Climbed New Zealand's mountains? Sampled its cities' culinary delights? All promising dramatic scenery and astonishing beauty, New Zealand's beaches are definitely worth adding to your itinerary. From black-sand surfer havens to headlands that double as a therapeutic spa, these unique stretches of sand are truly special. Get out your jandals (as they say) – it's time for a seaside escape...
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Abel Tasman National Park
To really enjoy New Zealand's natural beauty, make your way to the spectacular Abel Tasman National Park on the South Island. A coastal playground filled with incredible things to see and do (think hiking, kayaking and snorkelling), this beautiful spot is also where you can seek out tiny stretches of golden sand. Explore the park and find your own private beach or head to the beloved Te Puketea Bay for turquoise waters and rainforest-fringed coastline.
Tunnel Beach Walkway
Just 15 minutes south of Dunedin's trendy city scene, Tunnel Beach Walkway looks straight out of an epic nature documentary. Here, majestic sandstone cliffs sculpted by the Southern Ocean overlook azure coastline, providing a breathtaking setting for admiring the view. But the main attraction here is the incredible hand-carved rock tunnel (hence the name) that leads to a tiny sheltered beach shaded by giant, imposing cliffs. Follow the path downhill to reach this enchanting spot and prepare to feel tiny in comparison to your majestic surroundings.
Surfers, this one's for you. A chilled seaside village 45 minutes west of Auckland city, Piha on the North Island is cherished by locals for its strong currents and excellent surf. If you're just seeking a picturesque outlook, though, you won't be disappointed. A truly unique spot, Piha Beach is also known for its black sands and nearby rainforest-topped canyon (don't miss abseiling here if you're looking for a little land-based adventure).
Hot Water Beach
Want to combine a spa day with a beach trip? Two hours east of Auckland, the aptly named Hot Water Beach is where you can dig your own hot tub in the sand thanks to naturally heated mineral waters that bubble up from the earth's depths. Bring along a shovel (many of the local cafes also hire them out) and claim your spot at the beach's southern end to soak your troubles away, just steps from crashing waves. Further along the headland, you'll also stumble across secluded spots that seem made for sunbathing.
Cathedral Cove Marine Reserve
Just ten minutes north of Hot Water Beach, Cathedral Cove is perfect for those wanting to do more than just swim and relax (though, there's plenty of opportunity for that, too). Getting here alone is a wonderful experience, with the cove only accessibly on foot, by boat or kayak. Covering nine-square kilometres, the marine reserve is well worth the effort, featuring soaring limestone cliffs, volcanic coastline, clear water, sensational marine wildlife and underwater arches. There are plenty of local operators offering dive, snorkel, kayak boat tours, but you could happily spend your time here exploring the picture-perfect setting for yourselves – whatever you're after, it's up to you!
Featuring some of New Zealand's most spellbinding natural wonders, the Catlins on the Southern Island is a real must-see. Nature-lovers will be in their element in its Otago region, with rugged coastline, marine life and waterfalls all on offer. Don't leave here without visiting Allans Beach and spotting its sealions and penguins, or wandering hand-in-hand through the sand dunes of Sandfly Bay Track.
Castlepoint Scenic Reserve
Whether you're looking to fill your beach getaway with fabulous experiences or to just keep things laid-back, you'll find the perfect escape at Castlepoint Scenic Reserve (two-and-a-half hours northeast of Wellington). Blessed with limestone reefs, a tranquil lagoon and the grand 162-metre-high Castle Rock, this lovely spot is also winner for stargazing and wildlife-spotting – keep an eye out for dolphins and fur seals on the beach. There's also brilliant surfing, swimming and fishing opportunities here, plus a charming lighthouse that offers an idyllic vantage point for watching the sun set.
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Images courtesy of Tourism New Zealand, Daniel Rood, Fraser Clements, Scott Venning, Graeme Murray and Legend Photography