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20 Best Beaches in Northland, New Zealand | Your guide from a local (2024)

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Are you on the hunt for the best beaches in Northland? Look no further as this list contains all the summer hotspots.

As a Kiwi who has lived in Auckland for 27 years, I’m pretty lucky to have spent a lot of time in Northland over the years. One of my favourite summer activities is to jump in the car and head up north for the weekend.

It’s no secret that New Zealand has some amazing beaches, and a lot of them are located in the Northland region at the top of the North Island. If you’re looking for the perfect place to enjoy the sun, sand, and sea, you won’t be disappointed.

No matter what your preferences are, you’re sure to find the perfect beach in Northland.

Northland Beaches Map – Quick Guide

Here’s where you’ll find all the best spots:

best-beaches-in-northland
  1. Cable Bay
  2. Maitai Bay
  3. Matauri Bay
  4. Ninety Mile Beach
  5. Paihia Beach
  6. Rarawa Beach
  7. Topeka Point Beach
  8. Tapotupotu Bay
  9. Taupo Bay
  10. Tauranga Bay
  11. Tokelau Beach
  12. Langs Beach
  13. Mangawhai Beach
  14. Manapouri Bay
  15. Ruakaka Beach
  16. Uretiti Beach
  17. Waipu Cove
  18. Whale Bay
  19. Whananaki North and South Beach
  20. Kai Iwi Lakes

20 Best Beaches in Northland

From picture-perfect bays to sweeping white sand beaches, there’s something for everyone. For those who enjoy swimming and sunbathing, Matapouri Bay is a great choice. The water is calm and shallow, making it perfect for a refreshing dip.

Alternatively, if you’re looking for a beach with more of a surfing vibe, Mangawhai Heads is the place to be. With its long stretches of sand and surf breaks, it’s a popular spot for both locals and visitors alike.

Best Beaches in the Far North District

1. Cable Bay

Cable Bay is a gorgeous sheltered beach that is perfect for swimming and lounging out on the warm golden sand. Located in between Taipa and Coopers Beach, this stretch of sand isn’t as well known but is incredibly beautiful and definitely worth a visit.

I love this spot and I always tend to swing by here on my way back to Auckland if I’m travelling down from further north.

There’s the Cable Bay store across the road which is perfect if you need to cool down with ice cream on a hot summer’s day. The scoops are known for being pretty generous so you’re sure to get your money’s worth!

Where to stay near Cable Bay


2. Maitai Bay

matai-bay-karikari-peninsula

Maitai Bay is hands down one of my favourite beaches in the Northland region and it has been for years. I try to visit here at least once each summer.

Being a bay the water is nice and calm so it’s perfect for swimming, standup paddleboarding and kayaking. In the summer the water is lovely and warm as the bay doesn’t get deep too quickly.

It’s a place that reminds me a bit of Fiji, somewhere you definitely have to see for yourself! I’ve visited in the heat of summer and towards to end of the season in April and surprisingly the water was still warm enough to swim in.

The best part about Maitai Bay is that it never really gets that busy. I was there over the Easter holidays recently and stayed at the campground and there was still a ton of room on the beach for everyone. I love the campground here too, it really is a slice of paradise.

Where to stay near Maitai Bay


3. Matauri Bay

Matauri Bay is best known for the beautiful Rainbow Warrior shipwreck that lies offshore. The wreck is now a dive site for certified divers and a fish sanctuary.

The bay itself is also lovely with golden sand and crystal-clear water. It’s a great place to relax and soak up the sun or get out the surfboard. With an easterly swell, it can be a popular spot for surfers.

If you venture to the ridge above the bay you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views over the headland, look out for the Cavalli Islands.

It’s located 30km northeast of Kerikeri in the Bay of Islands. There is a popular campground here, perfect if you want to enjoy a longer stay in true Kiwi style.

Where to stay near Matauri Bay


4. Ninety Mile Beach

ninety mile beach northland

Despite the name, Ninety Mile Beach isn’t actually ninety miles long. There’s a story about how the beach got its name, back when European settlers visited.

They knew their horses could travel 30 miles a day, and it took them 3 days to reach the end of the beach, so they came to the conclusion the beach must be 90 miles long. However, they didn’t take into account that their horse was slower on the sand.

This beach is an iconic New Zealand destination and one that everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime. It’s best known for being a surf beach but you can also find plenty of fishing spots along the way.

One of the fun things about Ninety Mile Beach is that you can drive along it! This is because it’s an official highway in New Zealand.

If you do give it a go, best you’ve got a 4WD and any rental cars are a no-no as you’re likely not covered if anything was to happen.

You’ll find Ninety Mile Beach located on the west coast of the Northland region.

