Whilst we have entered winter and might feel slightly depressed – read utterly devastated – at the upcoming dark and cold days, the other side of the world is looking at days on the beach, suntans and BBQ.
We would love to join them, we might have to live vicariously and only dream of where we could go if only we could escape winter.
Here are 7 of my favourite beaches in Aotearoa, an extremely personal – and probably contentious – list of places I genuinely cannot wait to go back to.
1. Northland – Ninety Mile Beach
The highway to end all highways, Ninety Mile beach, which is in fact 55miles long, is a touristy attraction it would be hard to miss. Whilst the stretch used by tour buses to get people to Te Paki (to bodyboard the dunes) is usually crowded, there are a lot of amazing spots along the way. From Kaitaia to Cape Reinga, dunes, wild horses, the wildness of the West Coast of Northland and endless beach offer a lot of possibilities. Warning: if you aren’t sure about driving, don’t. There is a reason most rental companies include a clause that prohibits tourists to take their vehicles on a joy ride along the beach. There is a real risk of getting stuck or of sinking your car if you don’t know exactly where to drive.
2. Auckland – Piha
Auckland might be the biggest city in Aotearoa but it still boasts some impressive beaches. Whilst a teenage me loved Takapuna, a short bus drive from my house, Piha was a regular day trip too when my friends could borrow a car. The best-known surf spot in NZ, Piha’s black sand might be attractive but let’s not forget this is one place where water is king. Dangerous currents and floods are never far so whilst this is an amazing beach you should definitely check out, always remember to be safe!
3. Coromandel – Cathedral Cove
Another touristy and crowded spot, Cathedral Cove (Te Whanganui A Hei) is well worth the trip nonetheless. This should definitely be your destination but don’t miss out on the Cathedral Cove Walk. It starts at Hahei Beach and passes Gemstone Bay and Stingray Bay. The area is a marine reserve so get your snorkels on, walk around, go for a swim or simply take as many pics as you can!
4. Wellington – Lyall Bay
The coolest little capital in the world has a lot to offer and its region is full of amazing locations and yes, beaches. The Kapiti coast is incredibly beautiful and is a must-do for all visitors. However, living in Welly meant my go-to “local spot” was Lyall Bay. It’s right by the airport and also a sometime decent surf spot. Most importantly, it’s super accessible, chilled and unpretentious beach where kids and dogs run around, people say hello when then pass you on their afternoon stroll and surfers spend more time watching the planes go by then actually surfing. In other words: paradise.
5. Abel Tasman National Park – Torrent Bay
Abel Tasman is perfect. There is no spot within this national park that isn’t amazing, awe-inspiring and pinch-yourself-this-place-actually-exist worthy. It would actually be extremely easy to do a “7 best beaches in Abel Tasman National Park” or even to simply list every single beach within the park and be done with it. But here is the thing. Torrent Bay is popular and “crowded” – this is NZ, nowhere is crowded, so read here: you won’t be alone – and there is a very good reason for it. Not only does it boast beautiful yellow sand and crystal clear water, it’s also here that you can cross the Torrent Bay Estuary at low tide.
6. Dunedin – St Kilda/ St Clair
Just off South Dunedin, St Kilda/ St Clair is a long stretch of beach that appeals to everyone. You can swim, you can surf, you can stroll on the promenade, check the shops, eat ice cream… With nothing between this beach and the Antarctic but water, this is the best place to while a day away whilst in Dunedin.
7. West Coast of the South Island
South of Aoraki (Mount Cook) but north of Wanaka is Haast, a region not many bother with, even though UNESCO awarded it the status ofWorld Heritage area. It’s windy, the beach is strewn with driftwood and yet it is so eerily beautiful you will never want to leave. If you’re after a lovely day on the beach complete with cocktails in between dips in the sea, this is not for you. If, on the other hand, you want to experience raw nature, a feeling of being the last person on the planet and are delighted by the crazy shapes driftwood can take, you won’t want to give this a miss.