With the tenth-longest coastline in the world, New Zealand is beach-lovers' heaven!
Sarah Bennett & Lee Slater
New Zealand's 15,000-kilometre coastline is as diverse as it is long and dishes up everything from sunbathing, swimming and relaxed strolls, to more active pursuits such as kayaking, surfing and paddle boarding. And with plenty of coastal campsites dotted around, you can easily turn your Britz campervan trip into the ultimate beach holiday.
Ninety Mile Beach (Northland)
It's actually just 88 kilometres long, but who would bother counting when faced with such an epic expanse of sand and endless ocean, and the massive dunes that provide playtime for kids of any age. The beach stretches all the way from Kaitaia to just shy of Te Rerenga Wairua (Cape Reinga) – New Zealand's spiritual northern point – with nearby Tapotupotu Bay offering dreamy seaside camping.
So cinematic it stars in a popular television show, primo Piha is all hot black sand awash with foamy white rollers, flanked by the shapely headlands of Lion Rock and Taitomo Island. Beyond the bustling surf beach are plenty of walking tracks, as well as overnight parking areas for self-contained campervans, and serviced sites at the 'old school' Piha Domain Camp.
The surf rolls in big-time around Raglan, a sweet little town with a sunset-view holiday park. Less than ten minutes' drive away, Ngarunui is a beautiful beach with summer lifeguard patrols and beginner-friendly surf (get going with Raglan Surfing School). Watch the experts in action at nearby Manu Bay, rumoured to have the world's longest left-hand break.
Hot Water Beach (Coromandel)
Get yourself a hot body at this picture-perfect Coromandel beach – just one of the peninsula's many – by digging a hole in the sand and soaking in the warm waters seeping up from underground springs. Stopping overnight at Hot Water Beach Top 10 Holiday Park will make it easier to hit the right tide time, and visit the cafe if you want a truly marvelous muffin.
Waimarama (Hawkes Bay)
Half an hour's drive south from Hastings (with wineries en route), Waimarama is a golden, sandy beach popular with Hawkes Bay water babies. As well as surfing and swimming (with lifeguard patrols), there are also walks including a return trip to nearby Ocean Beach. Treat yourself to ice cream and fish & chips, and camp at grassy Waimarama Seaside Resort.
Just five minutes' drive from Nelson city centre, Tahunanui is one of New Zealand's favourite holiday hotspots. The shimmery, sandy shallows are a hive of beach activities, while beyond is a big recreation reserve with playgrounds, fields and many other attractions such as minigolf and a hydroslide pool. Garguantan Tahuna Beach Holiday Park offers a chance to experience a teeming Kiwi campground in full swing. Fun!
Scott's Beach (West Coast)
Off the beaten track at the northern end of the West Coast highway, Kohaihai is a wonderful reward for the picturesque coastal drive. Sheltered conservation campsites lie around the rivermouth, inland of which is Kahurangi National Park. Plunge into this special wilderness on the hiking trail to Scott's Beach, which passes lookouts before reaching the wild, rugged beach – a no-go for swimming but with blissful solitude in spades.
Tucked around the corner, 10km from central Christchurch, the bright and breezy seaside suburb of Sumner has long-been known as a water-lovers' playground. It's a neat place to visit, with good swimming and surf (lifeguards in summer), backed by a upbeat little village with ample hospitality and boutique shopping.
Porpoise & Curio Bays (The Catlins)
Remote, rugged, rural, beautiful – the Catlins stretch of the Southern Scenic Route is a truly memorable coastal drive. Ocean views abound, as do detours to hidden beaches including Porpoise Bay, where dolphins frolic alongside the students of Catlins Surfing School. Alongside is Curio Bay, home to rare yellow-eyed penguins and a fossilised forest. Park your Britz within the flax shelterbelts of the old-fashioned headland campground.
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