Where to stay near Ninety Mile Beach


5. Paihia Beach

paihia beach bay of islands
Photo by Look Up Look Down Photography on Unsplash

Paihia Beach is one of the best places to stay in Northland as it’s right in the heart of the Bay of Islands. This means you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to activities and there’s always something going on.

During the day you can go swimming, boating, or fishing off the pier. Or, if you’re feeling more adventurous there’s kayaking, standup paddleboarding and parasailing on offer. The Bay of Islands really is a hive of activity and I love visiting the area.

In the evening you can stroll along the waterfront, enjoy a meal at one of the restaurants or watch the sunset with a cocktail in hand.

Paihia Beach is also a fantastic place to learn to surf as there are some great surf schools in the area.

Where to stay near Paihia Beach


6. Rarawa Beach

Rarawa Beach is one of the best beaches in Northland for those who want to get away from the crowds. It’s located down a 4-kilometre gravel road, about an hour’s drive from Kaitaia in total.

But it’s worth the effort as this beach is simply stunning. The sand is white and soft, and the water is a beautiful turquoise colour.

There’s a lagoon you can swim in here too if the beach seems a little rough. Due to the exposed beach break care needs to be taken in the water.

Where to stay near Rarawa Beach


7. Tapeka Point Beach

Tapeka Point Beach is best known for the Tapeka Point Historic Reserve which is located at the southern end of the beach.

The reserve is home to an old Maori pa site, as well as a lighthouse. The views from the top are simply stunning and definitely worth the walk-up.

The beach itself is also lovely with golden sand and plenty of room to relax. It’s a great place to come for a picnic or a swim. Be sure to walk along the rocks at the southern end of the beach where you’ll find lots of interesting tide pools.

Tapeka Point Beach is located just north of Russell in the Bay of Islands.

Where to stay near Tapeka Point Beach


8. Tapotupotu Bay

tapotupotu bay northland
Photo by Jeff Tweed on Unsplash

Tapotupotu Bay is one of the best beaches in Northland for camping and it’s also the farthest north you can camp! It’s located down a long gravel road, about an hour’s drive from Kaitaia.

It’s a DOC campsite so the facilities are pretty basic but it’s perfect if you want to save some money.

Tapotupotu Bay is stunning with fine white sand and crystal-clear water. It’s perfect for swimming, snorkelling or just relaxing in the sun.

There are also some great walks in the area if you want to explore further. Tapotupotu is part of the four-day Te Paki Coastal Track.

Where to stay near Tapotupotu Bay


9. Taupo Bay

Taupo Bay is surrounded by native bush which makes for a pretty stunning setting. Known as one of the best beaches in Northland, this stunning bay should be near the top of your list.

It’s great for swimming or surfing depending on the conditions. On a calm day, the bay will be pretty flat but if there’s a bit of wind and a swell coming through, the waves pick up.

I would highly recommend staying a weekend here, it’s a great place to relax and stay off the beaten track for a bit. When I stayed here it was over a long weekend in February and the beach wasn’t busy at all, you really feel as though you’ve got the place to yourself which is pretty special.

Taupo Bay is located about an hour’s drive from Kaitaia.

Where to stay near Taupo Bay


10. Tauranga Bay

Tauranga Bay is a beautiful kilometre-long stretch of golden sand and is a fantastic swimming spot. The water is crystal-clear making it a great place to dive as well.

There’s a campsite located here too if you want to stay the night. I’ve stayed here before over the Easter holidays and it was such a relaxing place to be, the campsites are true beachfront sites which are becoming harder and harder to find!

It’s worth staying here overnight to really soak in the magic of this place. The campsite offers a range of cabins as well as powered and unpowered campsites.

Where to stay near Tauranga Bay


11. Tokerau Beach

Located in the stunning Karikari Peninsula on the northwestern side of Doubtless Bay this gorgeous beach is definitely worth a visit. I’ve visited Doubtless Bay countless times and it’s a place I’ll happily return to again and again.

Like most beaches located in the far north, you’ll find fine white sand and clear blue water, Tokerau Beach is no exception! Seriously the further north you go, the more beautiful the beaches get.

Tokerau Beach is best known as the place to go kitesurfing in the far north. The bay faces north so it gets some good wind conditions which makes it perfect for kitesurfing.

If you’re not into kitesurfing, it’s still a lovely place to relax or take a swim.

Where to stay near Tokerau Beach


Best beaches in Whangarei district

12. Langs Beach

langs beach northland

With its long stretch of white sand and turquoise water, Langs Beach is simply stunning and a popular weekend getaway spot for Aucklanders.

This beach is great for swimming, surfing or just relaxing in the sun. There are some lovely walks in the area too if you feel like being a bit adventurous.

This beach is great for swimming, surfing or just relaxing in the sun. It’s also a popular spot for fishing with plenty of good spots to cast a line.

Langs Beach is located about an hour’s drive from Whangarei and is definitely worth the trip! I’ve only been here once but it is definitely on my list to return to this gorgeous spot.

Where to stay near Langs Beach


13. Mangawhai Beach

mangawhai heads beach new zealand

Mangawhai Beach is a beautiful sandy beach located on the east coast of the North Island. It has become a pretty popular summer destination and it’s easy to see why.

I’ve visited Mangawhai Beach countless times and it never fails to disappoint. Not only is the beach gorgeous but the town has such a fun, relaxed vibe that’ll have you not wanting to leave! It’s certainly worth spending some time exploring the boutique shops and local cafes.

The beach is great for swimming, surfing, fishing or just relaxing in the sun. The beach has an estuary close by too which is perfect for kids to swim in if the surf is looking a little rough.

There are some rock pools at the end of the beach to explore too.

Mangawhai has increased in popularity a LOT in recent years, a lot of Aucklanders have been selling up and moving up north for a quieter lifestyle. This means during peak season the town does get pretty busy so I’d recommend travelling here after the Christmas holidays in late January or February.

Where to stay near Mangawhai Beach


14. Matapouri Bay

matapouri bay northland

Matapouri Bay is a stunning bay located on the east coast of the North Island. This beach is well known for its clear water and scenic walkway along the region’s beautiful coastline. Ever since I visited this incredible spot I’ve been dying to come back!

This beach is great for swimming, snorkelling or just relaxing in the sun. The walkway is perfect for when you want to explore, you do need to plan ahead though as access around the rocks is limited at high tide.

The path is clearly signposted and after 40 minutes you’ll find yourself at the picturesque Whale Bay.

Where to stay near Matapouri Bay


15. Ruakaka Beach

Ruakaka Beach is a stunning white sand beach located on the east coast of the North Island. This beach is great for swimming, surfing or just relaxing in the sun.

It’s also an incredibly large beach so there is plenty of room for everyone, even in peak season!

I think the best time to visit Ruakaka Beach is during the summer months when the water is at its warmest but if it is too cold to swim, why not take part in some beach cricket or volleyball? The large sand area makes a great surface for it.

There is a surf school located here too if you want to learn how to surf.

Where to stay near Ruakaka Beach


16. Uretiti Beach

Uretiti Beach is a beautiful spot on the Northland coast of New Zealand. It’s well known for its golden sand and clear waters, which make it a popular spot for swimming, surfing, and sunbathing.

The beach is also a great place to go for a walk, especially at dawn or dusk when the light is stunning. Like Ruakaka Beach which is located on the same stretch of coastline, the long stretch of sand means there is plenty of room for everyone.

Uretiti Beach is an easy drive from Auckland, making it the perfect day trip or weekend getaway. I’ve camped here a few times during the summer and would highly recommend it.

Just be aware that the campground is a doc site so facilities are limited but that’s the tradeoff for staying somewhere so close to the beach! Oh also, the fruit ice creams here are fab, defs try one while you’re here.

Where to stay near Uretiti Beach


17. Waipu Cove

waipu cove costal walk northland

Waipu Cove is a beautiful sandy beach located on the east coast of the North Island. It’s a great place to relax and enjoy the natural beauty of New Zealand. This little piece of paradise is located just a short drive from the city of Whangarei.

There are plenty of activities to keep visitors entertained, such as swimming, sunbathing, fishing, and kayaking.

Waipu Cove is also a popular spot for camping, with several campsites located nearby.

Where to stay near Waipu Cove


18. Whale Bay

whale bay northland new zealand
Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash

Whale Bay is a beautiful beach accessible on foot from Matapouri Bay or via the car park on Matapouri Road. This secluded spot is well worth a visit.

Accessing the beach from Matapouri Road is a 30-minute round trip, or if you choose to leave from Matapouri Bay instead, that’ll take 40mins one way.

The bay is sheltered from the prevailing winds, so it’s usually calm and tranquil. There’s a stunning white sand beach, and the water is crystal clear. Whale Bay is also a great place for swimming, snorkelling, and kayaking.

Where to stay near Whale Bay


19. Whananaki North and South Beach

whananaki footbridge northland

If you’re looking for a beach that’s a little off the beaten track, then head to Whananaki.

You’ll find there are two beaches to explore, North and South. Whananaki South is only accessible by the long wooden footbridge so if you’re planning to stay a night or two here, you’ll want to base yourself in Whananaki North.

In saying that I have stayed in Whananaki South and walking to the beach via the footbridge doesn’t take too long. It just wasn’t ideal for my boyfriend who kitesurfs as it was hard to carry all his gear. Both beaches are incredibly beautiful and I would 100% recommend visiting.

Both Whananaki beaches are well known for their clear water and long stretches of sandy beaches, it’s the perfect place to relax and enjoy the stunning scenery and trust me, it really is stunning! I’ve been here when it rained the entire time and it was STILL beautiful.

