New Zealand might be better known for producing one of the most fearsome teams in international rugby than as a beach holiday destination. In fact, the Land of the Long White Cloud (Mãori: Aotearoa) boasts one of the longest coastlines in the world, spanning almost 11,000 miles. Generally divided into the North and South Island land masses and home to a diverse range of unique flora and fauna, the country lies between the turbulent Tasman Sea and the calmer Pacific Ocean, providing beach goers with contrasting and memorable options.
One of the most well known beaches in the country is Hot Water Beach. Located on the Coromandel Peninsula, which is east of Auckland and which lies between the Bay of Plenty and the Hauraki Gulf, the appeal that the beach holds for visitors in the summer and winter lies in its self-explanatory name.
Instead of sunscreen, the must-bring item for this beach is a spade with which you dig a small hot-water pool for yourself at low tide; spades are available for rent if you prefer to travel light (there’s also nothing to stop you from borrowing one from the people at the next pool!). The geothermal heating is strongest where steam rises from the water at high tide, and near the rocks. The beach is also good for surfing, although swimming is discouraged because of the rip tides.
If a trip to the beach feels incomplete without a swim, then head to the beach resort town of Mount Maunganui. Sited south of the Coromandel Peninsula in the Bay of Plenty region, and with the Kaimai-Mamaku Ranges in the east, the town is extremely popular during the summer, especially for surfing. The beaches here (pictured) host everything from beach volleyball competitions to sandcastle building contests. Swimming at Mount Maunganui is safe, although the water may not be as warm as expected, if at all.
In contrast, those who believe that beaches are places meant for soul searching and/or brooding (or perhaps for capturing an impressive set of moody photographs) would delight in the west coast beaches in the North Island’s Manawatu region. Foxton Beach is home to an internationally recognized bird sanctuary and a Ramsar site, while Waiterere Beach is popular among fishing enthusiasts and is surrounded by forest. Either way, the ocean and beachscape are virtually guaranteed to elicit serious introspection.