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15 BEST Beaches in New Zealand (on the North Island)

Last updated : September 27th, 2020

Best beaches in new Zealand

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Here are simply the absolute best beaches in New Zealand, specifically on the North Island (ones you don’t want to miss!) I’ve included important info about each beach including where they are located and how you can visit for yourself! 

New Zealand’s North and South Islands are so different in many ways. In fact, they are commonly said to be like to different countries.

To me, I totally agree and after traveling both I realized they are both just as stunning in their own ways. On the South Island, it is the dramatic Southern Alps that made me fall in love, and in the North, it was the breathtaking beaches.

But with so many incredible beaches lining every coastline, how do you know which ones to visit and which ones to miss?

The North Island of New Zealand is filled with amazing beaches to explore, all different in their own way. From the volcanic west coast to the crystal clear waters of the east coast, there really are some special beaches.

After road tripping around the North Island for several months, we explored dozens of beaches. And based on what we’ve seen, we’ve narrowed it down to the best 15 beaches in New Zealand on the North Island – each with something special to offer! Regardless of whether your traveling New Zealand for an epic adventure or you’re on a New Zealand honeymoon this blog is for you!

The 15 Best Beaches in New Zealand’s (on the North Island)

1. Waihi Beach, Bay of Plenty

Waihi Beach, New Zealand
Beautiful sunsets at Waihi Beach
Where? Bay of Plenty, around a 30-minute drive from Tauranga
town center.

Waihi Beach is located on the edge of the Coromandel in the Bay of Plenty. This stunning beach is popular among surfers and beach-goers alike.

One of the biggest drawcards here is the moderate swell which means it’s great for swimming and surfing. The beach itself is very long so there are plenty of places to relax and enjoy some sun.

The nearby town of Waihi is filled with small cafes and a few bars which make it an ideal beach getaway destination on the North Island of New Zealand.

Another awesome thing about Waihi Beach is that there is actually a freedom camping area only meters from the beach. Here, you can camp for free in a self-contained vehicle for 3 nights of every month.

Where to stay near Waihi Beach

Beachaven Top 10 Holiday Park – This is a great choice if you want to be close to the beach. The holiday park has dorm rooms, cabins, and even apartments. Prices are reasonable and the reviews speak for themselves.

Athenree Hot Springs and Holiday Park – Still close to the beach, but this place also has its own thermal hot spring! Rooms here are cheap with their budget double room costing less than $100 NZD.

Waihi Beach Paradise Resort – The Paradise Resort is as the name suggests, paradise. But prices are still really good and start at $340 NZD for a two bedroom cottage. These guys also have large self-contained apartments.

2. Cathedral Cove, Coromandel Peninsula

Cathedral Cove, New Zealand
This is the stunning Cathedral Cove
Where? The Coromandel Peninsula, near the town of Hahei

Cathedral Cove has shot to fame after the Narnia films used it as a shooting location. Since then, visitors have flocked to this magical place to see its impressive rock formations. In my opinion, Cathedral Cove is one of the best beaches in New Zealand!

Cathedral Cove is located on the Coromandel Peninsula near Hahei Beach. It is a stunning place to spend a day, however, it is best to visit at low tide when you can walk through the cove.

To reach Cathedral Cove you’ll either need to take the water taxi from Hahei Beach or enjoy the walk to Cathedral Cove via an easy but beautiful track. It takes around 30 minutes to walk to the beach from the car parking lot.

If you’re short on time you can do a day trip to Cathedral Cove from Auckland, however, I recommend staying a night or two.

Where to stay near Cathedral Cove

To stay near Cathedral Cove you’ll need to stay in the small coastal town of Hahei. Here are some of the best places to stay in Hahei:

Tatahi Backpackers – This is your only backpacker option in Hahei. It’s perfectly located close to Hahei Beach and Cathedral Cove. Tatahi Backpackers offers dorm rooms and budget private rooms.

Robyns Nest – I love Robyn’s Nest! If you’re lucky enough to get a booking here (it is often booked up) it’s a lovely place to stay. I stayed here on my visit and had a great time. The room is a studio apartment and comes with shovels (for hot water beach), a BBQ, and full kitchen.

