I am a little loath to call this list 'the best beaches in New Zealand'. What does that mean - the most beautiful, the safest for swimming, the most dramatically scenic, the best for surfing or fishing or snorkelling or something else entirely .......? Well, you get my point I'm sure – we all have our own idea of 'best' depending on what we are looking for.
Personally, I like beaches in New Zealand where my footprint is the only one in the sand or where nature has painted one of her most glorious pictures. This could be places where the beach is wild and dramatic – strewn with incredible drift wood; a secret little cove where the pohutakawa trees tumble down from the hillside to the water's edge; somewhere with impossibly coloured rocks, sand and sea, all converging together; a beach with idyllic rock-pools to explore or, as a surfer, a place where the waves roll in.
New Zealand has so many to choose from and I am always changing my mind.....today these are my favourites.
1. Rarawa - Northland, North Island
This stunning dune backed beach has sand so fine that it squeaks when you walk on it and feels like talcum powder on your feet. What's more it is such a pure white that on a sunny day it is eye-dazzling. Despite its beauty and easy access you can often have it all to yourself, aside from the endangered New Zealand dotterel which nests here in summer that is.
There is a Department of Conservation site set by the river if you want more than just a day trip.
2. Otarawairere - Bay of Plenty, North Island
This picturesque shell strewn beach is only accessible on foot from the west end of Ohope beach, by following a walkway and steps which give you stunning views of the Bay of Plenty. Once you arrive you feel tucked away and secluded. Here you can just laze on the sand and soak up the super beautiful scene, swim in the sheltered waters, snorkel, collect shells or explore the rock-pools.
3. Waikawau Bay - Coromandel Peninsula, North Island
The Coromandel Peninsula seems to have more than its fair share of lovely beaches but because of its proximity to Auckland these can get a little crowded in the summer months. However, the further north you go, the tinier the roads get and the crowds thin out – such is the case with Waikawau Bay.
A long sweeping sandy crescent with a total hide-away air.
4. Marlborough Sounds - Marlborough, South Island
This entry is a bit of a cheat because it isn't one beach but potentially hundreds. This sparsely populated area, typified by steep wooded hills and cove after hidden cove might just be paradise for seclusion seekers and nature lovers. The area is made up of 50 Department of Conservation reserves and although some of the beaches are accessible by car, many are only reached by hiking or boat.
Get a map, pack a spirit of adventure and prepare to be stunned by every possible shade of blue and green which nature has in her palette.
5. Matai Bay - Kerikeri Peninsula, Northland, North Island
Matai Bay, with its twin crescents of pale gold sand lapped by clear aquamarine waters (often pond-like still) is so perfectly picturesque that you will see its image appearing again and again on tourist literature. However, despite its beauty and image familiarity, it is hardly ever crowded and quite often deserted.
There is a Department of Conservation camp site here which gives you stunning views to wake up to.
6. Waiapau Rivermouth - Eastland, North Island
If wild, woolly, dramatic and deserted conjure up a great picture for you then this hard-to-access beach strewn with not just driftwood but whole trees may just be for you. This deep in Maori land beach isn't about lazy sunbathing and safe swimming – it's about adventure and exploration.
The truth is, you can't really go wrong in New Zealand where beaches are concerned. Pick an area, go exploring and beautiful beaches (no matter what your definition of beautiful or best is) will appear in front of you at almost every turn. Happy hunting.
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