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

New Zealand

New Zealand’s North and South Islands are so different in many ways. After traveling both, I’ve realized they are each just as stunning in their own ways. On the South Island, it is the dramatic Southern Alps, and in the North, it’s 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 tons of 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 beaches you don’t want to miss.

After road tripping around the North Island for several months, we explored dozens of beaches. And based on what we’ve seen, we 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 (on the North Island)

1. Waihi Beach, Bay of Plenty

Location: In the 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 both 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.

Where to stay near Waihi Beach

There are lots of great places to stay near Waihi Beach including tons of Airbnbs (which are great for those traveling in groups.)

Some of my personal favorite places to stay nearby are:

Beachaven Top 10 Holiday Park – This is a great choice if you want to be close to the beach. This 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. This resort also has large self-contained apartments.

2. Cathedral Cove, Coromandel Peninsula

Location: The Coromandel Peninsula, near the town of Hahei

Cathedral Cove has become somewhat famous 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. You can ask anyone, Cathedral Cove is easily one of the best beaches in New Zealand!

Cathedral Cove is located on the Coromandel Peninsula near Hahei Beach. It’s 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 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 in the area to really enjoy the stunning beaches (Hot Water Beach is also nearby!)

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 a 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’s located right at the trailhead to Cathedral Cove.

Be sure to also browse some of the Airbnbs in the area. Although they book up quickly, they are a great option for those looking for a more secluded stay, or even families or people in groups!

3. Piha Beach, Auckland

Location: The North Island’s West Coast, around a 45-minute drive west of Auckland

Piha Beach is one of the most popular beaches in New Zealand and it’s conveniently located on the North Island’s West Coast around a 45-minute drive from Auckland.

As it’s on the West Coast, Piha Beach has black sand caused by past volcanic activity. Its landscape is also very impressive and has a “Jurassic Park” 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 have massive 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!

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 powered campsites for motorhomes and campervans, 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 suite.

4. Muriwai Beach, Auckland

Location: The North Island’s 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 Beach. Muriwai Beach is not only a great beach for swimming and surfing, but it’s also home to a large Gannet colony.

Gannets are large sea birds that are native to New Zealand. These impressive birds nest on the cliffs at Muriwai Beach 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! We spent New Year’s Eve here once with some friends – it was wonderful!

Where to stay near Muriwai Beach

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

There are two different holiday homes you can also rent using Booking.com if you prefer that platform to Airbnb. 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.

5. Mount Maunganui, Bay of Plenty

Location: 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 Track – 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. Why not grab lunch and a beer here with a beach view?!

If you’re after a more secluded spot though, then head along the beach away from town and stop and one of the many small parking lots.

Mount Maunganui is a must-visit place on the North Island and is very popular with tourists. There are lots of fun 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, but instead just check them out for yourself!

6. Hot Water Beach, Coromandel Peninsula

Location: The Coromandel Peninsula, a ten-minute drive from the town of Hahei.

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

Hot Water Beach got its name because of the thermal vents that sit beneath it and heat up the sand and water. This means you can actually dig your own spa on the beach! This has become a super popular attraction in New Zealand and Hot Water Beach is often filled with visitors with a shovel in hand.

The only time you can enjoy the hot water is two hours on 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. It’s a great option if you don’t have a car and don’t have time to spend a couple of nights in the Coromandel area.

Where to stay at Hot Water Beach

Hot Water Beach Top 10 Holiday Park – Top 10 Holiday Parks 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. Otherwise, check out Airbnb for a huge selection of holiday homes for rent in the area.

7. Ngarunui Beach, Raglan

Location: The 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 including a range of hotels and guest houses, as well as Airbnbs. 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!) They 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

Location: The Coromandel Peninsula, right in the town of Hahei.

Hahei Beach is one of many from the Coromandel Peninsula on this list of the best beach in New Zealand’s North Island. 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 the best accommodation choices are:

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 a 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’s located right at the trailhead to Cathedral Cove.

9. Ninety Mile Beach, Northland

Location: At the very tip of the North Island in 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 near 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 any.

10. Onetangi Beach, Waiheke Island

Location: 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) from Auckland.

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.

