New Zealand is pure bliss for those who love the water. With thousands of kilometres of coastline and plenty of lakes and rivers inland, there are endless spots to swim, surf, and paddle while taking in the country’s rugged natural beauty.

There are so many places to connect with New Zealand’s waterbodies, it can be difficult to know where to start!

That’s why we’ve compiled a list of can’t-miss destinations in New Zealand for water lovers. From dramatic black sand, to sublime rock formations, to hot water pools, these are some of the best beaches in New Zealand.

Here are the top 5 beaches in New Zealand you can’t miss:

1. Ninety Mile Beach, Northland

Photo by Simon Chapman

Have you ever wanted your walk along the beach to last forever? Ninety Mile Beach will make your dreams come true!

This stunning beach spans 88 kilometres from Ahipara to Scott Point. Golden sandy shores stretch as far as the eye can see.

Photo by Pablo Garbarino

Standing on this beach, you will be embraced by the Tasman Sea on the coast and towering sand dunes and the lush Aupouri Forest inland.

Photo by trevorklatko

Located close to the center of Ninety Mile Beach, Waipapakauri Beach is a favourite destination for swimming, surfcasting, surfing, boating, fishing, kite flying, hang gliding, and digging for pipi (a shellfish that only lives in New Zealand).

Believe it or not, this beach is an official highway, though it’s best suited for four-wheel drive vehicles and is only accessible at low tide.

Ahipara Beach is a beloved place for watching the sunset, surfing, and swimming. With no steep drop-offs and even, gentle waves, this is a safe spot for families, just use caution around the northward longshore drift during high waves.

Photo by ceetap

2. Hot Water Beach at Surf life saving club, Waikato

Hot Water Beach is nature’s spa. Between high and low tide, an underground hot water spring from deep in the earth seeps up and bubbles through the sand. The water may be as warm as 64°C (147°F)!

Photo by macronix

Soak up the heat while taking in gorgeous views of the Castle Island as well as majestic cliffs at both ends of the shore.

Photo by Carmen

Bring a spade with you and you can dig your very own personal hot tub!

To the Ngati Hei of the Mercury Bay area, Hot Water Beach is more than just a spot to relax. It’s also a place of great historical and cultural significance. For thousands of years, the Ngati Hei iwi tribe called this area home and now they work to protect this natural treasure, or ‘taonga’.

Photo by Chiara Switzer

Just around the corner from Hot Water Beach, you’ll find Cathedral Cove, one of New Zealand’s most picturesque spots. After you hit the hot springs, take a quick trip here to hike, picnic, or swim.

Photo by Nathanael Coyne

3. Lake Taupo at Acacia Bay Wharf, Waikato

Photo by billandkent

Lake Taupo is in a caldera that formed over 26,500 years ago during an enormous volcanic eruption. To this day, the lake still sits atop an active geothermal region.

Photo by billandkent

Near Acacia Bay Wharf, you can witness the remarkable natural rock carving created by Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell in 1977.

The carving is a 10 meter high effigy of Ngatoroirangi, the Maori navigator that discovered the Taupo area and led the Tuwharetoa and Te Arawa tribes there more than one thousand years ago. At the base of Ngatoroirangi’s likeness, you’ll see a mermaid and lizard etched into the rock.

Photo by Tom Hall

You’ll need to be on the water to view this wondrous sight, so make sure you arrange a boat or a kayak for your trip.

4. Rere Falls and Rere Rockslide, Gisborne

Surrounded by farmland, this destination is off the beaten path. Though the Rere Waterfalls is only five meters high, it is over twenty meters wide.

Photo by russellstreet

Rere Falls is the perfect place for an afternoon picnic or dip in the nearby swimming hole. You can also bike the trail that runs alongside the Wharekopae River. If you’re feeling daring, try walking behind the falls. Just make sure you use extreme caution on the slippery rocks.

Not far from Rere Falls, you can zoom down the Rere Rockslide, where years of water have worn down the rocks to a smooth surface.

Photo by Arapaoa Moffat

This natural waterslide offers adventure and exhilaration to those brave enough to slide down the rocks to the swimming hole below. Make sure you bring a floatation device, and be careful around the slippery rocks in the area, especially when the river is low.

Photo by Shellie

5. Piha Beach, Auckland

Photo by Dominic Hartnett

Piha Beach has garnered worldwide renown for good reason. The beach has striking black, iron-stained sand, breathtaking views of the Waitakere Ranges, and something to offer recreational water users of all types and skill levels.

Photo by e2d204

The beach is divided into North and South beach, with Lion’s Rock separating the two. This 16 million year-old rock formation is actually an eroded volcanic neck. From a certain angle, the rock is shaped like a lion lying down, sphinx-like.

Photo by Kathrin & Stefan Marks

At Piha North Beach, swimmers and beginner surfers will find mellow waves to enjoy. At Piha Beach South of the Lion Rock, experienced surfers can enjoy more challenging waves.

It’s also well-worth visiting “The Gap” on Piha Beach. At this spot between Taitomo Island and the staggering cliffs nearby, you can marvel at the powerful waves that come crashing through.

Photo by Kathrin & Stefan Marks

At low tide, the ocean leaves behind a shallow basin nicknamed the Blue Pool, a perfect spot for children to enjoy the water.

There are over 600 monitored beaches, rivers, lakes, and swimming holes in New Zealand, and the majority of beaches are clean and fit for many recreational activities.

Whether you like swimming, surfing, diving, paddling, windsurfing, kite surfing, rafting, or wildlife-watching, there’s a beach here for you. Check out the top 10 New Zealand beach pages that our users visited the most in 2019 to find your next destination!

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