How to Choose the Best North Island Beach Destination

New Zealand is a land of unparalleled natural beauty, we are well known globally for our breathtaking landscapes that range from towering mountains to pristine beaches. The South Island boasts majestic fjords, alpine meadows, and snow-capped peaks and the North Island is renowned for its inviting beaches. 

In this article, we explore some of the best beaches of the North Island from the geothermal wonders of Hot Water Beach to the surf haven of Raglan. By highlighting each beach’s unique features, we can help you choose the perfect North Island beach for you and your family this Summer.

Hahei Beach

My personal favourite North Island beach is the stunning Hahei. Nestled on the Coromandel Peninsula, Hahei is easily accessible by car. It is approximately a three-hour drive from the cities of Auckland and Hamilton and the journey offers some incredible views and scenic landscapes. 

The main highlight of visiting Hahei is the iconic Cathedral Cove, enhanced by a stunning natural archway formation created by the continuous interaction between the sea and the land. The arch is formed by the power of coastal erosion and is framed by a pristine white-sand beach. 

Although the track is currently being repaired from recent storm damage, it is generally a very enjoyable 45-minute walk from Hahei. Cathedral Cove can still be accessed by scenic boat ride or a fun and interactive kayak tour. 

Another key attraction to Hahei is Hot Water Beach. Just a 10-minute drive from Hahei, this beach is renowned for its unique thermal springs. Beneath the sand lies underground hot springs; a natural spa. As the tide recedes during low tide, these thermal springs emerge, inviting visitors to indulge in a one-of-a-kind experience.

Waihi Beach

Waihi Beach, situated at the eastern base of the Coromandel Peninsula, is a pristine coastal haven known for its expansive sandy shores. Easily accessible by car from major cities like Auckland and Hamilton, the beach offers a convenient escape for both locals and visitors seeking a seaside retreat.

The beach’s natural beauty is highlighted by its long stretch of white sand and clear blue waters. Waihi Beach provides an ideal setting for sunbathing, beachcombing, and leisurely strolls. Adventure-seekers can explore nearby walking trails, including the popular Orokawa Bay Track, which offers breathtaking views of the coastline.

Waihi Beach is my pick as the perfect beach for a family getaway with its relaxed and friendly community vibe, safe surf conditions and quiet township. The town offers charming cafes, local markets, and a range of accommodation options, an inviting destination for a weekend getaway or an extended holiday.


Just 30 minutes further up from Waihi, Whangamata boasts a family-friendly atmosphere that seamlessly blends both relaxation and active vibes. This coastal gem has a welcoming ambience, making it another ideal destination for families. 

Whangamata is renowned for its stunning beaches, inviting visitors to unwind on the soft sands or partake in water activities. The surf breaks draw avid surfers, while paddleboarding and kayaking provide more leisurely options for exploring the picturesque coastline.

The town’s charm lies in its ability to cater to diverse preferences, offering a perfect balance between moments of peace and opportunities for engaging in a variety of recreational activities. Hiking trails, such as the Wentworth Valley and the iconic Pinnacles, also provide opportunities to immerse oneself in nature and enjoy panoramic views of the region.

Whangamata is the host of various community events from Local markets to music festivals. The town also provides amenities like cafes, shops, and accommodations, ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable stay for visitors exploring its coastal wonders

Mount Maunganui

Mount Maunganui is another must-see beach in the North Island. The Tauranga Suburb not only has one of the most stunning beaches in New Zealand, it is also a major residential, commercial and industrial area. Whether you are interested in shopping, hiking, surfing or eating, the mount has it all, and more. 

As highlighted in the name; Mount Maunganui is the iconic landmark of the city. Mount Maunganui, often simply known as “The Mount,” is a mountain that stands prominently at the entrance of Tauranga Harbor. However, it is not just a geographical feature; it’s a volcanic cone steeped in history and cultural significance. 

At the base of Mount Maunganui lies the beach that is nothing short of a coastal paradise. The sand stretches as far as the eye can see, inviting beachgoers to enjoy the sun or take a refreshing dip in the Pacific Ocean. The beachside promenade buzzes with an array of amenities, from trendy cafes to boutique shops, creating a lively atmosphere.

Beyond the beach, the town of Mount Maunganui has a fun and vibrant atmosphere. The streets are lined with charming boutiques, surf shops, and delicious cafes and eateries. The town’s energy is infectious, offering a perfect blend of relaxation and entertainment. Whether you’re indulging in local cuisine or exploring the unique shops, Mount Maunganui town embraces visitors with a warm and welcoming ambience.


Raglan, with its rugged charm and captivating beauty, has rightfully earned its reputation as a global surfing paradise. Its name resonates among surf enthusiasts, drawing them from near and far to experience the magic of its waves. Raglan’s consistent and impressive surf breaks make it a must-visit destination for surfers of all skill levels. 

The diversity of surf breaks along Raglan’s coastline adds to its allure, offering a range of waves that cater to different surfing preferences. Each break has its own personality, ensuring that surfers can find the perfect wave to match their skill and style. What sets Raglan apart is its reliability—consistent waves throughout the year ensure that surfers can enjoy their passion without the constraints of seasonal variations.

Beyond the waves, Raglan is infused with a vibrant culture that permeates its streets. Local surf shops offer the latest gear, beachfront cafes provide a perfect setting to unwind after a day on the water. From experience, Raglan has some of the very best Fish and chip shops – perfect for a beach picnic with the family. 

Piha Beach

Moving further north; Piha Beach is nestled on the rugged west coast of the North Island, just an hour from Auckland’s city centre. The beach is framed by dramatic cliffs, black sand, and the iconic Lion Rock, a volcanic monolith that stands proudly at the heart of Piha. 

The rugged beauty of Lion Rock, named for its resemblance to a crouching lion when viewed from the south, provides a striking focal point against the backdrop of the Tasman Sea. The black iron sands of Piha create a unique contrast, and the roar of the waves crashing onto the shore adds to the powerful, natural ambience.

Piha is another West Coast beach well-known for it’s for its challenging and powerful surf breaks. With consistent swells and varying wave conditions, Piha accommodates for surfers of all skill levels, offering a unique experience against the striking contrast of black iron sands. 

Surf schools, such as the Piha Surf School, provide expert guidance for both beginners and advanced riders, while annual events like the Piha Big Wave Classic showcase the mastery of surfers tackling the challenging breaks. 

Ninety Mile Beach

Ninety Mile Beach, despite its name, is not actually 90 miles long but it is a spectacular stretch of golden sands along the western coast of the North Island in New Zealand. Renowned for its vastness and beauty, this beach is an iconic destination that captivates visitors with its breathtaking scenes.

While often recognised for its stunning scenery, Ninety Mile Beach is more than just a pretty face. The expansive sands provide an opportunity for a unique driving experience, as some sections of the beach are designated as a public highway. Adventurous visitors can drive along the firm, flat sands and explore the coastal expanse, taking in the beauty of the Tasman Sea on one side and the towering sand dunes on the other.

The towering sand dunes along Ninety Mile Beach offer an exhilarating playground for sandboarding enthusiasts. Visitors can climb the dunes and experience the thrill of descending on a sandboard, creating memorable moments and panoramic views of the surrounding coastal landscape.

As the day draws to a close, Ninety Mile Beach transforms into the perfect setting for witnessing breathtaking sunsets over the Tasman Sea. The expansive horizon, coupled with the rhythmic sound of crashing waves, creates an unforgettable atmosphere, an ideal spot to reflect and appreciate the natural beauty of New Zealand’s west coast.

Something For Everyone

From the geothermal wonders of Hahei to the vibrant surf culture of Raglan, and the iconic landscapes of Mount Maunganui, Piha, Waihi Beach, Whangamata, and the expansive Ninety Mile Beach, the North Island’s shores paint a diverse tapestry of natural beauty and recreational opportunities.

Whether you seek the tranquil embrace of white sands and clear waters, the adrenaline of challenging surf breaks, or the adventure of driving along the vast expanse of Ninety Mile Beach, there’s a North Island beach for every traveller. 

As summer approaches, the North Island’s beaches beckon, promising not just a sun-soaked escape but a journey into the heart of New Zealand’s captivating coastal landscapes. So, pack your sunscreen, embrace the laid-back vibes, and set forth to discover the beauty that awaits along the shores of our country.