Glaciers, bungy jumping, even hobbits perhaps? These are probably the sort of things that first made you ponder a trip all the way to New Zealand. Beaches were probably not even near the top of your list. But, in a land as blessed with staggering natural beauty and geological oddities as New Zealand, it should come as no surprise that there’s also no shortage of stunning sandy bits to help you soak up some of that summer sun.
Whether you’re hoping to just lie back and relax in a scene taken straight from a postcard or meet some of the country’s friendlier creatures, you’ll find a wealth of options. So, here, after much debate, are our favourite eight. Hot water Beach, Coromandel This is perhaps one of the only New Zealand beaches that can be comfortably enjoyed all year round. Hot Water Beach is a popular geothermal attraction located on the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula, in the Waikato region of the North Island. It is aptly named because digging a moderately sized hole in the sand near the rocks at the southern end of this beach will reveal naturally heated mineral water from a volcano’s underground reservoir. The best time to make your own personal hot tub in the sand is two hours either side of low tide. Take care when jumping in though, as the water can reach up to 64Â°C when released from its underground fissures. Once the hot water bubbles to the surface, visitors can enjoy lying in their very own beach side pool. It’s a relaxing end to the day after a comparatively cool swim in the ocean. Piha Beach, Waitakere Piha Beach, located on the west coast of the North Island, is arguably New Zealand’s best surf beach because of its large swells. It is also credited with being the birthplace of NZ board riding in 1958. Many national and international surfing competitions have taken place there over the years. Besides the crunchy black sand found on many west coast beaches, due to nearby volcanic eruptions, and ideal surf conditions, Piha Beach’s defining feature is the 101 metre high Lion Rock. This impressive monolith resembles a seated lion staring out towards the sea and his ‘shoulder’, located two thirds of the way up, is a great climb for outstanding views. An energetic endeavour such as this, however, is best left until the cooler part of the day. Cathedral Cove, Coromandel Cathedral Cove is named for the overhanging rock formation that visitors must walk through to get from Mare’s Leg Cove to Cathedral Cove. The remains of several more arches offshore create the atmosphere of an illustrious cathedral surrounding the gleaming beaches. Both beaches are in a marine reserve called Te Whanganui-A-Hei (Cathedral Cove) that has some of New Zealand’s best snorkelling beaches full of intricate underwater caves and colourful reefs. Sheltered from the worst of the wind, this strip of pristine white sand is unspoilt and the area is only accessible by foot or boat. It is a very picturesque spot and the cave/beach was also used in the movie Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, as the magical place where the Pevensie children first re-enter Narnia. There’s no denying Cathedral Cove is a truly magnificent beach. Kaiteriteri Beach, Abel Tasman Located at the top of the South Island, Kaiteriteri is the opening to the Abel Tasman National Park. The popular destination is surrounded by native bushland, rocky cliffs and is full of beach houses, campsites and holiday parks. Indeed there is so much to see and do that visitors often stay for extended periods of time. Besides the magnificent cliffs full of limestone and marble, which create the iconic turquoise coloured inlets, there is an abundance of amazing wildlife to see. Native birds, seals and dolphins frequent the area and the perfect way to spot them is to go snorkelling, sea kayaking or simply walking along the scenic bush tracks that line the beach. The area is also famous for having the highest number of sunshine hours in New Zealand, which means more beach time to soak up the sun, frolick with the marine locals and enjoy the stunning scenery.