The best beaches in Northland, New Zealand

Introducing our top contenders for 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 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 white sand. Doesn’t it sound like a dream?

The best places for beaches in Northland region –

  • Ake Ake Point, Kerikeri
  • Omapere beache, Oponini
  • Te Werahi beach, Cape Reinga
  • Paihia beach, Paihia
  • Matai bay, Karikari peninsula
  • Whale Bay, Tutukaka Coast
  • Matapouri Bay, Tutukaka Coast
  • 90-mile beach, Kaitaia
  • Cable Bay beach
  • Matauri Bay beach

So, without further ado here are (in full detail) my contenders for the best beaches in Northland, New Zealand:

#1   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 tea tree.  Follow the signs for the beach and at the end of a steep hill you will be greeted by perhaps one of our favorite beaches in Northland. 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.

#2   Omapere beach, Oponini

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’.

#3   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.

The windswept walk there teetering along the edge of Cape Reinga’s cliffs makes it all the more worthwhile. 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.

One of the coolest ways to see Cape Reinga is on this scenic flight and 2.5 hour guided tour! There are also lots of guided tours available from Paihia like this one if you don’t fancy driving the long distance yourself.

#4   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. There’s loads to do in Paihia from a boat cruise to the famed hole in the rock to an adrenalin-pumping jet boating experience. You can even go on a dolphin watching tour here, which I loved and do a scenic helicopter tour!

Of all the beaches on the list Paihia has the most hotels so, I recommend spending a few nights here.

#5   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 spend the night here at the Matai Bay campsite!

#6   Whale Bay, Tutukaka Coast

The best beach in Northland for couples in my opinion is Whale Bay. There’s something very romantic about its seclusion & turquoise water.

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 car park 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 car park for those all-important photos. Whale Bay is in my humble opinion is one of the best beaches in Northland, New Zealand.

There are a couple hotels in Tutukaka and it’s a nice place to spend the night!

Looking down on Whale Bay, Tutukaka

#7   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. Top 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.

#8   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.

This guided tour includes a visit to 90-mile beach, sandboarding at Te Paki, Cape Reinga as well as a packed lunch.

90 Mile Beach

#9   Cable Bay beach

Near to Coopers Beach is the very pretty Cable Bay, where we’ve taken some epic sunset shots. The sand here has a pink hue making it even more magical.

Did you know – Cable Bay got it’s name because it was home to the Pacific cable, a submarine telegraph cable which linked Australia, Norfolk Island and Canada to New Zealand . A cable station operated here from 1902 to 1912 and while the building is long gone, we found it fascinating that the morse-coded message reached all the way Vancouver in Canada!

Cable Bay is also a popular spot for surfing.

Sunset at Cable Bay
cable bay sunset, northland new zealand

#10   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.

From the beach itself you may just spot a dolphin or two frolicking in the shallow waters – it’s happened numerous times here.

Due to its huge size and the ample parking available here, I think Matauri Bay is one of the most ideal beaches in Northland for groups.

The best beaches in Northland for couples

Whale Bay on the Tutukaka Coast near Whangarei has to be the most romantic beach on this list. Firstly, despite it’s popularity it’s relatively hidden and when you come to it after a 15 minute walk through native bush it almost feels as if you’ve discovered it. Secondly, the water here is calm and turquoise blue – making it the perfect backdrop for a photo with your loved one.

I also love to visit Matapouri bay – also on the Tutukaka Coast with my husband. It’s a nice long beach for a romantic stroll. The sunsets from here are gorgeous too – grab some fish & chips from nearby Takeaways At Ngunguru and sit on the sand and watch the sun sink into the ocean.

The best beaches in Northland for families

90-mile beach is ideal for older kids because you can drive this ‘sand highway’ ideally in a 4-WD. They’re sure to get a thrill out of this fun activity!