Cathedral Cove and Sunrise – If you want to be close to Cathedral Cove and don’t mind paying for it, then this is the perfect place to stay. The apartment starts at $300 NZD per night but has amazing views. It is located right at the trail head to Cathedral Cove.

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3. Piha Beach, Auckland

Piha Beach, New Zealand
The view of Piha Beach on the drive-in!
Where? West Coast, around a 45-minute drive west of Auckland

Piha is one of the most popular beaches in the North Island and one of the best beaches in New Zealand. It’s located on the west coast around a 45-minute drive from Auckland.

As it’s on the west coast, Piha has black sand caused by its previous volcanic activity. Its landscape is also very impressive and has a “Jurassic” feel to it. You’ll understand what I mean when you see the large steep hills that surround the beach covered in lush vegetation – amazing!

Although Piha is very beautiful, this beach does see very large swells and rip-tides are common. The beach is patrolled and flags are set up where it’s safe to swim. Be sure to swim between the flags!

Piha beach is easily visited on a day trip from Auckland as it’s so close. If you don’t have a car, consider joining a tour from Auckland.

Where to stay at Piha Beach

Piha Domain Motor Camp – If you want to be as close to the beach as possible, this is your only option. These guys only offer campsites for powered sites for vehicles, so if you’re in a car you’ll need to stay at one of the places below.

Piha Beachstay Accommodation – This is a great budget hostel near Piha Beach. It has dorm beds for as little as $45 NZD per night and private rooms that start at under $100 NZD. It’s close to the beach and not up the hill (which saves a lot of hard walking!)

Romantic Piha – This place is stunning. It’s located close to the beach but up the giant hill so you’ll need a car if you’re staying here. This suite is situated on the cliffside surrounded by lush vegetation. It’s one of a kind and you’re renting an entire suit.

4. Muriwai Beach, Auckland

Muriwai Beach, New Zealand
The stunning landscapes and wildlife at Muriwai Beach
Where? West Coast, around a 45-minute drive west of Auckland.

Muriwai Beach is another black-sand beach on the west coast just north of Piha. Muriwai is not only a great beach for swimming and surfing, but it’s also home to a large Gannet Colony.

These impressive birds nest on the cliffs at Muriwai between the months of August to March. Visiting the birds at sunset is one of the best things to do in New Zealand.

Muriwai is a great beach to visit on a day trip from Auckland, however, it’s also an amazing place to spend a night or two and catch a few sunsets!

Where to stay in Muriwai

Unfortunately, there are no hotels near Muriwai Beach, but there are some great places on Airbnb. We stayed at a lovely AirBnB during our visit and had an amazing time!

There are two holiday homes you can also rent using booking.com if you prefer. They are:

Exclusive Sanctuary on the West Coast – This home sleep up to 13 people with 3 bedrooms and multiple sofa beds! It has a full kitchen including a dishwasher and microwave. The entire place has air conditioning and the views are simply incredible!

Coast Retreat Muriwai – This holiday home is a short drive from the beach. It features two bedrooms and sleeps up to four people. It features an outdoor hot tub and shower as well as a kitchenette.

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5. Mount Maunganui, Bay of Plenty

Mount Maunganui Beach, New Zealand
The view of the beach from Mount Maunganui summit
Where? Bay of Plenty, in the city of Mount Maunganui.

Mount Maunganui is a city beach located in the heart of the Bay of Plenty. It’s a white-sand beach that stretches for miles. Many use this beach to cool off after hiking up Mount Maunganui – a short trail that leads to a breathtaking viewpoint looking over the beach and city.

Another great thing about this beach is that you’re not far from many amazing bars and restaurants as the beach runs along the town center. If you’re after a more secluded spot though, then head along the beach away from town and stop and one of the many car parking lots.

Mount Maunganui is a must-visit place on the North Island and is very popular with tourists. There are so many amazing things to do in this region which is why it’s so popular. My tip is to not stay in Tauranga (the big city near Mount Maunganui), it’s just not as nice as Mount Maunganui itself!

Where to stay in Mount Maunganui

Mount Backpackers – If you’re after a great budget option in a really good location then this is your best choice. They only offer dorm rooms that start at $32 NZD per night. This hostel is close to the beach and the start of the hike up Mount Maunganui.

