It’s a conversation topic that can divide families and friends – and nope, we are not talking about politics. It is, of course, what beach is the best in the country?
We asked some of our Stuff colleagues for their favourites, but let us know your top coastal destinations in the comments section below.
Paradise Beach, Charteris Bay, Canterbury
It’s not the typical Kiwi beach most people think of: there are no sweeping stretches of sand, not even particularly clear or warm waters. But the beach at Charteris Bay, Paradise Beach, has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, thanks to a bach on the hill built by my grandad in the 1950s.
Access to the beach is down some steep steps and the beach itself is secluded, small and shelly, but the water is calm and clean, making it ideal for swimming and kayaking, with a number of trees to shelter under. Once in the water, you’ll be swimming against a dramatic backdrop of Quail Island, King Billy Island and the epic Port Hills, marked by Sugarloaf and its iconic 120m transmission tower at the peak.
Juliette Sivertsen, Chief News Director – Travel
Castlepoint Beach, Wairarapa
Rain or shine, there’s something majestic about the natural beauty of Castlepoint Beach in Eastern Wairarapa. For water lovers, there are two spots for swimming, surfing and boogie boarding (available for hire from the store) to choose from, while kids can enjoy making their way down fantastically high sand dunes.
There’s also the comfortable walk up to the historic Castlepoint lighthouse (tallest in the North Island and one of two left with a rotating beam) or for the more rugged adventurers, the walk up Castle Rock itself – pop over the ridge to Christmas Bay for a more secluded beach experience. Top the day off with ice cream at the store or a drink at the pub, or travel a bit further north and explore the rock pools at Mataikona beach.
Gianina Schwanecke, Reporter: The Post
Corsair Bay, Lyttelton Harbour, Canterbury
Hang a right after the Lyttelton Tunnel to reach this immaculate beach with views across Banks Peninsula. White sand and grass offer plenty of room to while away the afternoon and the calm waters are perfect for swimming.
Paddle out to the floating pontoon or leap straight off the jetty. On the way back, make sure to check out the effortlessly cool port town of Lyttelton.
Stephen Heard, Travel Content Director – Production
Back Beach, New Plymouth
New Plymouth’s Back Beach is the best in the city. It usually catches a little more swell than other city beaches, so it is great for surfers in summer. It is also flanked by Paritutu Rock and the Ngā Motu Islands, which you can explore at low tide. There are multiple rock jumps on the islands and, if you’re brave enough to swim across shark alley, a salt water lagoon to swim in on one of them.
There’s endless fun, or fitness, to be had running up and down the sand schute access to the beach, or sliding down it on a boogie board. And, due to it facing west, it is one of the best vantage points in the city to watch the sun set.
Blanton Smith, Regional News Director
Waipātiki Beach, Hawke’s Bay
40 minutes north of Napier is the best beach. There’s beautiful white sand, clear water and powerful surf. The beach is in a gorgeous setting with dramatic cliffs on one side and native bush walks just minutes away.
There’s also a lagoon, a creek with a swing, and a grassy reserve which is great for some cricket or frisbee. The drive in is narrow and windy, but so worth it once you’re there.
Erin Gourley, Reporter: The Post
Split Apple Rock, Tasman
While tourists flock to the beach to see the famous rock, often by kayak or boat, Split Apple is a lot more than just a photo op. It’s one of the best swimming spots in the country, has golden sand and caves to explore at low tide. It’s also a lot less crowded than nearby Kaiteriteri, and only 15 minutes further by car.
Phillip Rollo, Sport Reporter
It’s crowded, it’s arguably commercialised, and its sand has to be imported from the nearby estuary every year, but Kaiteriteri beach in Tasman is still a stunner.
It’s a perfect cove with golden sands, safe surf for kids, and an estuary that fills up at high tide and is perfect for beginner kayakers. It’s cheek by jowl in the campground at this time of year, but that’s just testament to how good it is: sun and socialising, swimming, stand-up paddleboarding, a flying fox and playground for the kids, ice cream or coffee at the shops across the road for all. Kaiteriteri is also the gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park. No wonder it often rates in lists of top 10 beaches in the world.
Joanna Davis, Editor – Homed
Hot Water Beach, Coromandel Peninsula
This beach has it all – good surf, hot pools to dig and soak (two hours either side of low tide), rocks to explore, a bush walk, glow-worms, dotterells nesting (stay clear), picnic spots, clear water.
Lifeguards are on duty over summer, and it’s essential to swim between the flags as strong rips can form quickly, especially near the hot pools. But don’t let that deter you. It’s an amazing beach. And in winter, when the crowds have gone, you often get the beach to yourself.
There’s a camping ground, plus lots of Airbnb properties. And there’s a store for ice cream and fish bait, a great cafe (with frequent “open mike” nights), and a cool little art gallery opposite the beach. You will need to pay for car parking.
Colleen Hawkes, Senior Journalist – Homed
Waimarama, Hawke’s Bay
Just 30-35 minutes from Hastings. The view from the hill before the descent down to the beach settlement lifts your spirits.
Driving in, the cemetery where Bruno Lawrence rests, in the area where Blerta used to hang out. Ice-cream by day, fish and chips by night at the general store. Walks to a beach long enough for a good run, and to keep your dog happy. Ocean stretching to Chile or somewhere. Lifeguards watching over us as we bash ourselves against the waves. The aspect of Bare Island looking back towards us. Memories of beach cricket and kicking a football, our younger selves. Never a bad day at Waimaz. (Footnote: I tried to buy a house there once but the owners were going through a relationship split and one refused to sign the agreement. Heartbreak. On another occasion my father-in-law failed to tell me the house next door was selling for $90,000. Even worse.
Grant Harding, News Director Regional
Sydney Cove, Ulva Island
The idea of lying on a beach full of tourists doesn’t fill me with glee, so I prefer the more remote options, and they don’t really get much more remote than Ulva Island.
The tiny wildlife sanctuary is a must-do when travelling around Stewart Island/Rakiura. There are a couple of beach options where you can just leave the world behind and just watch the curious weka, and if you are lucky, some kiwi visitors. When I was last there, even a sea lion showed up for a quick bake in the sand.
Alan Granville, Stuff Travel Journalist
Let us know your favourite beaches in the comments section below.