It’s coming to the end of the year, with no greater reminder than the Christmas tree set up at the local mall or the festive decorations sprouting around the community. However, Santa’s arrival marks more than just a family favourite holiday, it marks the beginning of something loved all across New Zealand — summer!
At the end of a challenging year, there has never been a better time to take friends and family out for a trip to some of the best local beaches, taking advantage of that freedom and natural beauty in New Zealand that the world is oh so envious of right now. Whether it’s a BBQ on the beach, riding the surf, or a simple stroll, there’s a great spot just waiting for you to enjoy in the sun.
We’ve compiled a list of the popular local beaches to visit below, so that you won’t be missing out this summer. Go ahead, read on before packing your beach gear and getting excited about a day out at the beach!
It wouldn’t do to have a list without mentioning Mission Bay Beach, an idyllic and popular central beach you have no doubt heard of. With stunning views of the harbour and Rangitoto Island, you have a range of choices from kayaking and paddle-boarding, visiting the Sea Life Kelly Tarlton’s Aquarium, or simply enjoying the water and nearby park which includes the famous Trevor Davis Memorial Fountain. As the heat rolls in this summer, don’t forget to take advantage of the local frozen yogurt and gelato stores located beachside to top off the visit. Another great alternative is Takapuna Beach on the North Shore, the perfect spot to take a day out and to enjoy the range of renowned cafes situated close by.
To escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, consider visiting Wenderholm Regional Park Beach, a perfect picnic spot that looks over the Hauraki Gulf. If the clear water is not enough for you, there are multiple tracks and outlooks at the regional park for you to wander, all leading to an exceptional view free of pollution.
If you are open to travelling further out of Auckland, look no further than Pakiri beach, located 100km north of the CBD. Home to vast stretches of white sand and a refined holiday park, it is especially perfect for a short holiday stay in a tranquil environment. Being 9km long there are unique opportunities on offer such as learning horseback riding, on top of a breath-taking aquatic environment to snorkel in. Make sure to leave time for short hikes in the hillside to soak in the view, and relax in the afternoon by visiting Matakana wineries nearby for wine tasting. There is such an abundance of activities on offer near Pakiri beach, you’ll have a tough time choosing!
For those looking to get more into the water and surf, visit Muriwai Beach or Piha Beach, both situated on the west coast near Waitakere. These two beaches are renowned for great waves popular with surfers, and hold some great spots for fishing along the rocky parts of the coast. For visual appeal, Muriwai also is home to a huge gannet colony which becomes very busy around March, but you may still see large numbers early in summer.
Scorching Bay, although it may not sound pleasant, it's about as beautiful as beaches come. The combination of transparent blue water and fine sand creates a picture perfect spot for BBQ’s and picnics, with popular local café Scorch-O-Rama providing excellent food and treats to suit your discretion. The coastline is unique with its vegetation and rocky outcrops, ideal for exploring with the family.
Known by many as Wellington’s most popular surf beach, Lyall Bay offers a quick getaway into the surf only a short drive out of the city. You can be assured its reputation and popularity is deserved, being the location where surf lifesaving championships are held as well as being home to two separate surf lifesaving clubs. The flat strip of sand bordering Lyall Beach is also perfect for a leisurely stroll, coupled with watching aeroplanes take off and land at Wellington Airport right next door.
Makara Beach is rich with flora and fauna, as well as history which very few beaches in Wellington can match. Choose one of the many tracks to walk and explore the hills, and keep the kids interested with sites such as gun emplacements or the nearby wind farm. What Makara Beach lacks in sand it more than makes up for in stunning wildlife, ranging from birds nesting on the coastline, seals, and many other creatures to be discovered in the rock pools along the shore. While it may not be the holiday beach some desire, it’s a hidden gem waiting to be found.
Breaker Bay presents an amazing view of open blue water, perfect for children to swim in in the calmer shallows. There are many attractions to visit, such as the rock arch on the beach to walk under, and a coastal track running around under the cliffs as well as old military installations to scout out.
An iconic beach of Christchurch, Sumner Beach is the first spot to visit for surf or swim as well as an excellent sandy beach to laze on. If you’re feeling a bit adventurous, consider trying some nearby attractions such as paragliding at Port Hills or windsurfing on the beach. For a more peaceful trip, visit the nearby botanical gardens and take a peaceful gondola trip down Avon River. Other events include a farmers market every Saturday, or a nature cruise from the nearby port.
For a more cosy retreat, visit New Brighton Beach which is home to an impressive pier as well as multiple playgrounds for the children at Thomson Park. Soak in the hot pools and unwind, then visit the sea-side library, all with the coast only a few steps away. Walk along the estuary and absorb the view of the water and sand dunes stretching out before you, and drop by one of the sporting facilities on site.
Akaroa Beach provides a unique location blending nature with modern comfort and shops, tucked away from Christchurch in the Banks Peninsula. If you’re lucky, you might encounter the penguin colony that resides there, as well as spot some Hector’s dolphins, endemic to New Zealand, playing in the bay. With how beautiful this location is, you’d be tempted to join in as well!
For a short trip out of Christchurch, Taylors Mistake is a small but versatile beach visited by both locals and travellers, and a great alternative to the more crowded Sumner Beach. It makes for great fishing on the rocks, and the small sand strip provides an excellently sized spot for swimming that just feels right. Walk the track and wind around the hills, soaking in the scenery that vantage points provide. Did someone also say black sand?
What’s your plan?
With the year coming to an end, and school for the kids coming to a close, it’s the perfect time to go out and relax. Whether you are looking to plan a trip to one of the beaches above, or to simply cruise along the coast and find your own hidden swimming hole, it’s time to get out and enjoy summer!