The best beaches in New Zealand

From secluded white sand beaches to some of New Zealand’s best surf strips, our guide to the best beaches New Zealand ticks all the boxes. You’ll also find plenty of restaurants on the water to relax at after soaking in some summer vibes – so get ready to line up some sand, surf and sunshine on a getaway to remember. You’ll also find out how you can save on your trip this summer.  

Napier (North Island)

a close up of a hand holding tiny black pebbles in focus whilst thebeach in the background
Pebbles from Napier Beach. Image from Sokoudom Ung on Unpsplash.

Known for its prolific art deco architecture, Napier is also home to a range of classic beach experiences. Dip your toes in at Ahuriri Beach, a lovely swimming beach near Nelson Quay. Further north, Westshore Beach is perfect for both swimming and surfing. While not safe to swim, Napier Beach offers a scenic oceanfront boardwalk.  

If that’s enough to give you an appetite, refresh yourself near the water at Boardwalk Napier, overlooking Perfume Point. For some fine dining, Pacifica Restaurant plates up acclaimed degustation and seafood experiences. 

Where to stay

Situated in the heart of New Zealand’s art deco capital Quality Inn Napier is only a short walk to the water. 

Palmerston North (North Island)

beach shore at sunset with dark orange and purple skies. slow waves coming onto the shore.
Head down to Foxton Beach at sunset for some beautiful scenery. Image from Joshua Bayliss on Unsplash.

On the banks of the Manawatū River, Palmerston North is a short trip to the Cook Strait. Take a scenic 30-minute drive to Himatangi Beach, home to the largest sand dune fields in the Southern Hemisphere. Nearby Tangimoana Beach is accessible by 4WD. 

You’ll find another relaxed spot for swimming, kiteboarding and surfing at Foxton Beach, 30 minutes from town, and Waitārere Beach, a wide strip patrolled during the summer. Round the day off with dinner at Arranged Marriage, a cosy Indian eatery at Brewers Apprentice

Where to stay

Palmerston North has you covered, from the tree-lined Comfort Inn Kauri Court, to the Quality Suites Central Square located near the New Zealand Rugby Museum.

Tutukaka (North Island)

landscape image of a beach with lush green hills in the background
Matapouri Bay in the later afternoon in winter. Image form david113 on Unsplash.

Stunning white sand beaches set against a backdrop of dramatic volcanic islands. The Tutukaka Coast is a slice of paradise. Ten minutes from town, peaceful Matapouri Bay encompasses one of the best New Zealand beaches North Island has to offer, with first-class views of the water and headlands. 

You can also roll out a towel at nearby Whale Bay, a picturesque beach 10 minutes walk from the beach car park. For more action, Sandy Bay Beach is one of the area’s best surf spots. Enjoy perfect post-beach dining at Schnappa Rock.

Where to stay

Home to the popular Wahi Restaurant, Quality Hotel Oceans Tutukaka is located next to Tutukaka Marina and some of the world’s best diving. 

Christchurch (South Island)

black and white image of a person looking out to the beach with a pier to the left of him.
New Brighton Beach, New Zealand. Image from jannapeat on Unsplash.

Christchurch sits at the heart of outdoor adventure, only moments from sheltered and open ocean beaches. Enjoy a splash at New Brighton Beach – this famous 18km beach is home to ocean pools, walking tracks and a pier. Twenty minutes away, Corsair Bay Beach serves stunning bay views and idyllic swimming conditions.

Situated where the estuary meets the Pacific, sandy Sumner Beach is a patrolled swimming spot. Nearby Cave Rock is a popular area for both experienced and beginner surfers. Enjoy  a meal and creative cocktail at the end of the day at Fiddlesticks Restaurant and Bar or The Monday Room – a couple of the best restaurants in Christchurch.

Where to stay

Relax at Quality Hotel Elms, situated in a peaceful rose garden setting. Centrally located Quality Suites Amore is located near attractions such as the famous Riccarton Bush farmers market.

Timaru (South Island)

dark blue and green ocean waves with white spray
Dark waves at Timaru. Image from Oscar Keys on Unsplash.

Situated in the limestone-rich region of South Canterbury, Timaru is home to scenic Caroline Bay Beach. Voted ‘most popular beach on the South Island’, swim out to the pontoon and enjoy the sandy stretch that is sheltered by the harbour breakwater and picturesque cliffs.

Caroline Bay also has a resident rookery of little penguins, beach boardwalk and public artworks. Relax at the end of the day with a meal in The Oxford, home to a popular brasserie set in a classic 1925 bar, or enjoy some Asian-fusion at Street Food Kitchen.

Where to stay

Only a few minutes’ walk from Caroline Bay, The Comfort Hotel Benvenue is also located near the Aquatic Centre and Aigantighe Art Gallery.

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