Best Beaches in New Zealand’s North Island

Best beaches in new Zealand

This blog lists the best beaches in New Zealand’s North Island. It includes important info about the beaches as well as where they are located! 

Best Beaches in New Zealand’s North Island

New Zealand’s North and South Islands are so different in many ways. They are commonly said to be like to different countries. To me, I totally agree and after travelling both I realised they are both just as stunning in their own way. In the South Island, it is the stunning Southern Alps that made me fall in love and in the North, it was the breathtaking beaches.

The North is filled with amazing beaches to explore all different in there own way. From the volcanic west coast to the crystal clear waters of the east coast there really is a beach for everyone and every activity.

Here are the best beaches in New Zealand’s North Island!

Waihi Beach

Where: Bay of Plenty, around a 30-minute drive from Tauranga town centre.

Waihi Beach is located on the edge of the Coromandel in the Bay of Plenty. This stunning beach is popular among surfers and beachgoers alike. One of the biggest drawcards here is the moderate swell that 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.

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!

Best beaches in New Zealand's north island
Beautiful sunsets at Waihi Beach
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Piha Beach

Where: West Coast, around a 45-minute drive west of Auckland

Piha is one of the most popular beaches in the North Island. 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. This is due to the large steep hills that surround the beach that are covered in lush vegetation.

Although Piha is very beautiful, this beach does see very large swells and rips 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 is one of the best beaches in New Zealand's north island
The view of Piha on the drive in!

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 its 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.

The best beaches in new Zealand
The stunning landscapes and wildlife at Muriwai Beach
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Mount Maunganui

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 you’re not far many great bars and restaurants as the beach runs along the town centre. If you’re after a more secluded spot though, then head along the beach away from town and stop and one of the many carparks.

best beaches in New Zealand
The view of the beach from Mount Maunganui summit


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 have never surfed before!)

Raglan is one of the best beaches in New Zealand's north island
The stunning coastal areas of Raglan!


Where: Coromandel Peninsula

Hahei Beach is one of many from the Coromandel Peninsula on this list. The Coromandel 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. Staying overnight in the town of Hahei is the best way to enjoy this picturesque beach.

best beaches in New Zealand's North island
Stunning sunrise at Hahei Beach!

Whale Bay

Where: Northland region

Whale Bay is located in the Northland region of New Zealand. This tiny bay is one of the most beautiful and sees little to no surf so it’s perfectly safe for swimmers. The beach is also home to many beach tree’s which visitors use to hide from the harsh New Zealand sun before taking a dip in the water. During the day time, Whale Bay’s carpark packs out with visitors so its best to visit earlier on in the day.

Best beaches in new Zealand
The calm waters of Whale Bay!

Woolleys Bay

Where: Northland region.

Woollys Bay is another one of my favourites of the best beaches in New Zealand’s North Island 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. If you do plan on freedom camping, be sure to arrive early as there is very limited space.

Related Read:   Freedom camping in New Zealand - Our life in a self-contained van!

best beaches in new Zealand!
Enjoying dinner at the freedom camping zone!

Cathedral Cove

Where: Coromandel Peninsula

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. 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. It takes around 30 minutes to walk to the beach from the carpark.

Cathedral Cove is one of the best beaches in New Zealand's north island
This is the stunning Cathedral Cove

Hot water Beach

Where: Coromandel Peninsula

Hot Water Beach is the most unique beach on this best beaches in New Zealand’s North Island list. It got its name because of the thermal vents that sit beneath it that 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.

Hot water beach is one of the best beaches in New Zealand's north island
Relaxing in hot water at Hot Water Beach!
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Many of the best beaches in New Zealand are located on the North Island. The North’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 North Island should get you off to a great start on seeing this magical coastline!

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