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The top 10 best New Zealand beaches!

Our ranking list for the perfect New Zealand beach experience:

Best New Zealand beaches1 Cathedral Cove (Coromandel)

The best beaches in New Zealand: Cathedral Cove

A feeling like in Thailand with its karst landscapes around Phuket and Krabi! A dream environment that requires a bit of a hike first!

After a one hour coastal walk from beautiful Hahei you'll descend into a hidden world. Actually there are two beaches, the first with a small waterfall and high cliffs, the second beach reveals itself magically after walking through a rock arch.

The best beaches in New Zealand: Cathedral Cove

In front of the soft sandy beach a wonderful white limestone tower stands up, behind that lies the deep blue of the Pacific. For us, the combination of remote seclusion, idyllic jungle environment and spectacular rock formations makes this clearly the best New Zealand beach!

Access to the second beach only at low tide, composting toilet available, parking at the northern end of Hahei Beach.

There are also kayaking tours and water taxis (ideal for the return trip back) to Cathedral Cove.

Apart from Hahei itself don't forget Hot Water Beach, where you can dig private hot pools at low tide. The nearby white beaches Cooks Bay and Maramaratotara are well worth a visit.

The best New Zealand beaches: Cathedral Cove

2 Ninety Mile Beach (Northland)

The best beaches in New Zealand: Ninety Mile Beach

Probably the most famous beach in New Zealand is a dream destination for various reasons. Its length is legendary, though not 90 miles long (three 30 mile day trips on horseback - only that the horses were much slower on sand than usual...the actual length is a still impressive 88 kms). Iit shapes the western Northland coast almost all the way to Cape Reinga, another travel highlight of any trip to New Zealand.

Also Ninety Mile Beach is extremely remote, looking towards the Tasman Sea and Australia beyond. The sand is amazing and the waves are often storm high, only on very calm days is a swim recommended, if at all. The beach is also an official highway, which allows exciting bus tours not only to Cape Reinga but also to the famous Te Paki sand dunes. And since this is a west coast beach, there are of course also spectacular sunsets to be had!

The best access is at the southern end at Ahipara with its beautiful Shipwreck Bay, or for vehicles there are various ramps like Waipapakauri (only at low tide of course and at your own risk, often the greatest obstacle is leaving the beach...). Bus tours also operate from the Bay of Islands.

Along the Kauri Coast there is a similar but even longer beach (110 kms of sandy highway), Ripiro Beach, the best access point is at Baylys Beach near Dargaville.

3 Truman track beach (West Coast)

The best New Zealand beaches: Truman Track Beach While nearly all South Island West Coast beaches are wild and dramatic, this beach stands out because of its uniquely beautiful access path and because the relatively small bay is perfectly cut into rocks.

A small waterfall tumbles down the cliff and instead of sand you'll dive into deep round pebbles of all colours.

10 minutes walk from the parking lot on the highway, not far north of wonderful Punakaiki with its Pancake Rocks, the wild main beach there and the nikau palm lined river basin.

4 Piha (Auckland)

The best New Zealand beaches: Piha

In New Zealand the term 'close to the city' does not necessarily mean that nature has not much to offer, the view from the access road to Piha beach and its 'Lion Rock' is unforgettable, the spray of the west coast waves often covers the whole bay in a fog. For many Aucklanders this is their favourite beach and has its own television series, showing the local surf lifesavers at work. Swimming there is legendarily dangerous because of the strong currents, swimmers can get pulled into the open sea within one minute!

Even without a swim, the sight of Lion Rock, the black volcanic beach and the beautiful bay is worth the journey over the Waitakere Ranges. The rocks at the southern beach end are also worth a stroll and in the forest there are beautiful walks through the jungle and to waterfalls.

Near Piha you can find more great beaches like Muriwai with its gannet colony, Bethell's Beach and Karekare, where 'The Piano' was filmed.

5 Matapouri Bay (Northland)

The best beaches in New Zealand: Matapouri Bay

In warmer Northland water temperatures are usually the highest, and this is probably the best swimming beach of all, which will delight both families and adventurers. The bay has a perfect horseshoe shape and is semi-protected, the waves usually have a nice height, attractive enough for all visitors. The sand is a dream and both the river estuary on the south and the coves on the north side are very photogenic. A short walk along the cliffs and you will find the idyllic and sheltered Whale Bay.

Whoever doesn't shy away from the extremely steep access can walk to the hidden Mermaid Pools, very inviting natural pools in lava rock, swimming is fun there but only recommended at low tide and a calm sea! Follow the path at the north end over the hill to get there.

