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  • Writer's pictureRach Stewart


Wharariki Beach New Zealand Guide and Blog with Photo Spots

The magic of Wharariki Beach is something everyone who visits New Zealand should experience at least once in their lifetime. A hidden gem nestled along New Zealand's rugged coastline, Wharariki Beach is known as an untouched paradise and pristine beach offering a captivating blend of raw natural beauty and unique wildlife encounters. You might remember seeing it on your Windows Desktop Screensaver and wondered where it was, well this blog will give you all the information you need!

Located at the northernmost tip of the South Island, Wharariki Beach is a haven for nature enthusiasts and landscape photographers who love to capture seascapes and enjoy the vast openess of the coastline. With its windswept dunes, the famous Archway Islands and golden sands stretching as far as the eye can see, this secluded spot feels like stepping into a time when humans didn't roam the planet.

Archway Island Wharariki Beach Aerial
The view over Wharariki Beach and the Archway Islands from the air

But Wharariki Beach offers more than just breathtaking scenery and a great New Zealand photo spot, you can also witness playful seal pups who are learning how to swim in safe tidal pools waiting on their parents return, spot rare birds soaring, and explore nearby caves and cliffs formed over thousands of years of coastal erosion.

I first visited Wharariki Beach for photography back in 2015 during the summer months and it was one of the first trips I did to the South Island of New Zealand solely for landscape photography. Having grown up by the beach myself and living and breathing the ocean, I wanted to see what the coastline was like in the South Island and Wharariki Beach was the perfect place to explore.

Having visited a couple of times since then and exploring the area a little more, I decided to document everything I know into this Wharariki Beach New Zealand Guide so you can explore it too! Whether you're an avid photographer looking to add this destination to your bucketlist or simply seeking a tranquil getaway and wildlife encounters, Wharariki Beach promises an unforgettable experience.

NZ Guide and Travel Map


New Zealand Prints and Canvas


Sunset Wharariki Beach New Zealand
Sunset at Wharariki Beach (ISO100, F11, 1/60 sec, 24mm)


Getting to Wharariki Beach requires a bit of effort, but the journey is well worth it. The beach is located in the Golden Bay region of the South Island which is approximately a 3 hour drive from Nelson. The drive itself is scenic, taking you through picturesque countryside and winding coastal roads.

Once you arrive in Golden Bay, you'll need to make your way to the small town of Takaka. From Takaka, head north along State Highway 60 until you reach Collingwood. From Collingwood keep going for a further 21 km to Puponga. At Puponga, turn inland onto Wharariki Beach. The Wharariki Beach car park is located at the end of the road.

If you prefer not to drive, there are also bus tours available that will take you to Wharariki Beach. These tours typically include transportation from Nelson or Takaka, as well as a guided tour of the beach and surrounding area.



There isn't a huge amount of accommodation options at Wharariki Beach (the closest being the Wharariki Beach Holiday Park) but the nearby towns like Takaka do have motels and Air BnB options.

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Wharariki Beach is a year round destination, but the best time to visit depends on your preferences and the activities you plan to do. The summer months of December to February offer warm temperatures and longer daylight hours, making it ideal for swimming, surfing, and outdoor adventures. For photography it does make the time between sunrise and sunset a lot longer and you'll be waking up very early and going to bed quite late, so you might want to take that into consideration.

For New Zealand astrophotography at Wharariki Beach the milkyway core is in the sky between the months of February to October, with its brightest moments in June and July during winter.

If you're a wildlife enthusiast, visiting during the winter months of June to August is recommended. This is when the seal colony is most active, and you'll have a higher chance of spotting them in their natural habitat. The winter months also offer a quieter and more peaceful atmosphere.



Whararaki Beach Sunset
Looking east just after sunset at Wharariki Beach (ISO200, F5, 1/60 sec, 29mm)

I took the following gear on my trips to Wharariki Beach:


ND Filters (for long exposure and slow shutter wave images)

Tripod (low light conditions at sunrise and sunset)

Wide Angle Lens (eg. 16-35mm lens or mid range 24-70mm) for landscape images

Zoom Lens (eg. 70-200mm) for compressed and closer shots



Archway Islands Wharariki Green Hills Loop Track
The view of the Archway Islands from The Green Hills Loop Track

To get to Wharariki Beach and the magnificent Archway Islands, from the car park follow the walking track which crosses over farmland and then into a short section of native coastal forest before reaching the end of the track and the start of the sand dunes.

Wharariki Beach Walk Map
Wharariki Beach Walk Map

From here you can make your own way over the dunes and walk out to the vast expanse of the beach.

Wharariki Beach Walk
Wharariki Beach Walk

You will see the Archway Islands straight ahead and can roam the beach for compositions for photography.

Wharariki Beach Walk NZ
The beautiful golden sands of Wharariki Beach on the walk in

It is best to try and time your walk at low tide so that that the entire beach is accessible to explore along. There is a signpost at the eastern end of the beach that indicates the direction to Pūponga Hill Top Walk and at the western end of the beach you can return to the car park via the Green Hills Loop Track.

NZ travel Guide and Map



Sunrise Wharariki Beach Low Tide
Sunrise at low tide Wharariki Beach (ISO100, F11, 6 sec, 16mm)

Wharariki Beach is one of those locations thats work at both sunrise and sunset. I have been at both golden hours and in my opinion I preferred to be there at sunrise because once the sun has risen the light on the Archway Islands is truly beautiful.

I was at the beach during the mid and low tides which left some very cool patterns and reflections on the sand creating a bit more interest in the foreground.

Sunset Wharariki Beach New Zealand
Wharariki Beach Sunset with the Sand Dunes (ISO100, F11, 1/25 sec, 16mm)

You can also head up onto the dunes and use some of native grasses for foreground interest and also get out the zoom lens and take compression shots making the Archways look incredibly huge, especially if you have a person near them for scale.

Archway Island Wharariki Beach
One of the Archway Islands taken on the zoom lens (ISO100, F11, 1/50 sec, 84mm)

Another fun photography technique to try is long exposure especially when the waves are retreating back out to sea. For this kind of shot a shutter speed of only around 1/2 a second to 2 seconds is needed which creates beautiful patterns with the whitewater.

There are lots of options available to you on the beach so be sure to explore it to your hearts content and take lots of photos!



Sunset at Wharariki Beach New Zealand
Sunset at Wharariki Beach (ISO50, F11, 1/100 sec, 30mm)

Getting there: From Collingwood, follow Collingwood-Puponga Main Road to Puponga. In Puponga, the road turns sharp left and becomes Wharariki Road. Follow this for the tracks on Wharariki Road.

Facilities: Public toilets and overnight camping at Wharariki Beach Holiday Park.

Walking the track: The easy 40 minute return walk out to Wharariki Beach starts from the carpark (signposted). Check out Department of Conservation for other walks in the area.

Photography options: Try to access the beach on the outgoing low tide and there are lots of options along the beach for compositions. Works at both sunrise and sunset.

Best time to photograph: My favourite is to be there at sunrise for the beautiful golden light on the Archway Islands.

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I hope this info helps you plan out your next trip to Wharariki Beach for that perfect New Zealand coastal landscape photo!

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.


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