Oceanside Resort and Twin Towers – Our first private hotel option is in a great location and comes with a pool, spa, and wellness center. It is reasonably priced and has good reviews.

The Mission Belle Motel – For the price, ratings, and location this is the best hotel in Mount Maunganui in my opinion. This hotel has a 9.4 rating and, well, I could go on and on, instead just check them out for yourself!

6. Hot Water Beach, Coromandel Peninsula

Hot Water Beach, New Zealand
Relaxing in hot water at Hot Water Beach!
Where?The Coromandel Peninsula, a ten-minute drive from the
town of Hahei

Hot Water Beach is the most unique beach on the best beaches in New Zealand’s list.

It got its name because of the thermal vents that sit beneath it heat up the sand and water. This means you can actually dig your own spa on the beach! This has become super popular and in the summer months, the beach is filled with visitors with a shovel in hand.

The only time you can enjoy the hot water is 2 hours either side of low tide, so be sure to check the tide times before you plan your visit! If you want to know where to find the vents (they’re only in one spot) then check out our Hot Water Beach blog post.

You can do an organized tour from Auckland that visits Hot Water Beach, Cathedral Cove, as well as other interesting points on the Coromandel Peninsula. They’re a great option if you don’t have a car!

Where to stay at Hot Water Beach

Hot Water Beach Top 10 Holiday Park – Trusty Top 10’s are dotted all over New Zealand and they’re always a great budget option or for those in campervans or tents. You can even get a private room right on the beach starting at only $100 NZD per night.

Hot Water Beach Surf Sound Cottage – Here, you’re renting an entire house that sleeps up to five people. It’s perfect for families and has great reviews. It’s also close to the beach.

Accommodation is very limited at Hot Water Beach and there are only a few places on Booking.com. However, you can stay in Hahei Beach (near Cathedral Cove) as it’s only a 10-minute drive away.

7. Ngarunui Beach, Raglan

Ngarunui Beach, New Zealand
The stunning coastal areas of Raglan!
Where? West Coast, around a 40-minute drive west of Hamilton.

The beaches that surround Raglan are arguably the nicest in New Zealand. This cute beach town is the gateway to amazing surf, white sand beaches, and a very laid back lifestyle.

The most popular beach in Raglan is Ngarunui Beach. This long stretch of beach gets amazing surf perfect for all ability levels. In fact, the beach is home to many surf schools to get you up on a board in no time (even if you’ve never surfed before!)

Where to stay at Ngarunui Beach (in Raglan)

Raglan is a holiday town so there are tons of places to choose from when it comes to accommodation. Some great places to consider are:

Raglan Backpackers – This hostel is the perfect option for those on a budget looking for a social place to stay. Dorms go for as little as 40 NZD a night but they also offer private rooms. The hostel is located 800m from Raglan town center and a 10 minute drive from Ngarunui Beach.

Raglan Holiday Park – Although a 5-minute drive from Ngarunui Beach, this holiday park is located right on the water near the river (perfect for swimming!) The offer queen rooms, campsites, and larger cabins for families or groups.

Longitude Apartments – These fully self-contained apartments are ideal for families or groups of friends traveling together. Each apartment has everything you could need and more including a BBQ, patio, and full kitchen.

8. Hahei, Coromandel Peninsula

Hahei Beach, New Zealand
Stunning sunrise at Hahei Beach!
Where?The Coromandel Peninsula, right in the town of Hahei

Hahei Beach is one of many from the Coromandel Peninsula on this list. The reason is that the Coromandel region is famous for stunning white sand beaches – and Hahei is no exception!

This beach has little to no surf so it’s really popular among swimmers. At the beach, you can rent kayaks and enjoy both amazing sunsets and sunrises.

Where to stay near Hahei Beach

Staying overnight in the town of Hahei is the best way to enjoy this picturesque beach. Hahei is right next to Cathedral Cove, so check the recommendations for places to stay in the Cathedral Cove section above.

9. Ninety Mile Beach, Northland

Ninety Mile beach, New Zealand
Credit – Big Stock – RenataAp
Where?At the very tip on the region of Northland

Ninety Mile Beach is one of the largest beaches I’ve ever seen but it doesn’t quite stretch for 90 miles, it’s actually 55 miles! Regardless it is amazing! Ninety Mile Beach is located at the very tip of Northland and starts at Cape Reinga.

