At the northern end of the North Island of New Zealand lies Northland, a forested, subtropical region framed by both the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea. This region protrudes north from Auckland and contains a plethora of beaches that, frankly, take your breath away. The west and east coasts are quite different, with varied topography. The west is wild and windswept, with big seas and prevailing west winds. The east coast is more sheltered—lined with bays, rocky outcrops, and islands—making it a haven for water sports of all kinds.
With so many great beaches, it is difficult to select only a few to highlight, but out the lineup of east coast beaches between Auckland and the Bay of Islands are definitely not to be missed. Still, if you want to venture further north, put these beaches on your itinerary. And for those wanting to bare it all, the nude beaches in Northland offer a safe haven to do just that.
Just 90 minutes north of Auckland is Pakiri Beach, but it feels like a world away from the city. This long, 9-mile (15 kilometers) stretch of pure white sand is a great place to find wild isolation. On the beach itself, you'll find a campground and little else.
While you're here, book a New Zealand horseback riding excursion with Pakiri Beach Horse Rides. Or, charter a glass-bottomed boat at the nearby Goat Island Marine Reserve, where you can also swim and snorkel among huge schools of fish.
The township of Mangawhai is a popular holiday spot for Aucklanders due to it's relatively close proximity to the city (under a 1 1/2 hour drive). The protected harbor is large, making it safe for swimming, but it's the ocean side that is particularly spectacular. Swim on the harbor side, surf on the ocean side, or take an excellent hike along the coast to the north through native forests.
Nestled between Mangawhai and Waipu Cove by a winding but scenic road, Langs Beach has some of the most unique sand in all of New Zealand. Its pink hue attracts artists, tourists, and holidaymakers. The beach sits at the southern end of Bream Bay and boasts a magnificent view of the Hen and Chicken Islands, just a few miles offshore. Here, you can enjoy swimming, walking, and reveling in the scenery.
The stretch of sand on Bream Bay that lies to the south of Whangarei Heads is known as Uretiti Beach. This safe swimming beach is also great for beachcombers, with walks along the coast in either direction. Uretiti beach has a popular camping ground, too, so holiday weekends may fill up. For those seeking freedom and solitude, stroll to the southern end of the beach for a semi-unofficial nude area.
One of the best-kept secrets in the Whangarei area is Smugglers Cove. Located on the northern side of Whangarei Harbor, not far from the Heads, this small beach can be accessed with a short jaunt. To find the beach, follow the road to The Heads and turn off at Urquharts Bay. At the very end of the road, park your car and enjoy a 10-minute walk through farmland to the secluded bay beach.
Just to the northeast of Whangarei lies a sweep of white sand beach backed by a number of holiday homes. And this is for good reason. Matapouri Bay on the Tutukaka Coast contains several lovely and easily accessible beaches. If you'd like more seclusion, pack water and some snacks and walk the coastal track north to Whale Bay (a 40-minute hike in each direction). Along the way are some of the best views on this part of the coast.
The main attraction in Whananaki is the narrow estuary that separates the southern and northern ends of the beach. There is a long footbridge across the river that lends access to the other side of the beach. Or, you can drive four miles (six kilometers) around the river mouth. Fabulous beaches line both sides of the harbor and a beautifully situated campsite on the northern beach, in Otamure Bay, makes it a great overnight excursion.
Mimiwhangata Coastal Park
With isolation often comes beauty. This is true of the Mimiwhangata Coastal Park, with its broad beaches, rolling sand dunes, and a refuge for threatened species of shorebirds. The bay itself is one of many in the area, offering a huge variety of scenery, hiking trails, camping, bird-watching, and marine exploration.
The kilometer-long white sand beach of Oakura Bay is located on the southern side of Whangaruru Harbor. This protected beach is perfect for families looking for little to no waves. Here, you can enjoy kayaking, sailing, and hikes in all directions. Or scale the rocks at the southern end of the bay to access a large rock soaking pool.
On the northern end of Whangaruru Harbor sits Bland Bay, with lovely beaches separated by a thin strip of land. This breathtaking location and has numerous hikes and headlands to explore. Enjoy consistent surf (or just watching the surfers) on this exposed section of Northland beach.