An old whaling port situated on the North Island’s west coast, much of Kawhia’s appeal is its quietness and isolation. When the tide’s low, you can sit in your own hot pool dug in the black sand of Ocean Beach, where Te Puia Springs bubble up through the sand.
4. Whale Bay, Raglan: Famous for its left hand break and consistently good waves, surfers come from around the world to this beach in the Waikato region with its black volcanic sand to compete in the international competition held there every summer. Even if you don’t surf, you can still enjoy the laid-back bohemian lifestyle it creates - a perfect stop on your motorhome road trip.
5. Cooper’s Beach: One of the safest beaches in Northland, it is a small township between two Maori fortified settlements and one of the beautiful beaches of Doubtless Bay. Partially shaded by native red-emblazoned pohutukawa trees, it’s perfect for running, walking, swimming, or just lying.
6. Matauri Bay: 30kms north of Keri Keri in Northland’s Bay of Islands, Matauri Bay offers sheltered white sand beaches, fantastic walking tracks, amazing views and crystal clear waters. The Rainbow Warrior, a famously ill-fated Greenpeace vessel, was given its final resting place near Matauri Bay (at the Cavalli Islands) where it has now become a living reef, attracting marine life and recreational divers.
7. Haast Beach: Fittingly wide open and windswept for the South Island’s west coast. Strewn with thousands of huge pieces of driftwood, this desolate and remote black sand beach is known as one of New Zealand’s most hauntingly beautiful.
8. Ohope Beach: Located in the Bay of Plenty, here you can take in breathtaking views of the active volcano White Island as you stroll around 11kms of unbroken pristine sand which slopes gently into a wide expanse of safe warm waves. A great family beach.
9. Wharariki Beach: An hour’s drive from Takaka in Golden Bay (at the tip of the South Island), and a thirty minute walk over farmland from the road, this is one of the most dramatic beach views you’ll see. Rolling dunes, caves, rock formations, cliffs, islands and the odd seal make this surreal landscape almost Dali-esque.
10. Piha: A major day-trip destination for Aucklanders, 45 minutes' drive away on the west coast, Piha is famous for its rugged natural beauty, excellent surf, black sand, treacherous waters and iconic Lion Rock. It’s also worth doing the forest walk to the pretty, three-tiered Kitekite Falls, where you can take a freshwater swim.