Whananaki is also a great place for surfing, with waves that are ideal for beginners and experienced surfers alike.

Where to stay near Whananaki Beach


Best beaches in Kaipara district


20. Kai Iwi Lakes

Technically not a beach but it still had to make the list because it is not a spot to be missed!

Kai Iwi Lakes offer some of the most stunning scenery in all of New Zealand. Located in Northland, these lakes are surrounded by native bush and offer spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.

The Kai Iwi Lakes is also a popular spot for fishing, swimming and kayaking. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing day trip or an adventurous weekend getaway, Kai Iwi Lakes is the perfect place to explore.

So pack your sunscreen and your sense of adventure, and head to Kai Iwi Lakes for a truly unforgettable experience.

Where to stay near Kai Iwi Lakes


Getting around the Northland beaches

Getting around Northland can be a challenge, as the region is quite isolated from the rest of New Zealand. The best way to get around Northland is by car.

Although there are some public transport options, they are limited and often quite expensive. You don’t want to have to compromise on the places you want to visit simply because the bus won’t take you there.

The best way to see Northland is by hiring a car, as this will give you the freedom to explore at your own pace.

There are a few companies that offer rental cars, but make sure to book in advance, as they can be in high demand during peak season. No matter how you choose to get around Northland’s beaches, you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience.

Just be sure to drive carefully on Northland’s windy and sometimes narrow roads!

The best time to visit beaches in Northland

The best time to visit Northland beaches is during the summer months when the weather is warm and dry. Summer would certainly be my choice of when to visit because the main activity I want to be doing is swimming.

December and January are the busiest months as that’s when the school holidays are and a lot of people take time off work over the Christmas period, so if you’re looking for a more relaxed experience, try visiting in February or March.

The great thing about travelling to Northland in March is this is usually when the weather is a bit more stable. The past couple of years we’ve had quite rainy summers but once March rolls around, the weather really turns it on.

Even though March technically isn’t summer anymore, if you’re familiar with the New Zealand climate, we’re pretty lucky in the sense that our summers tend to be quite long, especially the further north you go!

April and November are also good months to visit, as the weather is still warm but there are fewer crowds. However just bear in mind that it might be too cold to swim, so if that’s the main reason you want to travel to Northland then you are probably best to stick to planning your trip in the summer months.

Whichever month you choose to visit, make sure to bring sunscreen (the New Zealand sun is incredibly harsh so it’s really important to apply lots of sunscreen even on overcast days!!), hats, and plenty of water.

best beaches in northland

FAQ – Best Beaches in Northland

What beach can you drive on in Northland?

One of the most famous beaches in Northland, New Zealand, where you can drive is Ninety Mile Beach. It stretches from Ahipara to Scott Point and is known for its vast, flat expanse of sand.

It’s actually a designated highway, and you can drive on it with a suitable vehicle. Keep in mind that it’s important to check the tide times, as the beach is only accessible at low tide, and the conditions can change rapidly.

Ripiro Beach is located on the west coast of Northland and is another beach where you can drive. It stretches for approximately 100 kilometres and offers a more secluded driving experience compared to Ninety Mile Beach. It’s advisable to check the tide conditions and be cautious of soft sand.

Waipu Cove is a beautiful beach where you can drive as well and enjoy the stunning coastal scenery. It’s a popular spot for both locals and tourists. Like the other beaches, keep in mind that conditions can vary, so it’s essential to be aware of tides and any local regulations.

Are all beaches in New Zealand public?

In New Zealand, generally all beaches are public up to the high-water mark. This means that the public has the right to access and enjoy the beach area below the high-water mark, and no one can own or restrict access to this part of the beach.

The high-water mark is essentially the line where the highest tide reaches. There may be some exceptions as some coastal land is private. Public access is generally allowed along the foreshore, but if you need to cross private land to reach the beach, you should seek permission from the landowner.

Always follow local guidelines and be considerate of the environment and local communities.

Are there white sand beaches in New Zealand?

Yes!! In New Zealand we are very lucky to have many white sand beaches, most of which are located in Northland.

While the country is often renowned for its diverse landscapes, including rugged coastlines and black sand beaches, there are also many picturesque white sand beaches and some of the best ones you’ll find right in this blog post.

Conclusion: Best Beaches in Northland

So by now, I hope you’re convinced that some of the best beaches in New Zealand lie within the Northland region. It truly is such a stunning place and is one of my favourite areas of New Zealand to explore.

If you’re looking for a summer road trip destination with amazing beaches, Northland is the place to go.

With plenty of coastline to explore, you’ll certainly have your hands full. One visit to the region and you’ll be left wanting more. So what are you waiting for? Book your trip today!

There are plenty of other places worth visiting in the North Island too, check them out here.

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