• Rach Stewart

TOP 10 BEST NEW ZEALAND BEACHES TO VISIT AND PHOTOGRAPH


Top 10 Best New Zealand Beaches

It is no secret that my love for photographing New Zealand beaches is one of my favourite things to do, and for good reason, there are so many incredible moments to capture with the ocean and the beaches here play an integral part of New Zealanders lives.


My landscape photography journey started at my local New Zealand beach almost 10 years ago, and I am forever thankful to the ocean for fueling my passion for photography and providing me with the muse to begin this journey into the landscape long exposure photography world.

Piha Lookout

I grew up by the beach, surfed for most of my life and my first landscape long exposure photography experiments were using the oceans waves and currents to slow down the water and produce that mystical soft dreamlike action on camera.


From the tropical white sands of the eastern North Island beaches to the rugged West Coast of the South Island, New Zealand beaches are incredibly diverse and rate amongst the best in the world.

Papamoa Beach

Below I share my Top 10 Best New Zealand Beaches not only to photograph but to visit and spend time enjoying the oceans surroundings. There is nothing better than a day at the beach during summer with family and friends right!


Starting from the North Island and working our way down to the South Island, lets go:

 

MAITAI BAY, NORTHLAND


Maitai Bay Northland New Zealand
Maitai Bay from above

Maitai Bay is one of those places where you feel like you've been transported to a tropical paradise where you could holiday forever. Located in the far north of New Zealand, it has been voted one of New Zealand's best beaches in many polls and it's really no surprise to see why when you see the white sandy beach and stunning blue water with your own eyes. The remoteness of Maitai Bay means it remains unspoilt and somewhere you can have to yourself a lot of the time.

Maitai Bay Northland New Zealand
Maitai Bay from above

There is a beautiful walk in the area called the Headland Track, and you can also camp at the local camping ground.

Maitai Bay Northland New Zealand
Overlooking native forest and Maitai Bay

For photography, I found that the views that really gave Maitai Bay justice were from above with the drone. The perspective from the sky really showed off how stunningly blue the water is in the bay, and the surrounding native forest looked incredible against the water in contrast.

Maitai Bay Northland New Zealand

You can also see how prominent the curve in the bay is when you are looking from a top down position.


 

AUCKLAND


MURIWAI, BETHELLS, WHATIPU & PIHA


The wild west coast beaches of Auckland definitely deserve a spot on the Best New Zealand Beaches to visit and photograph due to their incredible coastlines and turbulent seas.

Piha Beach Auckland
Piha Beach Sunset

I have visited these Auckland beaches on countless occasions and there is always something see and photograph. The weather can be wild and unpredictable meaning photographic conditions are a guessing game but some of the best atmosphere comes from the changing weather patterns.


During summer all of these Auckland Beaches (located approximately 40 minutes to an hour from Auckland City) are popular with beach goers and they make a brilliant day trip to enjoy the ocean air and beautiful water to help cool down from the summer heat.


MURIWAI BEACH


Muriwai Gannet Colony

The Muriwai Gannet Colony is hugely popular with photographers and bird lovers alike. This spot is definitely worth taking a look at especially closer to sunset when the light is at its most golden. The gannets usually nest in this area throughout the New Zealand summer months (November to March).

Muriwai Beach Auckland
View over Muriwai Beach from the Gannet Colony

BETHELLS BEACH


Te Henga Walk Auckland
Views over Oneill Bay and Bethells Beach from the Te Henga Walk

The Te Henga Walk from Bethell's Beach to Raetahinga Point is an easy rated (but steep in parts) walking track boasting incredible views over the coastline between Bethell's and Muriwai Beach. I took this photo at golden hour near sunset to capture the light on the hills.


WHATIPU BEACH


Whatipu Beach Auckland
View above Whatipu Beach

One of the more remote beaches in Auckland, Whatipu is only accessed via gravel road and feels a world away from bustling Auckland City with its rugged coastline and black sand beach. There is a campground you can stay in at the end of the road and the walk to the beach is approximately 15 minutes.


This image was taken with my drone during golden hour near sunset.


