New Zealand’s top 3 hideaway beaches

For many people in the Northern Hemisphere, January means snuggling up in a rug by the fire with a hot chocolate. Down Under however, it’s the middle of summer, and that means hitting the beach. New Zealand has the 10th longest coastline in the world with 15,134 kilometres of beaches, cliffs and bays to explore. The best beaches are those reached by foot – not only do you get to enjoy the scenery on the way, but when you get there you are rewarded with zero crowds and a distinct feeling of discovery! Here are our picks of the top three hideaway beaches to explore in Aotearoa.

Cathedral Cove

Just outside of Hahei on the Coromandel Peninsula in the North Island, lies what is arguably New Zealand’s most picturesque beach, Cathedral Cove. A 45min-1 hour walk will take you to two spectacular coves nestled between cliffs covered with sprawling native pohutukawa trees. A massive arch carved into the cliff, which gives the beach its name, divides the white sand coves. Visit in December and the hills will be on fire with the Pohutukawa trees (known as New Zealand Christmas Trees) in full bloom.

Cathedral Cove

Abel Tasman National Park

The Abel Tasman National Park at the top of the South Island, boasts not just one beach, but a string of stunning white sandy bays. One of New Zealand’s ‘Great Walks’ the beaches can be traversed by foot over 3-5 days. For those less active that still want to visit the park, there are daily water taxis that will pick you up and drop you off at any of the spectacular bays along the track. Wildlife is abundant with tuis and bellbirds filling the forests surrounding the beaches with song, while in the water you can see blue penguins, seals and dolphins.

Abel Tasman National Park

Tunnel Beach

A quick drive from Dunedin will take you to Tunnel Beach. After a 30 minute stroll across farmland, you will descend through a manmade tunnel to the beach itself. A local man built the tunnel in the 1870’s to give his family access to their own private beach. Sadly his daughter drowned at the beach after being caught in a strong rip. While maybe not the best place for a swim (the average water temperature in summer is a chilly 13 degrees), the beach boasts sandstone cliffs, arches and boulders, plus interesting fossils to discover.

Tunnel Beach

Angela Schrider is Director at NZ Snow Tours.

Comments (6)

  1. Are those beaches really empty nowadays as you show in the photo or its for demontstration? For some reason I’m looking for quite and nice places for my vacation so.

  2. Yes, they are still this way. New Zealand beaches in general are relatively empty, even more so when it is an effort to get to them.

  3. Adam Parsons says:

    Hmm, seems like New Zealand will never stop astonishing me. And there are never enough white-sand beaches to see :). Thank you for the inspiration!

  4. Simon Lee says:

    I am sure that the beach in Abel Tasman National Park offers the best getaway, looks great with the blue sea just foots away from the sandy beach.

    Simon

  5. I’m yet to visit New Zealand till now. However, if I ever visit there I’m sure to visit the Tunnel Beach. The passage leading to the beach itself looks fascinating. A bit disappointed by its swimming prospects though…:(

  6. Good article. Agree, Cathedral Cove is a beautiful beach, although don’t expect to be the only ones there, it’s very popular! It’s definitely easier to find a secluded beach on the Abel Tasman, especially if you hire yourself a kayak. It’s stunning!

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