The beach is famous for sandboarding, horse riding, oh, and driving (as the beach is actually a registered highway!)

If you want to visit New Zealand’s largest beach and don’t mind getting off the beaten path in Northland, then it’s the perfect beach to visit in New Zealand!

Where to stay at Ninety Mile Beach

Ahipara is the most popular town to visit 90 Mile Beach from. From here, you can join a range of tours or drive the beach yourself. The best places to stay in Ahipara is:

Ahipara Holiday Park – This is one of the only budget options in Ahipara. They have dorm rooms all the way up to apartments that come at very cheap prices.

90 Mile Paradise – This is a good mid-range option. There’s no minimum stay (lots of places have 2 to 3-night minimums!) It’s super close to the beach and has amazing reviews.

Ahipara Tranquility – This is the perfect place for large groups. This house sleeps 6 people and has everything a house should. It has awesome reviews and is right on the beach. It does have a 3-night minimum stay though (although, you’ll likely want to stay longer anyways!)

10. Onetangi Beach, Waiheke Island

Onetangi Beach, New Zealand
Credit – Big Stock – NSpiers
Where?Waiheke Island off the coast of Auckland

Waiheke Island is filled with amazing beaches and one of the best is Onetangi Beach. To visit this spectacular beach you’ll first need to get to Waiheke Island. Luckily, it’s only a 40-minute to 80-minute journey (depending on the ferry you take).

You can visit Waiheke Island for the day, however to make your trip even more amazing, stay for a few nights! Some awesome things to do on Waiheke Island include going on a wine tour, relaxing on a beautiful beach (well duh), and going on hikes or kayaking trips.

In fact, there is so much to do there you really have to see all the activities for yourself!

Where to stay on Waiheke Island

Waiheke Island isn’t large but it isn’t small either and there are a lot of places to stay around the entire island. There is no right or wrong place to stay because by bike you can cover all the areas where hotels are located quite easily.

So, just pick a hotel in your price range and you’re sure to enjoy your stay!

You can view all the hotels on Waiheke Island here.

11. Browns Bay Beach, Auckland

Browns Bay, New Zealand
Credit – Big Stock – mrcmos
Where?Just outside Auckland City in the suburbs

As far as beaches go that are actually in Auckland, Browns Bay is easily one of the best. This beach is actually really nice for a city beach and is perfect for swimming.

We actually found this place because of the very cheap caravan camping near the beach (Long Bay Reserve). For around $6 NZD a person you can camp here in your vehicle. There are showers and toilets at the beach so it’s really the perfect spot near Auckland to camp.

The beach is very popular with locals and has very little swell so it’s great for swimming!

Where to stay near Browns Beach

In my opinion, it’s best to stay in Auckland city center and make a day trip out to Browns Bay. This is because there is so much to do in Auckland and not much to do out in Browns Bay.

However, if you do want to escape for the city for a bit, just stay at the nearby council run caravan campground there – it is basic, but beautiful!

12. Whale Bay, Northland

Whale Bay, New Zealand
The calm waters of Whale Bay!
Where?Northland Region, on the Tutukaka Coast

Whale Bay is located in the Northland region of New Zealand. This tiny bay is one of the most beautiful and calm bays on the North Island. It sees little to no surf so it’s perfectly safe for swimmers.

The beach is also home to many beach trees which visitors can use to hide from the harsh New Zealand sun before taking a dip in the water.

During the day time, Whale Bay’s car parking lot gets completely full with visitors so it’s best to visit earlier on in the day to secure a parking space.

Where to stay near Whale Bay

There isn’t any accommodation at Whale Bay, but here are a few good hotels in the relative area. This is largely because this region is remote (but that’s what makes it so spectacular!)

Quality Hotel Oceans Tutukaka

True North B&B

Pacific Rendezvous Motel

13. Woolleys Bay, Northland

Woolleys Bay New Zealand
Enjoying dinner at the freedom camping zone!
Where?Northland region, about a 40-minute drive from the
city of Whangarei

Woolleys Bay is another one of my favorites of the best beaches in New Zealand’s and is the perfect place to freedom camp! At Woolleys Bay, you can actually camp for free with a self-contained and non-self-contained vehicle and tent.