For younger kids you can’t go wrong with Matai Bay on the Karikari Peninsula. It’s a wide sheltered beach so it’s a safe swimming spot for the little ones. There’s also an excellent campsite here if you fancy spending the night.

The best beaches in Northland – which is your favorite?

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 favorite. Although, I am very fond of Whale Bay for its turquoise ocean and Matauri Bay for its history.

But do tell what do you think are the best beaches in Northland New Zealand? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

READ NEXT | our absolute favorite things to do in Northland, New Zealand

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Introducing our top contenders for the best beaches in Northland, New Zealand.These beaches are rarely crowded with turquoise water and squeaky white sand.
Introducing our top contenders for the best beaches in Northland, New Zealand. 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? #northlandnewzealand #newzealandtravel

The story of our engagement

Let’s start at the beginning

Together me and Paul have backpacked through South East Asia, Europe and Central America and lived in Australia, Canada and currently New Zealand. We’ve been through shit times, a couple of food-poisoning episodes, too many crappy bus journeys, a few horrible hotel rooms, several arguments BUT we’re a team, no matter what. Despite being loud & bubbly I’m a very private person and Paul is the only person  who knows pretty much everything about me. And I am very excited to become his wife, aggghhh!

And because my number one question when someone gets engaged is “where did it happen?”, I thought it was only fair for me to share the story of our engagement.

ake ake, kerikeri, new zealand
The scene of the engagement

sunset, opito bay, new zealand
Sunset in Opito Bay

Where did it happen?

Here, in the Bay of Islands where we currently live we have a favourite hidden beach that we go to as much as we can. It’s a 15 minute walk through a rainforest filled with birdsong and eucalyptus trees. It’s always deserted, we’ve spent many a Summer day here swimming and reading. Last Saturday I suggested we go to “our beach” as we call it for a sunset picnic and Paul’s immediate answer was “Yes”. I thought to myself hmm this is strange he usually has some excuse for my spontaneous activity-planning. But shook off my suspicions,  happy that I was getting my own way.

So, off we went with a cool bag packed with beers, cheeses, crackers and cold meats. After, we had eaten Paul asked me to stand up because he had something to ask me and proceeded to take a medium-sized box from the pocket of our cool bag (note – it did not look like a ring box so I was still none the wiser). Then, he got down on one knee, asked me the all important question to which I said “YES” and continued to put the ring on the wrong finger!

Turns out he had it planned for months, even asking my Dad’s permission when we were back in Ireland last Summer and he and my mom choose the ring together sending photos over messenger. The sweetest.

ake ake, kerikeri, new zealand
The scene of our engagement at Ake Ake Point

tutukaka, hippie dress, sunset
Twirling in my hippie dress in Tutukaka

What about the ring?

I’ve always said I wanted a unique ring, something nobody else had while at the same time not being too “weird” does that make sense. I was dead set against a diamond and only wear gold. A couple months ago, Paul showed me a google image of a Tanzanite engagement ring (I should have guessed then, being honest) and that was it I was hooked. I wouldn’t accept anything else.

He designed the ring himself through Glamira, and it is to put simply a true reflection of me. He couldn’t have picked a more perfect ring.

proposal, engagement, tanzanite ring
Just after he proposed

tanzanite ring, engagement, gold
THE RING – 18 carat gold & tanzanite stone

How did we meet?

In short, at a hostel in Balmain, Sydney in 2013. I was living and working in Sydney and my friends who were visiting were staying at Balmain Hostel, I went to join them for Australia Day drinks at the hostel. Paul was also staying there and we started chatting at the bus stop before we headed into the fireworks at Darling Harbour. The opening conversation was about our birthdays being on the same bloody day. The rest as the say is history.

whale bay, tutukaka, whangarei
At Whale Bay, Tutukaka (the day after he proposed)

tutukaka, engagement, tanzanite ring
Posing up a storm at Whale Bay, Tutukaka

And, the Wedding?

