The best beaches in Northland, New Zealand: As you may already be aware, I’ve been living on the North Island of New Zealand since September. In fact, we live in the beautifully coastal state of Northland in a quiet little town called Kerikeri. Although, we settled in this area due to my job being but a 30-minute drive away, we’ve fallen in love with Northland and it’s magnificent secluded beaches. In fact I think I’ve spent almost every day off this Summer at one of the below beaches. The Northland beaches are rarely-if-ever-crowded, typically sheltered with squeaky whitesand. Doesn’t it sound like a dream?
So, without further ado here are my contenders for the best beaches in Northland, New Zealand:
Ake Ake Point, Kerikeri
As a matter of fact, this beach is nameless – Ake Ake Point is the name of the viewpoint at the peak of the walkway to this beach. We simply call this beach “our beach” as we are both so fond of it. When you get to Opito Bay (approximately a 15 minute drive from Kerikeri), follow the signs across from the carpark for Ake Ake point. It’s a beautiful walk through the rainforest, filled with birdsong and the distinct smell of teatree, follow the signs for the beach and at the end of a steep hill you will be greeted by perhaps one of our favourite beaches in the region. In fact, it’s where we got engaged recently!
We often come here to sunbathe and swim, and we pretty much have it to ourselves every time. We have started coming here for a sunset picnic (with some beers of course) in recent weeks and it’s become one of my favourite past-times.
A completely different coastal terrain to the eastern side, the west coast is all white-sand beaches, sand dunes and massive purple jellyfish lurking in the shallows (at least they were the day we were there, eeek). We walked part of the Waimamaku Coastal Track to get to this gorgeous spot. The track starts in the Arai Te Uru Recreation Reserve, at the end of Signal Station Road. There’s a large carpark here too.
We walked the entire length of the beach which was blissfully deserted and felt like another world. There is also a gorgeous view point and scenic walk at the end of the carpark for that all-important ‘instagram shot’.
Te Werahi beach, Cape Reinga
You’ve probably already heard the hype surrounding the famed Cape Reinga, the most Northerly point of New Zealand and the point where two oceans meet (the Tasman and the Pacific). Well, I bet you didn’t know that there’s an absolutely incredible beach about a 25 minute walk from the Cape Reinga lighthouse called Te Werahi beach. I mean just look at the photos, and the windswept walk there teetering along the edge of Cape Reinga’s cliffs makes it all the more worthwhile when you reach Te Werahi beach at the bottom. We went for a swim in it’s icy waters and it was honestly one of the most refreshing swims I’ve had in a long time. Paul did lose a flip flop to its unrelenting waves however.
Paihia beach, Paihia
Paihia, is perhaps the most ‘touristic’ town in Northland. Also know as the Bay of Islands, Paihia is a bit of a ‘backpacker haven’, with an abundance of hostels & seasonal work. The town runs the length of a golden sandy beach and has lots of great bars & restaurants. You can read more about this bustling little town-by-the-sea here
Matai Bay, Karikari Peninsula
Maitai Bay is located on the outer Karikari Peninsula, on Maitai Bay Road, about 44 km northeast of the town of Kaitaia. The beach is in a sheltered bay with a campsite nestled amongst beautiful pohutukawa trees. The water is clear blue, the swimming conditions typically excellent as it is sheltered. This spot is very popular with families. You can read more about the Matai Bya campsite and its facilities here
Whale Bay, Tutukaka Coast
Whale Bay is a gorgeous turquoise-hued cove ideal for swimming and kids as it is protected from the elements. The beach is approximately a 10-15 minute walk from the carpark on Matapouri road. The walk although the ground can be a little uneven is beautiful and takes you through groves of ancient Puriri trees with lots of amazing views to be taken in along the way. There is a gorgeous viewpoint here too, a 20 minute walk from the carpark for those all-important photos.
Matapouri bay, Tutukaka Coast
Matapouri bay is home to the famed Mermaid Pools. An “instagram darling” here in Northland I guess you could say. The pools are essentially a naturally formed rock pool that’s large enough for many people to enjoy, while looking out to the Pacific Ocean beyond and, more than likely, waving to a passing dolphin. The trek to the Mermaid Pools can be tricky especially in high tide, we had to wade through the ocean at one point and after that it’s a steep climb up hardened muddy ground. Tip – I advise this walk only for the relatively fit. Its also easier to go barefoot so you can get a grip on the dry hardened ground.
The beach at Matapouri is in itself worth the visit, a long stretch of white sand with crashing waves – again, ideal for surfing. Less well-known are the clear waters of the estuary, one of the few in the country to allow snorkellers a close view of rich and rare native fish and plant life.
90-mile beach, Kaitaia
Driving North towards Cape Reinga you will come across the well-travelled 90-mile beach. This beach is officially a highway, but according to the locals “is really only suitable for 4WD vehicles and is safe to drive only at specific times of the tides”. We drove in our non-4WD Audi for a little while and were fine, although we were very cautious of the tide and didn’t drive too far from an exit. We’ve heard lots of horror stories, of cars sinking in the sand, and when the tide is out far enough you can see the cars half-submerged under the sand! The sunsets here are pretty epic too.
Cable Bay beach
Next to the town of Mangonui is the very pretty Cable Bay, where we’ve taken some epic sunset shots. Did you know – Cable Bay got it’s name because it was home to the Pacific cable which linked Australia by telegraph with New Zealand. We found this fascinating.
Matauri Bay beach
Another fabulous beach in is Northland is Matauri Bay. A 30-minute drive from Kerikeri with the most epic road winding down, the view as you drive down is spectacular, just be careful not to take your eyes off the road. Matauri Bay plays host to the Rainbow Warrior Memorial an unusual sculpture dedicated to the famous Rainbow Warrior ship – a Greenpeace protest ship which was blown up in Auckland Harbour in 1985. The wreck was moved to the waters off Matauri Bay (FYI – you can dive this wreck too). The walk to the memorial is a steep 10-minute climb but the 180-degree views of the bay is so worth your aching legs that evening.
So, there it is a list of 10 awesome beaches to add to your itinerary for Northland, New Zealand. It’s very difficult for me to pick a favourite, so I won’t. But do tell which beach would you most like to visit? Tell me in the comments below.