The end of summer’s swim season has arrived in the Southern Hemisphere.

For the third year in a row we’ve been able to share water quality for over 700 hundred New Zealand coastal and freshwater beaches thanks to the generous support of Pulse Energy. Not only does Pulse Energy sponsor Swim Guide; Pulse Energy staff and volunteers also manage the daily water quality updates for the 700 beaches.

Synonymous with natural beauty, New Zealand’s most popular beaches are, as you would expect, gorgeous. There are 16 regional councils in New Zealand. However, the favourites are all found in Auckland and Canterbury regional councils. A mix of freshwater and coastal beaches, the top sites are also a mix of pristine and poor water quality; a good reminder that the most visited, most loved places to swim are not necessarily the perfect ones. In fact, several beaches on this list, like Te Henga/Bethell’s Lagoon, off Bethell’s Beach in Auckland, Wairau Outlet, and Laingholm Beach, are under long term water quality advisories.

You can read more here about Canterbury’s struggles with recreational water quality. Auckland’s recreational water quality issues are covered here in the New Zealand Herald. While the water quality at certain beaches on this list are disheartening, the fact that they are also popular gives hope. Contaminated water cannot be addressed without attention and care. According to list of New Zealand’s most popular beaches these water bodies have both of those essential ingredients.

New Zealand’s most popular beaches 2016-2017 swim season

The list of New Zealand’s most popular swimming sites represents the beaches that were most frequently clicked on from November 2016 to April 2017. Visit all New Zealand beaches here.

1. Lake Roto Kohatu, Canterbury Regional Council – Freshwater

This is a small lake just to the northwest of Christchurch city centre, and is part of the Sawyers Arms Reserve. There are boating facilities and a modest beach here; the neighbouring lumber yards give the area outside the reserve an industrial feel. The lake itself started off as a gravel pit, and has since been modified for park and recreational purposes.

2. Bethell’s Lagoon/Te Henga, Auckland – Freshwater


Less than an hour’s drive from the centre of Auckland, this freshwater river lagoon sits beside Bethell’s Beach, and is a notable destination for fishing, cave exploration, and enjoying inspiring vistas. The black-sand beach area is also known by the Maori name ‘Te Henga’: so-called for the nearby dunes’ resemblance to an overturned canoe. Parking is available, though note that the Bethell’s is relatively remote and there are no facilities close by. Swimming is seasonally supervised and can be dangerous when venturing out of the lagoon and into the ocean, depending on the immediate weather and tides, so visitors should exercise caution. An opportunity for calmer, sheltered swimming is available at Wainamu, a lake only a few kilometers away.

Auckland Council has deemed this water body “high risk” due to ongoing water quality issues. It is recommended you do not swim or participate in other recreational water activities at this location.

Photo by Russell James Smith, Taken at Bethells Beach near Auckland, June 2011

3. Orari River at Orari Gorge, Canterbury Regional Council – Freshwater


The Orari Gorge Track follows an old bush tramway from the carpark close to the campground through a scenic reserve before heading back to the carpark. The campground uses a self registration system to pay for overnight stays. Amenities include a picnic area, tap water and toilets. There are many hidden swimming holes along the river and it is also a great trout fishing spot. The Orari River Protection Group has hosted many events along the river. Check out their facebook page for more information.

4. Point Chevalier Beach, Auckland – Coastal


This is a popular swimming beach at high tide, but visitors warn that it can be quite muddy and slippery during low tide. The boat launch makes Point Chevalier very popular for water sports and boating. Cole Park is adjacent to the Point and has a child’s playground, picnic area and toilets. Ample parking and public transit stops are available at the end of Point Chevalier Road.

5. Lake Wainamu, Auckland – Freshwater


Nestled behind high dunes of black sand, Lake Wainamu is a popular freshwater swimming mecca, and makes a great respite from the powerful wind and treacherous riptides of the nearby oceanfront at Te Henga/Bethell’s Beach. The picturesque Waitohi falls are located only a short hike away, but be advised that there isn’t much in the way of beachfront abutting the lake. There is no cost to visit Wainamu, and it is accessible by foot from Bethell’s Beach park area.

This site is not monitored due its history of excellent water quality. Auckland Council considers the water here “low risk” to public health.

Photo by Kathrin & Stefan Marks

6. Wairau Outlet, Auckland – Coastal


Wairau Outlet stores are walking distance to Castor Bay. The North Shore Coastal Walk passes through here, connecting visitors to a historical house of Rahopara Pa, a resident and member of the Māori in the 18th century. JFK Memorial Park is a little further north. This park is complete with a children’s playground and gun emplacements that were part of New Zealand’s defences during World War II. The beach is public transit accessible, has an adjacent car park and large boat ramp making it really easy to get to!

This beach has received special status of red. The area will continue to be monitored but warning signs have been posted as it has a history of poor water quality.

7. Selwyn River at Coes Ford, Canterbury Regional Council – Freshwater


Water levels of the Selwyn River, originally known to the Māori as the Waikirikiri River change from an almost non existent gentle trickle to violent flood zone depending on the season and location. There are many swimming holes and picnic areas along the lower reaches of this river and this location offers visitors freedom camping in the summer.

8. Kaitarakihi Bay, Northern Manukau Harbour, Auckland – Coastal


Kaitarakihi Bay is a beach with fine, pale sand and makes a quieter and less-crowded alternative to the nearby Cornwallis beach. Gorgeous views of Manukau Harbour can be had from the beachfront, and welcome shade is provided by a copse of overhanging pohutukawa trees. On the road down to the beachfront, visitors can stop off to see Spragg Monument, a stone spire erected to honour a local pilot killed in the First World War. Facilities include parking and toilets.

Photo by J.E.Mcgowan

9. Clarks Beach, Auckland – Coastal

Beautiful white sand stretches along Clarks Beach suburb. This beach is located at the mouths of Waiuku River and the Taihiki River on the Manukua Harbour. Public toilets are located at 3 sites along Torkar Rd and 2 places on Stevenson Rd between Stella Drive and Clarks Beach Rd. There is a public boat launch is located at off of Torkar Rd. before the campground and yacht club.

10. Laingholm Beach, Auckland – Coastal/a>

Laingholm Beach quiet sandy beach overlooks Laingholm Bay. It is close to the mouth of the Manukau Harbour and the site of New Zealand’s greatest maritime disaster in 1863. The Royal Navy’s HMS Orpheus hit a moving sand bar and fell to it’s side. The Manukau Harbor’s water pounded on the ship, destroying it and killing 189 off its officers.

The area is named after George and John Laing, who farmed the area in 1854. The bay is now a proposed development site for a ferry terminal that would connect to Auckland. Street parking is available and the beach is public transit accessible. Warners Park is adjacent to the beach is you feel like taking a break from swimming to hiking in a lush forrest.

Auckland Council has deemed this water body “high risk” due to ongoing water quality issues. It is recommended you do not swim or participate in other recreational water activities at this location.

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Swim Guide shares the best information we have at the moment you ask for it. Always obey signs at the beach or advisories from official government agencies. Stay alert and check for other swimming hazards such as dangerous currents and tides. Please report your pollution concerns so Affiliates can help keep other beach-goers safe.

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