Golden sand and the highest rate of sunshine hours in New Zealand mean Kaiteriteri Beach has all the prerequisites for an idyllic seaside experience.
The gateway to magnificent Abel Tasman National Park, the beach is located at the top of New Zealand's South Island. From here you can hike the area's well-known walking tracks, swim, sunbathe, enjoy a lunch of local seafood or hire a kayak to paddle around the many coves and lagoons that surround Kaiteriteri.
The golden color of the sand comes from a high quartz content, which produces a glittering, Midas-like effect. Penguins, seals and dolphins are common, so make sure your camera batteries are fully charged. A short drive from the Nelson Township and picturesque Motueka, Kaiteriteri is decidedly the best beach in the South Island.
A quiet and environmentally minded coastal community situated between Mount Karioi and the ocean, Whale Bay is just five minutes' drive south of Raglan.
The hills are covered with native trees, while the beach itself is world-renowned for its surf.
The left-hand point break is a favorite of surfers. This is a great place to learn how to ride the waves, and there are plenty of surf schools in the area. Without guidance and tutelage, however, this isn't a place for "grommets" or beginner surfers.
The laid-back surfer vibe has attracted plenty of organic food shops and restaurants, eco-resorts, massage studios and, of course, relaxed riders.
With its bustling feel, vibrant restaurants, ice cream parlors, cafes and pubs, Mission Bay is definitely a city beach. A short drive from Auckland's central business district, on a sunny day this best New Zealand beach entry hums with people playing Frisbee, taking walks and paddling in the ocean.
Mission Bay is blessed with golden sands, an expansive grassy area with plenty of picturesque Pohutukawa, New Zealand's native "Christmas tree." The trees are bedecked with oversized red blooms during summer. This is a great spot to grab an ice cream from the beachfront Mövenpick store and kick back for a little relaxation in the heart of the city.
Mount Maunganui is something of an oddity in that it has both an ocean beach and a harbor beach, Pilot Bay. The placid harbor beach is good for swimming. The Ocean Beach is more dramatic, and popular for surfing and bodysurfing.
For good reason, Mount Maunganui is dubbed "Surf City." Good weather year-round and a great cafe scene make "The Mount," as locals call it, an easy vacation destination.
While the name Ninety Mile Beach is actually a misnomer (it's really only 55 miles long, and New Zealanders use kilometers rather than miles), it is justly a top tourist destination for its staggering beauty.
With sand dunes reminiscent of a desert landscape, it stretches from just west of Kaitaia right to Cape Reinga, the northernmost tip of New Zealand.
Golden sands and impressive breakers alongside the magical Aupouri Forest make this perhaps the most famous beach in New Zealand -- it's certainly the biggest.
The long stretch of beach is best accessed from Ahipara township at the southernmost point of the beach. Follow Sandhill Road north with various access points dotted along the way.