The Tutukaka Coast near Whangarei has many other fantastic beaches, such as the even better protected Whangaumu Bay or Sandy Bay for surfers and boogieboarders. Divers and snorkellers should take a boat to the Poor Knights Islands marine reserve!

6 Abel Tasman National Park (Nelson)

The best New Zealand beaches: Abel Tasman

The insanely beautiful Abel Tasman area has long been famed for its golden beaches, idyllic multi-day hikes in coastal forests and exciting kayaking tours. All beaches are postcard-perfect and sometimes very remote, but the water taxis allow easy access even if one does not have much time to explore.

Especially worth mentioning are the bays around Anchorage and the beach at Awaroa Bay, which was taken out of private hands and purchased by a crowdfunding initiative by thousands of New Zealanders to preserve it for the public.

The Abel Tasman Coast Track begins at Marahau, north of Motueka and Nelson. Staying over is an option: many Abel Tasman beaches have wonderful Department of Conservation campgrounds.

7 Tolaga Bay (East Cape)

The best New Zealand beaches: Tolaga Bay

The most interesting beach in the East Cape region not only boasts long sand dunes and magnificent golden coloured cliffs at sunset, it also offers New Zealand's longest pier, an incredible 600 metres long! It is especially nice to watch the waves as they break under the pier.

The pier itself is extremely attractive, both from near and far above, either from Cooks Cove Walkway or the viewpoint at the northern end of the beach.

More beautiful beaches in the area north of Gisborne are Anaura Bay, Tokomaru Bay and Waipiro Bay.

8 New Chums Beach (Coromandel)

The best beaches in New Zealand: New Chums Beach

Another Coromandel beach, and many a New Zealander's favourite beach, can only be found after a wonderful coastal walk (including a small river crossing). It unveils itself in the end like an unspoiled paradise! Even the beach at Whangapoua, where the trail begins, is beautiful.

The path follows a rocky beach and leads into a nikau forest, finally over a small ridge, until you catch sight of yet another dream beach and can take off your shoes (at least)! There have long been rumours about a development, so you should not postpone a visit to your next New Zealand trip...

Access at the north end of Whangapoua Beach, at the end of a detour between Kuatonu and Coromandel Town.

Other beautiful beaches nearby are Kuatonu and the Otama Bay and Opito Bay beaches with their white dazzling sand.

9 Kohaiai (West Coast)

The best beaches in New Zealand: Kohaihai

The last beach reachable by road at the northern end of the west coast is ranked here as a placeholder for many more fabulous West Coast beaches.

At low tide the Kohaiai River flows out over sand into the to the ocean, the nikau palm reflections glisten in the river not far behind, the sunsets beyond the high waves are spectacular as is common on the West Coast, and where the road ends one of the most beautiful great walk in New Zealand begins, the Heaphy Track! A magical place complete with panoramic views from a lookout hill, a swing bridge and the peaceful feeling to be far, far away from the rest of the world.

Almost 2 hrs north of Westport, near Karamea, partially unsealed road.

After a one hour hike on the Heaphy Track you can get to another dream beach, Scotts Beach

10 Maitai Bay (Northland)

The best New Zealand beaches: Maitai Bay

And finally, once more a secluded Northland beach whose perfect round shape simply charms. The shallow water is crystal clear and the colourful rockpools invite discovery.

Maitai Bay is all the more stunning because right next door is an equally gorgeous bay called Merita Beach, the two are separated only by a pohutukawa-clad hill. There are numerous viewpoints and you'll find the North Island's second largest DOC campground for a cheap night's stay.

On the other side of the thin Karikari Peninsula there's a snow-white silica sand beach, Karikari Beach - a 100% pure New Zealand experience is guaranteed!

The best New Zealand beaches: Merita Beach

The Karikari Peninsula is located in the Far North, between Kaitaia and Mangonui, unpaved road at the end.

Another beautiful beach is Tokerau Beach along the way via Whatuwhiwhi, also Taipa Bay, Coopers Beach and golden Cable Bay along the road.

A list of only 10 best New Zealand beaches is pretty unfair, but an extended ranking would be impossible - therefore, here is a list of...

Further amazing beaches in New Zealand!

Moeraki (Dunedin/Otago): The famous Moeraki boulders are unique and because the beach is so close to the highway there's no excuse not to visit it. At the beautiful fishing village of Moeraki you'll find the road to Katiki Point, where fur seals and penguins can be seen.