Woolleys Bay is popular among surfers and swimmers and is actually only a short 5-minute drive from Whale Bay. This beach does get busy but it’s simply because of just how nice it is!

If you do plan on freedom camping, be sure to arrive early as there is very limited space.

Where to stay near Wooleys Bay

Woolleys Bay is very close to Whale Bay so the accommodation options are the same. Please see the above section!

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14. Bethells Beach, Auckland

Bethells Beach, New Zealand, North Island
Bethells Beach, New Zealand, North Island
Where?Only a short drive from Auckland on the West Coast of
the North Island

Bethells Beach was the first beach I visited in New Zealand and I was so blown away by its beauty it just had to make my list of the best beaches in New Zealand.

The beach is located only a short drive from Auckland and although it’s not great for swimming because of the huge swells (perfect for surfers) it’s the landscape that draws people here. It’s best to visit Bethells Beach on a day trip from Auckland.

The beach is huge and you simply must walk the length of it and explore the caves on the south end. There is a small cafe on the beach so sit back and have a relaxing day at one of New Zealand’s best beaches!

15. Tapuae Beach, New Plymouth

Tapuae Beach, New Zealand

Where?Just south of New Plymouth near Mt Taranaki

New Plymouth is a very popular place for surfers who come here for the large swells and amazing waves. The coastline is stunning and we found a very quiet beach just south of the city called Tapuae Beach.

We actually spent 3 nights freedom camping here at Corbett Park. There are toilets and bays set out for your vehicle as well as free running water.

This is a great place to stay for those here to visit Mt Taranaki. Be sure to spend a night in the Pouaki Hut, it’s one of the most breathtaking places to visit in New Zealand.

Where to stay near Tapuae Beach

Oakuru Beach Holiday Park – This is a really good budget option right on the beach. Rooms start at under $80 NZD per night and this place has amazing reviews.

Chalets at Oakurukuru – A beautiful hotel that specializes in apartments all with a sea view. You’re sure to have an amazing time out of the big city at this beach side hotel!

New Plymouth – A great option is to stay in New Plymouth. Here you have many more accommodation options since you are in a large New Zealand city.

Getting Around the North Island

getting to the beaches in nz
Check out this cute campervan by Mad Campers!

Rental Car

With a rental car, you can easily move around New Zealand as you please and have a lot of freedom. For that reason, a rental car is a good option and in my opinion, the second best way to get around NZ and all of the gorgeous beaches.

A great car rental search engine is Airport Rentals. They have a massive selection of rental cars you can compare to get the cheapest price!

Campervan or Motorhome

Renting a Motorhome or Campervan is the best way to travel in New Zealand. The freedom to camp where you want and have your own home on wheels is amazing. This is exactly how Bailey and I traveled in New Zealand.

Finding the right rental can be hard especially with so many out there. My recommendation is the use the website Motorhome Republic. This is essentially a search engine for motorhomes where you can easily compare prices and book your campervan or motorhome!

However, if you want to use either Tui, MAD CAmpers or Kiwi Motorhomes then book direct with the discount codes below to automatically save 5%!

Campervan and Motorhome Discount Codes

Tui Rentals TUI05 5%
Kiwi MotorhomesDEST55%
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New Zealand has a large bus network that covers much of the country. It is very affordable and there are lots of routes available. Intercity is the main New Zealand bus company that operates from city to city.

Although good, you just don’t have the freedom to explore off the beaten path places this way!

As you can see, many of the best beaches in New Zealand are located on the North Island – and the 15 listed above are the absolute BEST of the best!

The North Island’s warmer weather and longer summers are another one of the reasons they are so popular. The best part is that there is so much variety all over the North Island so you are never far from a stunning beach.

This list of the best beaches in New Zealand’s should get you off to a great start on seeing this magical coastline!

Keep Reading….

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Is Hobbiton Worth it?

Moving to New Zealand – Everything you need to know

We have written more than a hundred blogs about visiting New Zealand – check them all out!


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About the Author - destinationlesstravel

We are Dan and Bailey, just your typical thrill-seeking travelers! You will likely find us hiking, scuba diving, catching public transport, or just drinking beer at a hostel.

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