As an island nation, New Zealand has more than its fair share of coastline. Beaches, bays, coves, fiords, inlets, estuaries, and pretty much every other kind of edge-of-the-land you can imagine has its place there, and some of the features are pretty stunning.
Any list of the best bays or coves in New Zealand is going to be incomplete… there are just so many to choose from, each with its own charm. From Tapotupotu in the far north, with its river, campsite, and white sand; to the rocky beach of Slope Point in the south with its fierce Antarctic breeze molding the trees into fantastic shapes — they’re all amazing! So while these are five of the best bays in the country, they certainly aren’t the only ones.
1. Bay of Islands
This gorgeous part of the country is known as the birthplace of the nation, since New Zealand’s founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi, was signed here. The clear waters are perfect for swimming, and both Waitangi and Russell are great for history buffs.
2. Mission Bay
If you’re looking for a central-city bay, Mission Bay is a winner. Just ten minutes from Auckland‘s central business district, Mission Bay is a great place to spend the day at the beach. