Island nation: an introduction to New Zealand’s stunning coast and beaches

Stewart Isand New Zealand
Stewart Isand New Zealand

New Zealand is defined by its presence deep in the sublime South Pacific, so it’s small wonder that the country is fringed by beaches and boasts hundreds of islands

This is a country that lives the life aquatic, especially since Auckland in the North Island is said to have more boats per inhabitant than any city in the world.

On many of New Zealand’s beaches, you’re likely to be one of the only people around, and everywhere you’ll capture that freshness and sense of unlimited space that so enraptures visiting Brits.

There are 15,000 kilometres of sand, from Mission Bay in the suburbs of Auckland, to Waiheke Island’s rangy Onetangi. Indeed, there’s a beach for every occasion – mild, wild, surf, swim, solace – and many that you can only access by kayak.

On the North Island’s west coast you’ll find black volcanic sand beaches and at Coromandel, legendary hot springs that bubble through the sand.

Piha is the country’s most famous surfing beach and you may have seen the black sands and sublime scenery of Karekare in the 1993 film The Piano.

North of Auckland is remote Tawharanui, a regional coastal park that is reachable on a day trip from the city, where you can go camping, diving or simply go for a hike.

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The black sands at Karekare beach on the North Island

About 200km south of Auckland is Mount Maunganui’s beautiful Bay of Plenty – another surfers’ favourite – and is popular with holidaying New Zealanders.

On the South Island is the Abel Tasman National Park that, again, has innumerable exquisite beaches.

Then there are the islands. Of course, New Zealand has two main islands: North Island and the South Island, the latter known (sometimes contentiously) as the ‘Mainland’.

But there are fully nine island groups, stretching from the tropics to the Antarctic, and 600 smaller islands within about 50 kilometres of the coast – not to mention distant groups of ‘offshore’ islands like the Chathams and the Kermadecs.

You won’t be able to travel to all of them, but there’s plenty of accessible island-hopping to be had. Even on a two-week holiday you’ll find extraordinary, even life-changing experiences.

There’s the active volcano of White Island, real kiwi spotting on Kapiti – the poor flightless fowl’s last refuge – and the Bay of Islands north of Auckland, with no fewer than 144 islands and a dead cert for spotting wild dolphins and whales.

Waiheke Island, near Auckland, has white sandy beaches and bars selling the freshest wine for perfect sun-downer opportunities. The 47 islands in the Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park include the island suburb of Waiheke and volcanic Rangitoto.

From the South Island, you can have yet more incredible island adventures: the Marlborough Sounds and D’Urville Island, Fiordland’s Resolution Island, and the Rakiura National Park includes 170 islands and rock stacks. Sailing into each one is a discovery.

Click here for our top ten New Zealand beaches and islands.

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