The Best Surfing Spots in and Around Christchurch, New Zealand

New Brighton Beach is one of the top places to surf in Christchurch
New Brighton Beach is one of the top places to surf in Christchurch | © David Wall / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Bianca Ackroyd
23 September 2020

With more than 15,000km (9,321mi) of coastline to choose from, New Zealand is a surfer’s dream. Christchurch on the South Island has many epic surf spots to choose from, but they’re not for the faint-hearted.

Beginner’s luck at Scarborough Beach

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Children surfing on Scarborough Beach, Scarborough, Christchurch, Canterbury Region, New Zealand
© Greg Balfour Evans / Alamy Stock Photo
Just a 25-minute drive from central Christchurch, Scarborough Beach in Sumner is a great place for beginners to get their feet wet and try standing on the board for the first time. The beach is broken up by rocky outcrops, and the sheltered bay is home to easy foamies that are perfect for beginners with longboards who want to give surfing a go. Hire equipment and book a lesson with Learn to Surf or Stoked Surf School, both based in Sumner. There are enough beach huts and seaside cottages in Scarborough to house every surfer in Christchurch. Head over to Airbnb to choose your ideal coastal retreat.

Barrels at New Brighton

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New Brighton Beach, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand - drone aerial
© David Wall / Alamy Stock Photo

One of Christchurch’s longest beaches, New Brighton is a popular spot for watersports and is home to the South New Brighton Surf Lifesaving Club. Just 10km (6mi) from the Christchurch city centre, New Brighton Beach has a long pier and can get pretty busy on summer days. The beach is good for beginner to intermediate surfers, and you can get ocean views from all angles in the properties that stretch along New Brighton Beach. A great selection of them are available on Airbnb, from romantic two-bed apartments to eight-bed beach houses. There’s a place for you regardless of how many surf buddies you bring.

Southeasterly swells at Taylors Mistake

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Taylors Mistake beach near Christchurch New Zealand.
© 42pix Premier / Alamy Stock Photo
A more popular surf spot in Christchurch is Taylors Mistake, located between Sumner and Lyttelton. Taylors Mistake has slightly bigger waves up to 2.5m (8ft). Surfing in this stop works in big northerly and easterly swells, but it’s best in a southeasterly swell. The beach “relies on its banks for the quality of waves,” according to the Christchurch City Libraries, which say that the bay was historically “clouded in mystery and maritime drama.” The exact origin of the name, including who Taylor was and what the mistake was, is linked to two separate incidents – records show that the bay was referred to by this name as far back as 1853. As it is a slightly more secluded beach, there aren’t too many homes overlooking Taylors Mistake, so if you manage to nab one of these lovely apartments on Airbnb, you’ll have the gorgeous sunsets all for yourself.

Banks Peninsula surfing at Hickory Bay

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Hickory Bay, Banks Peninsula, New Zealand
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Another treasure in the Banks Peninsula is Hickory Bay. Just 92km (57mi) from Christchurch city, this sweet surf spot is next to a massive cliff face. The beach faces due east and is at the end of the peninsula. This bay gets waves from the south right around to the northeast. It features a sandy bottom and usually has great banks providing peaks along the beach. Once you’re all surfed out, you can return home and enjoy stunning vistas from a wide range of properties available to rent on Airbnb. Cute surf huts meet luxury cottages in this idyllic spot at the end of the Banks Peninsula.

Point break in Magnet Bay

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Kaikoura Surfing, New Zealand
© Tim Marshall

A 69km (43mi) drive from Christchurch, Magnet Bay is one of several bays around the Banks Peninsula famous for its left-hand point break. The adventure begins before you even hit the board. Getting into the water can be a challenge because of the sharp boulders. The best time to hit the waves is at low to mid-tide. Look out for seals and light a fire after your surf to warm up in one of the caves. Magnet Bay is a haven for the more experienced surfer, and the experienced surfer never wants to be too far from the sea. Regardless of your accommodation needs – whether you need space for 10 or just a room for you and your board – Magnet Bay has plenty of options within walking distance of the waves.

Scenic surf at Kaikoura

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The Seaward Kaikoura Range and the town of Kaikoura on a clear spring morning. The town is an important tourist destination...
© travellinglight / Alamy Stock Photo
Make a weekend of it and head to Kaikoura, 181km (112mi) north of Christchurch, for a memorable surf against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains. The deep ocean trench, which comes close to land off the coast of Kaikoura, produces south swells that fire along the coastline. Kaikoura has a range of fantastic point spots to choose from, such as Kahutara with big swells, Mangamanu (Halfmoon Bay) and Meatworks. Take in some whale watching and seal spotting, and look out for the famous dusky dolphins. Kaikoura needs more than a day, so you’ll need a decent spot to get some sleep before you rise for the morning waves. Airbnb has a tonne of comfy, traditional Kiwi cottages, houses and even the odd hut to keep you well rested in this remote slice of New Zealand.
These recommendations were updated on September 23, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.