PIHA


Piha would have to be one of New Zealand's most famous beaches and one that certainly belongs in the Top 10 Best New Zealand Beaches. Known for its black sand, the famous Lion Rock, and its world class waves, Piha is a holiday hot spot during the summer time and a beautiful beach to photograph.


These shots were taken during golden hour and sunset on the Tasman Lookout Track which begins at the southern end of Piha. This easy track provides magic views over Piha Beach and its icon Lion Rock.

Piha Sunset
Sunset from the Tasman Lookout Track

 

KAITOKE & MEDLANDS BEACH, GREAT BARRIER IS.


Great Barrier Island is one of New Zealand's true gems, scarcely populated and with the majority of the island in conservation land, it is a glimpse of what New Zealand might have been like before colonial settlers arrived.

Medlands Beach Great Barrier Island
Kaitoke Beach from Sugar Loaf Hill

Kaitoke Beach and Medlands Beach are some of the most easily accessible beaches on Great Barrier Island and Medlands is the most popular with tourists (not that there are many!). They both have beautiful white sand and a mermaid pool to relax in if you're not into swimming in the surf.

Medlands Beach Great Barrier Island
Medlands Beach Mermaid Pool

For photography, the view over Medlands Beach from Sugar Loaf Hill is amazing but you need to get permission from the landowners (Blackwells) first. There are plenty of other options from the foreshore and surrounding areas.

Medlands Beach Great Barrier Island
Medlands Beach from Sugar Loaf Hill
 

CATHEDRAL COVE, COROMANDEL


Cathedral Cove Coromandel

It is certainly one the more famous locations in the Coromandel area, and during the summer it does become very popular, but I can't make a New Zealand Best Beaches list and not include the incredible Cathedral Cove.

Cathedral Cove sunrise
Te Hoho Rock, Cathedral Cove at sunrise

Cathedral Cove is uniquely different to many other beaches in New Zealand with its cave entrance, surrounding Lime Stone Sea Stacks, its perfect squeaky white sand, and its stunning turquoise water. It is a truly picturesque beach paradise boasting some of the most beautiful coastal scenes you will find in New Zealand, and only a short 1 hour hike (one way) from Hahei Beach.

Cathedral Cove Coromandel
Te Hoho Rock, Cathedral Cove at sunrise

Photography opportunities are endless here, with options for both sunrise and sunset . The Coromandel has some of the darkest skies in New Zealand, so astrophotography here is also amazing. If you like seascapes, then this is the place to come.

Cathedral Cove Sunrise
Cathedral Cove Sunrise
 

NEW CHUMS BEACH, COROMANDEL


One of New Zealand's best kept secrets and one of the best New Zealand Beaches I have been lucky enough to visit is New Chums Beach.

New Chums Beach Coromandel
Sunset from Motuto Point

Accessed by track at the northwest end of Whangapoua Beach in the Coromandel, this untouched paradise is an incredible place to spend the day during summer swimming, picnicking, and taking photographs.



To access New Chums you need to walk for around 10 minutes over rocks and boulders until you reach the track which meanders through forest until you reach New Chums Beach. Around the halfway point there is a track leading up to Motuto Point which is a magical spot for photography. It looks over the beach from above and gives a stunning perspective of the beach.

Sunset New Chums Beach
Sunset from Motutu Point

Please note though, this track is not for the faint hearted. It is very steep and requires a lot of climbing, even for such a short track. Do this at your own risk.


 

MOUNT MAUNGANUI & PAPAMOA BEACH

Papamoa Beach sunset
Sunset along Papamoa Beach

The beach I get to call home .. the place where I grew up and where my photography journey began. Mount Maunganui beach has been ranked Number 1 as New Zealand's Best Beach and was ranked one of the top 25 Best Beaches in the world for its magical white sandy beach stretching for miles and its beautiful blue water.

Mount Maunganui Beach
Sunset from Mount Maunganui Beach

Mount Maunganui and Papamoa Beach are summer favourites in New Zealand and are one of the most vibing locations during the warmer months of the season.

Mauao Summit sunrise
Sunrise from the Mauao Summit

The best view for photography the short but steep climb up Mauao (Mount Maunganui) is the way to go. If you're not up for the climb there are plenty of options from the beach and Leisure Island which is near the main beach.