Best beaches in New Zealand: Moeraki Boulders

Bruce Bay (West Coast): The most famous driftwood beach on the West Coast, right on the highway, so do not miss!

Best beaches in New Zealand Bruce Bay

Tunnel Beach (Dunedin): A dramatic beach with steep access south of Dunedin, where the waves eat into the sandstone and where a rich farmer once built a tunnel to the beach in the 19th century, so that his children could go for a swim.

Best beaches in New Zealand: Tunnel Beach in Dunedin

Ship Creek (West Coast): Near Haast Pass you'll find this beautiful nature reserve with a wild pebble beach, river estuary, lookout tower and a short walk in the bush.

Best beaches in New Zealand: Ship Creek on the west coast

Wharariki Beach (Nelson/Golden Bay): In the north of the South Island, at the end of the road, you'll eventually get to one of the best West Coast beaches of epic proportions, with huge archways, high sand dunes, giant rocks, a fur seal baby pup swimming pool and wonderful coastal forest behind it all - quite isolated, but unforgettable!

Best beaches in New Zealand: Wharariki Beach in Golden Bay

Raglan (Waikato): The best surf beach in New Zealand offers surf schools with boards for rent, Raglan itself is as cool and relaxed as the surfers are sipping their espressos.

Best beaches in New Zealand: Raglan Surf beach

Hokitika (West Coast): Right in front of this historic town you will find another typical West Coast beach full of driftwood.

Best beaches in New Zealand: Hokitika

Auckland (Auckland): The most beautiful beaches are opposite Rangitoto volcano, it's quite spectacular to look at a new volcanic island so close to a big city, anywhere from the North Shore beaches to St. Heliers.

Waihi Beach (Bay of Plenty): The long beach of the Waihi gold mining town is very popular and has a lot to offer, not least the vantage point on the Bowentown Heads.

Best beaches in New Zealand Waihi Beach

Ruakaka (Northland): The 27 km long Bream Bay is close to State Highway 1, the short detour is definitely worthwhile because of the beautiful scenery with the Whangarei Heads volcanoes and various offshore islands in the background. Also see the beautiful beaches of Mangawhai, Uretiti and Waipu Cove.

Best beaches in New Zealand: Ruakaka Bream Bay

Mount Maunganui (Bay of Plenty): The favorite beach in the Bay of Plenty is located at the foot of the volcano and viewpoint, never more than a few hundred metres from the nearest cafe, and just around the corner begins super long Papamoa beach!

Best beaches in New Zealand: Mount Maunganui surf beach

Goat Island (Auckland): A trip to the Matakana Coast usually involves a visit to the oldest marine reserve in New Zealand, where you can snorkel, dive and use a glass bottom boat.

Best beaches in New Zealand: Goat Island Matakana Coast

Ocean Beach (Northland): The 7 km long surf beach at the end of Whangarei Heads Road where swimming  is more dangerous than most east coast beaches, but provides wonderful views and the finest golden sand.

Best beaches in New Zealand: Ocean Beach at Whangarei Heads

Porpoise Bay (Southland): The beaches of Catlins Bay are notorious for their savagery, here the waves are particularly high, the wind particularly strong and the chances for wildlife viewings are particularly great, especially in the evening when the penguins return into neighbouring Curio Bay with its fossilized tree stumps.

Best beaches in New Zealand: Porpoise Bay Catlins

New Dicks Beach (East Cape): Another gem on the East Cape with its coastal route ideal for beach lovers.

Best beaches in New Zealand: New Dicks Beach

Titahi Bay (Wellington): Whoever likes English beach huts should perhaps take a detour from Porirua to this cove, where a small coastal path guarantees great pictures.

Best beaches in New Zealand: Titahi Bay

Oreti Beach (Southland): Also Invercargill has its very own attractive beach, where Burt Munro once tested his superfast Indian Motorcycle. You can also drive on the beach to enjoy the incredibly beautiful sunsets.

Best beaches in New Zealand: Oreti Beach in Invercargill

Kawhia (Waikato): Near the isolated village of Kawhia with its beautiful harbor lies another genuine 'Hot Water Beach', the geothermal activity may be limited to a small spot near the access point, but the beach is so beautiful and wide that a drive along the twisty road is certainly worth it.

Best beaches in New Zealand: Kawhia

Oriental Bay (Wellington): The prettiest bay in Wellington is not far from Te Papa National Museum, a real city beach which is full of sun seekers during summer.

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