There are a few places that stand out from the rest including:

Kiwi House Waiheke – This budget guesthouse is located only a short walk from Oneroa Beach (another beautiful beach in New Zealand) and includes breakfast. It is a comfortable option for those who don’t want to spend a ton.

Waiheke Island Motel – This motel is moderately priced, perfect for families or couples looking for a nice stay. They also have an onsite hot tub – perfect for enjoying an evening under the stars!

The Oyster Inn – If you’re looking for a luxury stay near the ocean then this is perfect! Get one of their king rooms with a sea view and enjoy the onsite bar and restaurant. The reviews for The Oyster Inn are also impeccable!

There are also tons of amazing Airbnbs to choose from on Waiheke Island!

12. Whale Bay, Northland

Location: Northland Region, on the Tutukaka Coast.

Whale Bay is located in Northland (where many of the best beaches in New Zealand are located!) 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 swimming.

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 daytime, Whale Bay’s 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 nearby area. This is largely because this region is remote (but that’s what makes it so spectacular!)

Some great places to stay near Whale Bay include:

Quality Hotel Oceans Tutukaka – This hotel is a great budget option located in the town of Tutukaka (about a 5 minute drive from Whales Bay.) It is a colorful hotel located right on the marina with great reviews!

– True North B&B – This bed and breakfast is also located in Tutukaka. It is charming and small but perfect for couples in their queen room, or families in their apartment or 2 bedroom suite!

Pacific Rendezvous Motel – This motel offers apartments with stunning ocean views. Located a little bit out of town, this is a peaceful luxury escape only minutes from Whale Bay.

Near Whale Bay there is also a variety of Airbnbs available. Many are larger houses suitable for families or groups traveling together.

13. Sandy Bay Beach, Northland

Location: Northland region, about a 40-minute drive from the city of Whangarei. 5 minutes from Matapouri.

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

Sandy Bay is popular among surfers and swimmers and is actually only a short 5-minute drive from Whale Bay and the town of Matapouri. 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 Sandy Bay

You can spend one night camped at Sandy Bay. However, if you’re looking for accommodation, Sandy Bay is very close to Whale Bay and Matapouri, so some great places to stay include:

Quality Hotel Oceans Tutukaka – This hotel is a great budget option located in the town of Tutukaka (about a 15-minute drive from Sandy Bay.) It is a colorful hotel located right on the marina with great reviews!

– True North B&B – This bed and breakfast is also located in Tutukaka. It is charming and small but perfect for couples in their queen room, or families in their apartment or 2 bedroom suite!

Pacific Rendezvous Motel – This motel offers apartments with stunning ocean views. Located a little bit out of town, this is a peaceful luxury escape only 20 minutes from Sany Bay.

Near Sandy Bay there is also a variety of Airbnbs around. Many are larger houses suitable for families or groups traveling together.

14. Bethells Beach, Auckland

Location: 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. I was so blown away by its beauty that I just had to include it on this list of the best beaches in New Zealand.

Bethells 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.

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!

Since Bethells Beach is only about a 45-minute drive from Auckland, it is easily visited on a day trip. However, there are a few noteworthy places to stay if you fancy spending a night or two exploring the area. With more time, you’ll be able to check out the nearby sand dunes and O’Neils Bay too!

Where to stay near Bethells Beach

Bethells Beach Cottages – These luxury cabins are all self-contained and only a short walk from Bethells Beach. Some cabins have ocean views and they have a hot tub on site for guest use. It’s a luxury escape at Bethells Beach!

Ruru Cottage – This Airbnb is a 2-bedroom holiday house that sleeps up to 8 people. It is located a short 2-minute drive from Bethells Beach and has amazing reviews!

Bethells Magical Retreat – This 3-bedroom house is an Airbnb located only a short walk from Bethells Beach. The house sleeps up to 8 people and includes a full kitchen and a gorgeous indoor fireplace.

15. Tapuae Beach, New Plymouth

Location: 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 or New Plymouth.

But besides camping, Tapuae Beach boasts incredible sunsets and crashing waves that are picture-perfect. Although the ocean can be a little rough for swimming sometimes, the river mouth near the campsite is a popular swimming spot for locals and tourists!

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 the city of New Plymouth. Here you have many more accommodation options since you are in a large New Zealand city.

By destinationlesstravel.com

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