Sunset Papamoa Beach
Sunset Papamoa Beach

 

RAGLAN, WAIKATO


Raglan is a little surf town around 45 minutes west of Hamilton by car and boasts some of the best point breaks New Zealand has to offer. Famous for its black sand beach (Ngarunui Beach) and world class waves at Manu Bay, Whale Bay, and Indicators, Raglan has so much to offer for both summer fun at the beach and photography.

Raglan Sunset
Sunset from Ngarunui Beach Lookout

Raglan is more of a sunset spot for photography but attracts some beautiful light at sunrise also. My favourite location to photograph the beach is from the top car park above Ngarunui Beach.

Sunset Raglan Beach
Sunset from Ngarunui Beach Lookout

You can view the coast from all the way up to Port Waikato from this location. The beach is perfect for practicing sea scape shots with some boulders scattered as you walk left along the shoreline.


 

CASTLEPOINT BEACH, WAIRARAPA


Another New Zealand Best Beach that has made many top 10 lists is Castlepoint Beach.

Sunrise Castlepoint Beach
Sunrise from Castle Rock overlooking Castlepoint Beach

Famous for being home to one of only two beam lighthouses in New Zealand, Castlepoint Beach is a popular spot during summer for those looking to escape to the beach, enjoy the walking trails in the area, go fishing and can't forget surfing!

Castlepoint Beach sunrise
Castlepoint Beach reflections

For photography, Castlepoint is one of my absolute favourite New Zealand Beaches to capture on camera. The lighthouse makes for an incredible focal point, and the surrounding coastline, rocky outcrops and Castle Hill in the background completes the whole image.

Castlepoint Lighthouse
Castlepoint Lighthouse

If you're keen to hike then the Castle Rock track is a must do. This hill climbs up 128m above sea level and the view is spectacular. Walk south along the lagoon edge and follow the track up through coastal grassland to meet the boundary track at the saddle.

Castlepoint Lighthouse sunrise
Castlepoint Lighthouse sunrise

 

WHARARIKI BEACH, TASMAN


Wharariki Beach and the Archway Islands is the first of the South Island Beaches I will mention in this blog and it definitely deserves a spot as one of the 10 Best New Zealand Beaches in my humble opinion.

Located right at the northernmost point of the South Island, Wharariki Beach is wild and unpopulated, surrounded by incredible coastal cliffs on both the east and west sides, and home to the New Zealand fur seal, especially seal pups during season. It is the only beach I have personally visited that felt as though I was truly alone with the wilderness .. a place that still felt untouched by humans.

Archway Islands Wharariki Beach
Twilight hour Wharariki Beach

The Archway Islands are a beautiful focal point for photography and look stunning bathed in the last light at sunset and early morning light at sunrise.


Archway Islands Wharariki Beach
Archway Islands Wharariki Beach

The track to Wharariki Beach takes around 25 minutes one way and travels over farm paddocks and a small section forest.


 

ABEL TASMAN REGION


The Abel Tasman Region is one area of New Zealand that is so full of beautiful beaches its too hard to only pick one!

Awaroa Abel Tasman
Awaroa from the air

Kaiteretere Beach, Anchorage Bay, Awaroa Beach are all a dream with golden sand , beachside accommodation or camping, and beautiful turquoise water.

Anchorage Abel Tasman
Anchorage from the Abel Tasman Track

Split Apple Rock is a favourite with landscape photographers and if you have a little extra cash getting up in the air for a birds eye view is an absolute must do.

Walking part or all of the Abel Tasman Great Walk track gains access to even more stunning coastal treasures and the opportunities for photography are endless. Deserted beaches surrounded by lush New Zealand native bush for as far as the eye can see.

Kaiteretere Beach
Kaiteretere Beach

 

And there you have it. Thanks for taking to time to read my Top 10 Best New Zealand Beaches to Photograph and Visit. I hope it inspires you to come to New Zealand and explore our coastline sometime soon.




If you are interested in prints of any of the New Zealand Landscape Photography seen in this blog, please feel free to head on over to my New Zealand Photography Print Store and have a little look around.