6 Best Beach Areas in New Zealand

New Zealand, with over 15,000 kilometers of coast line, is home to many beautiful beaches.  Some are sandy, some are rocky; some are empty, some are popular.  No matter what you’re looking for in an afternoon at the beach, one of these destinations is sure to please…

Karikari Beach

Running along the Karikari peninsula in Northland are miles of white sandy beaches and deep blue seas.  If you’ve ever had any fantasies about pristine, South Pacific beaches this is your destination.  These beaches are perfect for long walks, playing in the surf and relaxing in the sun.  Just be sure to bring your sunscreen!

Sand Highway

While you’re in the area…  The west coast of the Northland peninsula is home to the famous Sand Highway: where you can drive your vehicle down the beach.  It’s a very unique drive that’s worth doing at least once in your life, but be careful to try this only when the ground is dry.  Many vehicles have gotten stuck in the wet sand here.

Hot Water Beach

The North Island’s Coromandel Peninsula is known to one of the most unusual beaches in the world: Hot Water Beach.  Just as the name would imply, the water that flows underneath the sands is heated.  This happens naturally, though geothermal activity deep below the ground, about an hour on either side of low tide.

Beachgoers bring their own shovels and dig sandpits along the tideline, allowing the hot water to seep in and fill the holes.  Be sure to get there early and stake out a good spot!

Abel Tasman

This sunny national park on the South Island is home to some stunning, golden beaches (check out the aptly named Golden Bay).  You can rent a kayak and paddle around the still waters for a fantastic view of the shore and the dramatic granite cliffs that loom above the water.

You can also get a great view of the beach from the Abel Tasman trail…  One of New Zealand’s famous ‘Great Walks’.  Just remember to book your hut passes ahead of time, as this track is extremely popular in the summer.


On the South Island, Kaikoura is a small seaside town, boasting some of the most beautiful coastline in the country.  The beaches here are rocky, rather than sandy, but for sightseers and wildlife lovers, you won’t be able to do much better.

The Kaikoura Mountain range meets the ocean quite dramatically, making for an excellent backdrop.  The seal colony (just south of town, along the peninsula’s coast) is a scenic spot for a few pictures as well as to get an up close look at New Zealand fur seals.


Located at the south-eastern corner of the South Island, the Catlins is an untamed area where sheep farms meet the dramatic coastline.  The region is fairly quiet and isolated, making it ideal for long walks down the sandy beaches and wildlife spotting.  If you are in the area at the right time, you can watch yellow-eyed penguins come up from the sea.  The beaches down here are also home to seals, dolphins and a petrified forest.