Our top 6 of unique NZ beaches – these beaches are stunning, no matter the season!

Whether you’re a self-proclaimed beach babe or someone who could live without sand and it’s the ability to get everywhere, there’s no denying that the beaches in New Zealand are breathtakingly beautiful. We’ve narrowed it down to, what we think, are the top 6 must-see beaches in New Zealand.

No matter what the season, these beaches are stunning. So, whether you’re sunbathing or enjoying a crisp, winter stroll – you won’t be disappointed.  The best part? They’re all easily accessed on the Stray route!

Cathedral Cove, Hahei

Cathedral Cove (or Te-Whanganui-A-Hei in maori) is one of the most iconic spots in New Zealand. You might recognise this beach from ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ film and Macklemore’s ‘Can’t Hold Us‘ music video. It’s accessible by a 1 hour 30 minute walk from Hahei beach, by boat or by kayak and should be at the very top of your to-do list! It can get really busy during Summer, so we’d recommend trying to beat the crowds by going for sunrise or sunset. You’ll get an even more secluded experience during the Winter months, which makes for absolutely stunning photographs.

Jumping for joy at Cathedral Cove - one of the amazing beaches in New Zealand
Jumping for joy at Cathedral Cove

Hot Water Beach, Hahei

The clue is in the name – Hot Water Beach is an incredible beach, famous for the hot water you find bubbling through it’s golden sand. Grab a shovel, start digging and sooner or later you’ll have your own private spa pool. The water is filled with healthy minerals including calcium, magnesium and potassium and the best part is…. it’s FREE! To make the most of your time here, you’ll need to arrive around 2 hours either side of low tide. Once the tide comes up, the waves will ruin the fun so plan your trip carefully – this is a truly, unique Kiwi experience that is not to be missed!

Enjoying sunset and a private spa at Hot Water Beach
Enjoying sunset and a private spa at Hot Water Beach

90 Mile Beach, Northland

Whilst 90 miles might be a sliiiiiiight over exaggeration (it’s actually 55 miles long), we don’t think you should rule this one off your list just yet. The beach is actually an official highway/motorway but it’s only suitable at specific tide times and for certain vehicle types (4WD is a must!). We’d recommend hopping on a tour from Paihia, sitting back, relaxing and letting someone else do the driving for you. On a clear day, the reflections of the sky on the shore will take your breath away and if you’re lucky enough to catch a sunset then you’ll be spoilt for photo opportunities. Make a day of it: Check out the nearby Cape Reinga (the Northern-most point of NZ) and body board down the huge sand dunes in Te Paki.

Heaven on Earth at 90 Mile Beach in New Zealand (Northland)
Heaven on Earth at 90 Mile Beach in New Zealand (Northland)

Roberton Island, Bay of Islands

A true beach-lovers oasis in the winterless North, Roberton Island is the tranquil paradise backpackers crave after weeks on the road. Also known as Motuarohia Island, this is a stunning little island with a fascinating Māori and colonial history. The island can only be accessed by boat or helicopter so we would recommend catching a water taxi from Paihia. Spend a day relaxing on the sandy beaches, swimming in crystal clear waters, snorkelling or exploring one of the many walking tracks and don’t forget to check out Twin Lagoons Bay – the most photographed nature shot in the Bay of Islands.

Beach-lovers oasis in the winterless North, Roberton Island
Look at those colours  at this beach-lovers oasis in the winterless North, Roberton Island

Whale Bay, Raglan

Not far from the Karioi Lodge and Raglan Surf School, Whale Bay is a black sand surf beach surrounded by green, grassy hills and native trees. It’s a great place to learn how to ride the waves but if surfing isn’t to your taste then you can always walk along the rocks and enjoy the picturesque scenery. We’d highly recommend watching the sunset here too – it’s nothing short of spectacular!

Whale Bay, Raglan - another amazing & unqiue beach in New Zealand
Shaka brah!

Awaroa Beach, Abel Tasman National Park

Representing for the South Island – Awaroa Beach in Abel Tasman is a must-see gem. You’ll be blown away by the turquoise waters, golden sands and deep green native bush – it really is a picture perfect view. Honestly, every beach in this National Park could make it onto this list but we’ve chosen this one due to it’s particularly unique story. In 2016, the beach went on sale and a group of 39,000 Kiwis donated money so that the site could be gifted to the Department of Conservation and kept open to the public. Now named the ‘peoples beach’, efforts are being taken to protect it’s ecosystem and keep it free from pollution. To access the beach you’ll need to catch a water taxi from Marahau or Kaiteriteri or, for the truly adventurous, you can hike along the Abel Tasman Coastal Track (you’ll need about 3 days to complete the 37km trek!).

A golden sand paradise nestled in the heart of Abel Tasman
A golden sand paradise nestled in the heart of Abel Tasman

Does one of these beaches tickle your fancy? Maybe you want to go the extra mile and tick every single one of them off your beach bucket list? Either way, you can access all of these beaches with a Stray pass – come and explore with us!

Tara profile picture


Originally from Birmingham, UK. Favourite Stray stop: Tongariro National Park. Fun fact: she has done every Bungy Jump in New Zealand.

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New Zealand is a tiny country that packs a scenic punch! Explore New Zealand the 'Stray' way - getting further off the beaten track, seeking out one-of-a-kind experiences and meeting a bunch of epic fellow adventurers.
All tours are Stray Journey small group tours!

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