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The Bay of Islands and wider Northland region is blessed with some of the most beautiful beaches in New Zealand – if not the world! Discover golden sands fringed by native trees, clear blue water, rolling breakers or sheltered coves. Whether you’re staying in the Bay of Islands or exploring further afield, here are our top picks of the best Northland beaches to swim, snorkel, fish or sunbathe to your heart’s content.
Bay of Islands Beaches
Paihia Town Beach
The main beach in Paihia is a popular place for swimming, sunbathing and picnics, being conveniently close to shops and most Paihia accommodation. It’s a great spot to launch your kayak or sailing boat as well. The annual open ocean water swim between Russell and Paihia finishes here.
Te Tii Bay
At the northern end of Paihia lies Te Tii Bay, a golden sand beach lined with native pohutukawa trees. Te Tii is a generally calm beach suitable for swimming and fishing and has a popular children’s playground at one end.
Here’s a local secret – just outside Paihia is a lovely secluded bay called Sullivan’s Beach. It’s popular with families and swimmers thanks to its sheltered aspect. There’s no road access – to get there, walk around the rocks from the southern end of Paihia Town Beach. It’s best to make the journey at low tide.
Long Beach (Oneroa)
While the main beach at Russell (Kororareka Bay) is a lovely spot for a dip, locals and visitors alike prefer to pop over the hill to Long Beach. It’s a pleasant 20-minute walk from Russell’s main township through peaceful residential areas, or a short drive with parking available right on the waterfront. Living up to its name, Long Beach has an expansive area of golden sand about a kilometre from end to end with safe, sheltered swimming in all tides. After your swim, soak up the sun and enjoy views out to beautiful Roberton Island.
Oke Bay is situated in a lovely, isolated part of the Cape Brett Peninsula. It is beautiful at low tide for swimming and sunbathing. Pods of dolphins are regular visitors. Close to the settlement of Rawhiti (the starting point of the Cape Brett walking track), it can be accessed via a short track. Oke Bay provides the perfect setting for a romantic sunset stroll and is a must visit for people who are looking to go a little off the beaten track.
Directions: off Rawhiti Road, about 29 km from Russell.
Far North Beaches
Just north of the Bay of Islands, the meandering Takou River ends its journey in the centre of a secluded surf beach surrounded by rolling green hills. There’s plenty to explore on this long stretch of sand. Dive into the waves, wander up the river, explore the rocks at the end of the beach or just relax.
Directions: Heading north, turn right off State Highway 10 down Takou Bay Road.
This bay located about 45 minutes’ drive north of Paihia. Locals call the road overlooking the bay ‘Million Dollar View Road’ – after a spectacular drive down its winding curves, a long white sand beach with crystal clear water awaits. It is a perfect place to camp overnight and the water offers good fishing and safe swimming, as well as occasional opportunities for surfing. Matauri Bay is a popular place for snorkelling and diving, and is also notable as the resting place of the Rainbow Warrior, now a living reef off the nearby Cavalli Islands. A memorial to the vessel stands on the cliffs overlooking the bay.
Directions: Approximately 55km north of Paihia. Turn right off State Highway 10 onto Matauri Bay road.
Surrounded by lush native rainforest, this bay is located just east of the northernmost point in New Zealand, Cape Reinga. Being located at the very top of the country, it is open to the elements, but on a calm, sunny day it provides a fantastic lunch spot for travellers who have made the trip up to the far north. It also provides a perfect place to cool down and wash off in the surf for those who are brave enough to climb the giant dunes to go sand boarding at nearby Te Paki stream. A DOC campsite provides minimal facilities for those staying overnight.
Directions: Approximately 200km north of Paihia; turn right off State Highway 1 onto Tapotupotu Bay Road.
The silica white sands of Rarawa Beach provide a stunning contrast to the clear blue water that laps its shores. With its southern point providing good fishing and the open beach good surf, this is the perfect place to camp overnight at the DOC campsite and wake early to explore this remote and beautiful place.
Directions: From Kaitaia follow State Highway 1 north. The turn-off from SH 1 is signposted, three kilometres north of Ngataki.
This pristine, stunningly beautiful beach is hidden away in the Whangaroa bay about an hour’s drive north of Paihia. A true-blue marine playground, its gentle curve of sand is perfect for swimming, fishing, snorkelling or diving, kayaking and surfing.
Directions: Heading north from Paihia, follow State Highway 10 to the Whangaroa harbour and turn right onto Taupo Bay Road. Drive to the end (about 10km).
Matai Bay on the outer Karikari Peninsula is a beautiful gem – a sheltered crescent-shaped bay with picturesque white sand and a backdrop of pohutukawa trees. Families and boaties alike will enjoy its charms, and a DOC campsite provides basic facilities.
Directions: Approximately 113 km north of Paihia. Follow State Highway 10 until after Taipa, turn right onto Inland Road for 15km then turn left onto Matai Bay Road. The last few kilometres are on a gravel road.
Staff tip: “Matai Bay is the best beach ever – it’s so blue!” – Noeleen Orr, Cashier
East Coast Beaches
When the wind and surf are up, this is definitely the place to be to get some waves. Although it is a fair distance from the nearest town of Russell, it remains a popular place for both tourists and visitors alike. Offering both reasonable left and right hand waves, you will often find both surfers and body boarders in the water enjoying the warm water, but it is also a great place for a swim or a snorkel around the rocks. Pay a small fee at the farm for access to the beach and the water.
Directions: Approximately 33km from Russell. Take Russell Whakapara Road and Manawaora Road onto Rawhiti Road.
Staff tip: “Elliots Beach is a nice little surf beach with crystal clear water. Just about a kilometre or two south of there is Taupiri Bay, which has prolific fish life so it’s great for snorkelling. Elliot’s and Taupiri Bay are just amazing spots.” – Barry Neilsen, Operations Manager
A short drive from the Bay of Islands, this kilometre long beach provides a perfect and sheltered place for families to spend a sunny summers day. With swimming and sunbathing a standard, Oakura beach also gives you the opportunity to explore the nearby Goat Island or navigate over the rocks to play in the large rock pool. Oakura Beach is a beautiful beach adjacent to the entrance to the Whangaruru Harbour.
Directions: Approximately 40km from Russell. Follow Russell Whakapara Road and Russell Road to Oakura Road.
Staff tip: “Oakura is an amazing horseshoe bay, and at the top of the hill about five kilometres away there’s a cafe and art gallery which looks out over the bay.” – Charles Parker, General Manager
This quite secluded little bay is situated on the Tutakaka Coast and offers some of the best surf in Northland. Daisy Bay gets its name from the large clusters of daisy flowers that often spring up in the grasses behind the beach. With an impressive headland at its northern point and a steep decent from the impressive hills behind, it provides a perfect amphitheatre for the crowds to watch the surfing contests that are held here each year.
Directions: Approximately 80km south of Russell, on the Tutukaka Coast.