The Best Surf Spots in Kaikoura, New Zealand

Kaikoura offers unparalleled surfing backdrops
Kaikoura offers unparalleled surfing backdrops | © Andrea Schaffer / Flickr
Photo of Joe Coates
18 October 2018

Kaikoura is a beautiful and stunning piece of country. Many people flock to this New Zealand town to catch a glimpse of the whales that cruise the surrounding waters. However, the ocean also provides some excellent surfing conditions.

The quality of the waves in and around Kaikoura is down to the Hikurangi Trench, which allows swells to come straight out of deep water. It’s (unfortunately) winter time when the surf is at its most consistent in this part of the country, but at any time of the year surfers should be prepared for some big, powerful and hollow waves. Check out Culture Trip’s guide to the area’s best surf spots.


When it comes to the wave with the best credentials in the area, Mangamaunu comes top of the list. This spot is what is colloquially referred to as a “bloody ripsnorter”. There are three main hollow/fast sections, known as Outsides-Middles-Insides, with fatter sections found in between each. Waves here can reach up to two metres (six feet), which means that if you’re not at least of an intermediate skill level you should probably just watch the show. Expect crowds when it’s really cranking as well as an epic mountainous backdrop.

Mangamaunu | © Ethan Heller / Flickr


Kahutara is a spot that normally provides a powerful wave that gives a really good, fast ride. Second only to Mangamaunu due to its inconsistency, heavier form and less scenic backdrop, this is still a wave that is well worth a crack. It works best at low tide and gets south and south-west swells throughout the year. It holds waves up to three metres (10 feet) and is an excellent right-hand river mouth breaking over a reef of gravel and boulders. Like Mangamaunu it offers a long ride but, when it’s small, be careful you don’t hit the beach as the surf breaks close to shore.


Meatworks is best for those who know this area and this wave. Don’t just go jumping in at this break without first chatting to some locals and finding out the ins and outs of it. For instance, make sure you’re take extra care as the powerful surf can move boulders around. Meatworks is a boulder beach with a solid peak, offering rights and lefts. It’s a powerful wave with a fast take-off and is very popular, so keep the old head on a swivel.

Meatworks | © Jason Mooney / Flickr


This is another Kaikoura spot in which it pays to have a little insider knowledge when it comes to knowing where potential rock boil-ups are. Just have a chat with other surfers before you head in so that you have a rough idea as to where any dangers may lurk. Graveyards produces powerful waves that can be a lot of fun.

Ocean Fun Reefs

This spot certainly lives up to its name: it’s a good all-round wave that can be surfed by everyone. Unlike most of the other more advanced breaks in the area, Ocean Fun Reefs breaks onto a more sandy beach. There are several right- and left-hand peaks to choose from along the beach, with the waves usually nice and fat, making Ocean Fun Reefs perfect for people of all abilities. This is a phenomenal spot, whether you’re an old hand who just wants to mess about, or a beginner eager to gain some experience and improve your skill set.

Choppy Southern Surd | © gRm NiouZ / Flickr

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