Ever since, I dont know how long, the background of my laptop has been of the colourful seaside town of Cinque Terre, Italy. When me and Paul  visited here in 2015, I fell in love with the place even more. So, in September 2019 we plan to get married here in one of our favourite places in the entire world.

Manarol, cinque terre, italy
Manarola, Cinque Terre (*courtesy of Getty Images)

Tell me the story of your engagement, as you know I love hearing them.

P.S you can read more about our top tips for New Zealand here and here

Dear Diary, we moved to New Zealand

Thinking of moving to New Zealand, we did it and you can too.

moving to New Zealand

Dear Diary, we moved to New Zealand. Yep, we did it! If you’ve been following us for a while, you’ll know our original plan was to settle in Capetown, but to put a long story short that proved a nightmare to get a work visa for. Basically, we’d have been waiting months for an answer from the South African Government and even with a job offer we wouldn’t be guaranteed a place! And why waste months waiting for a visa when we can be off exploring the world. Sensible sorts ain’t we?! So, moving to New Zealand quickly became our Plan A.

moving to New Zealand
Cable Bay, New Zealand

To be brief, in the midst of all the stresses of trying to get a South African visa –  I got an opportunity I couldn’t turn down in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand. So, in typical ‘us’ style we gave ourselves two weeks to pack our bags, book our flights and say our goodbyes. Needless to say, our families were a little relieved we weren’t moving to Capetown, ‘cos ya know danger and all that (that’s one of the main reasons I wanted to move to South Africa to prove the naysayers wrong). Oh well, one day we’ll get there!

moving to New Zealand
Pink Beach at Kauri Cliffs Hotel New Zealand

New Zealand has been top of Paul’s Bucket List for the longest time, so even though it was ‘Plan B’ for me it was ‘Plan A’ for him, he was simply going along with my African dreams because I wanted to live in Capetown so badly. I’ve visited New Zealand before – over 5 years ago and only explored the South Island on a mini-roadtrip with my best friend. And from, what I saw then country is worth its hype. Thus,  plan ‘Moving to New Zealand’ kicked into action.

moving to New Zealand
The beach ‘down the road’

So, on August 18th we said our goodbyes for another year and boarded a plane to Kuala Lumpur (‘cos ya can’t do long-haul without a week stopover). Then, finally we landed in Auckland on August 25th. First impressions – so far so good. It took a while to adapt to living in an expensive country again, especially when we hadn’t started work yet. But overall it seemed like we’d made the right decision. Auckland is small for a “big city” and has more of a big town vibe, we spent a few days strolling around and adapting to the ‘Kiwi’ way of life. But, jet lag hit us bad here so most nights we were back in our hotel room for 8pm. We done all the “admin stuff” as we like to call it like getting a sim card, setting up a bank account and buying a car. The joys of expatting!

moving to New Zealand
One of our favourite spots – Matauri Bay

Then, after a few days it was time to depart for our new home in the Bay of Islands in our recently purchased Audi (don’t get too excited it’s not that fancy, but is perfect for us). The Bay of Islands is just under a four hour drive from Auckland ! It’s so pretty here, kind of a perfect mix of Hawaii and Ireland – if you can even imagine that. You can read more about our adventures in the Bay of Islands here. I feel at home here because I love small places whereas Paul is a city boy. But he’s adapting well. The most important thing is we’re happy here and kind of feel like we were meant to end up in this country all along. Moving to New Zealand was a great decision.

moving to New Zealand
Views for days

Everything happens for a reason, and this new plan was obviously meant for us. I learned a long time ago that the best things in life, come with the biggest risks, moving across the world, pursuing a crazy dream. Don’t be afraid to jump in the deep end.

**Tell me: are you considering moving to New Zealand. Any challenges you have come across? Do you have any more questions about the process? Let us know in the comments below.

Oh and by the way you can read lots more about our move to New Zealand here 

moving to New Zealand
Current Address: Matauri Bay, New Zealand