These top-10 places are ordered by location from the north to the south of New Zealand.
Bay of Islands
The subtropical climate of Northland’s Bay of Islands, as well as the many sheltered coves, bays and inlets, make this place perfect to explore by paddleboard. Located towards the northern tip of the North Island and 3 hours' drive from Auckland, the water here is warm year-round. If you’re lucky, you might be joined by dolphins which are often seen in this area. Base yourself in the seaside towns of Paihia, Russell or Kerikeri.
Combine paddleboarding with some of the best snorkelling in New Zealand when you paddle out to Goat Island, off the coast of Leigh - an hours' drive north of Auckland, and the perfect day trip from Auckland. You’ll glide over seaweed jungles and see a variety of fish species through the crystal-clear water. Goat Island is a marine reserve, so it is recommended that you strap snorkelling gear to your paddleboard so you have the option to jump in and experience what is below the water as well.
Since New Zealand's largest city sits right on the water, Auckland's sheltered inlets around Auckland are a great place to explore by paddleboard. Easily accessible and centrally located, paddleboarding here is great to get a different perspective on the city. Lessons are offered from the beaches around Orakei, Point Chevalier, Mission Bay Beach and Takapuna – all within 20 minutes' drive of the CBD.
This spectacular West Coast beach is a quintessential New Zealand 'surf town'. It offers something for everybody – Raglan is home to a calm harbour, the stunning pancake rocks as well as adrenaline-pumping surf for the experienced. Raglan is a 2-hour drive south from Auckland. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, grab fish and chips and eat it on the beach, kiwi-style!
Head out for a paddleboarding session from Whangamata, one of the Coromandel’s most beautiful beaches. The Coromandel is a peninsula 2 hours' south-east of Auckland, full of small beach towns and inland rainforest. Enjoy the calm estuary, or if you’re confident and after a challenge, paddle out to Donut Island and back – a 2km round-trip.
The calm waters of the Tauranga Harbour are the perfect place for beginners to get the hang of paddleboarding, without swells or waves coming at you. For more of a challenge, head out off Mount Maunganui beach – a cool coastal town with lots of cafes, bars and surfers. Only 20 minutes from central Tauranga, the waves of 'The Mount' - as locals call it - will put your Paddleboarding skills to the test.
Rotorua, located in the central North Island, is perhaps the most unusual place in New Zealand to go paddleboarding. A town famous for its geothermal activity and Maori culture, Rotorua is only a 3-hour drive south of Auckland. Here you can explore lakes, narrow channels, freshwater springs and even hot springs on your Paddleboard. Crystal-clear water will makes you feel like you are floating on air. Head to Lake Rotoiti, Lake Tikitapu and Lake Tarawera.
There’s both sheltered estuaries and pumping surf in Gisborne, located on the East Coast of the North Island – so there’s something for everybody. This region is heartland New Zealand and a 6-hour drive from Auckland. Gisborne is the first place to see the sun in New Zealand, so an early-morning Paddleboarding session here is truly magic. After getting out on the water, make sure you get out and experience the culture and heritage that is abundant here.
The Abel Tasman National Park, located at the tip of the South Island, is known for its high sunshine hours and settled weather conditions – as well as its translucent waters, white-sand beaches, rocky outcrops and fascinating wildlife. You’ll share the water with fur seals and dolphins, making paddleboarding here a truly unforgettable experience. Head to Marahau, the gateway to the national park as a starting point, and make sure you allow a few days - camping here is spectacular.
During summer, the waterways around Christchurch are a great place to paddleboard. Explore Lyttelton Harbour, a 20-minute drive from central Christchurch, or take an hours' drive to Akaroa and paddle with penguins and the world's smallest (and cutest) dolphins, the Hector's dolphin.