Swimming is an integral part of New Zealand’s culture. New Zealand’s beaches are places of recreation, relaxation, and rejuvenation, where you’ll see children building sandcastles, swimmers frolicking in the breakers, and surfers riding powerful waves. The Maori have a strong tradition of surfing along the country’s coast, and this tradition is still very much alive today.

The country has over 700 monitored swimming spots, ranging from sandy coastal beaches on the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea to stunning freshwater lakes, rivers, and streams surrounded by mountains inland. With so many places to enjoy the water, finding your perfect beach in New Zealand might feel like an overwhelming task!

We’ve made a list of the top ten swimming spots in New Zealand on Swim Guide to help you make a selection. These are the destination pages that our users have visited the most this year. Read on to find out where some of the best places to swim in New Zealand are, and to find out why you may not want to swim in the final beach on this list.

Lots of New Zealand’s beaches are clean and great to swim in. Of the ten beaches on this list, nine passed recreational water quality tests 95% of the time or more. You’ll find that there is good water quality in all but one of the beaches on our list–but that didn’t stop Swim Guide users from visiting its page.


Here are Swim Guide’s most visited New Zealand swim sites of 2019:


1. Lake Roto Kohatu off Johns Road, Christchurch

Passed 95% or more of recreational water quality tests in 2019
Page Visits: 16147 

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 the park and recreational purposes. This lake may be tucked away in an industrial area, but it’s surrounding greenery, clean waters, and rope swing make it a favourite destination for swimmers. 


2. Point Chevalier Beach, Auckland

Photo by Lloyd

Passed 95% or more of recreational water quality tests in 2019
Page Visits: 16147

This is a popular swimming beach at high tide, but visitors warn that it can be quite muddy and slippery during low tide. This beach has warm, gentle waters that welcome swimmers. The spot beautiful at any time of day, but locals swear by its sunsets. 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.


3. Lake Wainamu, Auckland

Photo by Kathrin & Stefan Marks

Unmonitored due to excellent water quality history
Page Visits: 5304

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


4. Ashley River at Gorge Bridge, Starvation Hill

Photo by Pete Solvander

Passed 95% or more of recreational water quality tests in 2019
Page Visits: 5139

Not far from Christchurch, at the base of the Mount Thomas woods, lies the Gorge Bridge crossing the Ashley River. The stretch of Ashley river underneath the bridge boasts clear waters and a number of deep, cool swimming holes, and the Ashley Gorge Holiday Park is within walking distance. The area is thick with hiking tracks that traverse spectacular scenery and waterfalls, and the nearby Holiday Park can provide pay camping and the usual amenities.


5. Akaroa main beach, Akaroa

Photo by Ronald Woan

Passed 95% or more of recreational water quality tests in 2019
Page Visits: 4874

Akaroa is a region very proud of its French heritage, and also of the magnificent beach waiting to be discovered here. Akaroa beach is quiet, secluded, and sheltered, with a mixture of sand and small rocks abutting the water. Akaroa Harbour is also home to pods of rare Hector’s dolphins, which lucky swimmers may be able to spy further out from shore. The beach is adjacent to Jubilee Park, and there are two large car parks just above the sand line.

6. Orari R at Orari Gorge, Peel Forest

Photo by Seamoor

Passed 95% or more of recreational water quality tests in 2019
Page Visits: 4874

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. Trees such as tōtara, kahikatea, and mataī can be spotted here. The Orari River Protection Group has hosted many events along the river. Check out their Facebook page for more information.

7. Selwyn River at Coes Ford, Leeston

Photo by Ben

Passed 60-95% of recreational water quality tests in 2019
Page Visits: 4278

Water levels of the Selwyn River, originally known to the Maori as the Waikirikiri River, change from an almost non-existent gentle trickle to a violent flood zone, depending on the season and area of the river. There are many swimming holes and picnic areas along the lower reaches of this river and it is also a popular destination for fishing and swimming. This location offers visitors freedom camping (camping with minimal or no facilities) in the summer… the best way to become one with nature!


8. Lake Taupo at Acacia Bay Wharf, Taupo

Photo by billandkent

Passed 95% or more of recreational water quality tests in 2019
Page Visits: 4278

Acacia Bay beach is located in the heart of an urban environment close to the entrance of Lake Taupo. Lake Taupo is New Zealand’s largest lake. It lies in an active geothermic region, in a caldera (a cauldron-like structure formed by volcanic eruption) created over 26,500 years ago. Nearby, you will find spectacular natural rock carvings. In 1977 Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell, a master carver, gifted Mine Bay with his work. A 10 meter high likeness of Ngatoroirangi, a Maori navigator that discovered the Taupo area, was carved in the rock face and a mermaid and lizard were carved at the base. The carvings are only accessible by water, with kayaks being the preferred method of transportation to get here.


9. Milford Beach, Auckland

Passed 95% or more of recreational water quality tests in 2019
Page Visits: 4000

The beautiful white sand on Milford Beach extends 2 kilometres along Castor Bay all the way to Thorne Bay. The Wairau Creek hugs the Milford Reservation emptying into the bay. A nearby playground, trees to climb, and tide pools to explore make this beach a fantastic place for children. The beach also has gentle waters for swimming, uncrowded shores, and a boardwalk. The Milford Marina provides boat parking and there is a large car park looking over the beach.

10. Titirangi Beach, Auckland

Photo by Bryn Jones

Failed water quality tests 40% of the time or more in 2019
Page Visits: 3962

Titirangi translates to “long streak of cloud in the sky”. The park surrounding this sandy beach provides habitat for many of New Zealand’s birds including the Fantail, Tui, Kererū, white eye and morepork. The beach is on the Paturoa Bay and is part of the Manuka Harbour. Auckland Transit buses stop at the tip of the park, providing easy access to this beautiful beach. Facilities include parking, a children’s playground, and a sports field. The sand is filled with sharp oyster shells at low tide, so shoes are recommended. This beach has red special status as it is under a long-term no swim advisory.

Most of the beaches on this list have excellent water quality. Titirangi Beach does not. A study found that high concentrations of E. coli and enterococci from human, canine, and avian sources of contamination were present. The study concluded that addressing Titirangi Beach’s water quality should be considered a priority.

Titirangi Beach is under a long-term no swim advisory, but the fact that people are still searching for the beach on Swim Guide in 2019 means that people still want to swim in its waters. People care about the health of this beach’s water quality.

To learn more about Titirangi Beach’s water quality, you can visit Land, Air, Water Aotearoa’s website and get involved.

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