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As one expects in an island nation, New Zealand is surrounded by pristine coastlines. Within close range of some of its most famous summer protagonists, you’ll find some quieter, underrated gems that are truly worthy of a standing ovation. From rugged terrains to white-sand wonders, here’s a look at 11 of the country’s best kept secret beaches.
New Chums Beach is a secluded stretch of golden sands and lush forestry in Wainuiototo Bay, on the northeast coast of the Coromandel Peninsula. Getting to see it is an adventure in its own right; the beach is only accessible by boat, or via a 30-minute walk on a partly-unformed path that starts at the end of the nearby Whangapoua Beach. New Chums is a protected site – you won’t find any buildings, housing developments or campsites in its environs. In fact, the beach is largely deserted year-round, and locals have fiercely resisted any projects that tried to change this.
Anapai Bay is one of the hidden treasures along the Abel Tasman Coast Track. Hiking and boat rides are the only ways to access this beach, which is nestled among the final few stretches of the aforementioned 3-5 day trek. There are campsites just outside of Anapai Beach for those who are exploring the national park – other than that, the beach is largely a secret spot lined by golden sands and surrounded by greenery.
The remarkable Black Pebble Beach lies north of Kaikoura, on the South Island, near the small town of Kekerengu. Often overlooked, but a definite must-visit for its contrasting elements: the pebbles along the emerald green waters, the rock formations that add to its ‘rugged’ appeal, and the wondrous Southern Alps which can be viewed from a faraway distance.
Sullivan’s Beach is best described as a local secret. It is a sheltered spot just outside the Bay of Islands town of Paihia, that is popular with families and swimmers because of its largely-concealed nature. There’s no road access to Sullivan’s Beach – you need to walk around the rocks on the southern end of Paihia Beach to reach it. Keep an eye on those ocean levels, as the journey is much easier on a low tide.
Northland’s Tutukaka Coast is filled with underrated beaches. Wolleys Bay is situated approximately 20 kilometres (12.4 miles) from Whangarei, tucked between two isolated headlands. Its shoreline stretches across 800 metres (2625 feet), and has a stream runs through its northern end. Medium to coarse sands and a rich sand dune system embellish the bay at large.
Tawhitokino is a small regional park at the end of Kawakawa Bay Coast Road in Clevedon, a rural town in the southeastern Auckland region. The reserve and its beach can only be accessed on a low tide, through a track that connects the site to Waiti Bay. As you pass through the rocky outcrops over Papanui Point, you’ll reach your desired destination: a white-sand beach with fantastic swimming conditions, backed by regenerating bush and rich farmland.
Awana Beach is the surfing community’s best-kept secret. Instead of heading to the more popular Waiheke, hop on a ferry in downtown Auckland to reach the Hauraki Gulf’s Great Barrier Island. From there, just drive up to the Awana campsite and walk to the largely remote beach. Farmland, sand dunes, and grassy stretches are some of the scenic highlights you’ll get to see on this lovely location.
Tapotupotu Bay is New Zealand’s northernmost beach. Cape Reinga is only a five-minute drive away (or, if you’re feeling adventurous, it’s a three-hour hike along Te Paki Coastal Track). Because it is en route to a trekking trajectory, there is a campsite right next to the beach. White sands, crystal clear waters, and green headlands adorn the bay’s surroundings. Tapotupotu is ideal for surfing, fishing, diving and swimming.
When people think of Bay of Plenty beaches, they immediately envision Mount Maunganui. But venture a further 30 kilometres (18.6 miles) east and you’ll stumble across a wonderful stretch of coastline that is shrouded in history. Maketu Beach is believed to be the first place where Maori came ashore on their Te Arawa waka (canoe), coming from Polynesia to the Bay of Plenty some 800 years ago. The windswept beach is a great place to windsurf, kayak, fish, bird watch and hunt for shellfish. A walkway nearby also guides history buffs along a heritage trail.
Waipiro Bay is located 103 kilometres (64 miles) from Gisborne, making it one of the first places in New Zealand (and the world!) to see the sun rise. It’s home to a small town settlement with the same name, which was built around the 1920s and was once the largest town on the East Coast region. Nowadays, the community is much smaller – the town has fewer than 100 inhabitants. Waipiro actually translates to ‘putrid water’, in reference to the bay’s sulphuric properties. The beach is ideal for fishing and surfing, and there is a campsite nearby for summer visitors.
Motunau Beach is as remote as it gets. Pocketed by a stretch of rugged cliffs in Hurunui, a district that lies between Christchurch and Kaikoura, Motunau Beach is as loved for its isolation as it is for its surf and seafood. Blue cod is among the favourite catches along the coast. Motunau Beach is also a must-visit for experienced divers, who might even get the chance to catch some crayfish during their expedition. Those who are yearning a peaceful escape can simply settle by the shores to appreciate the wonderfully chilled-out atmosphere.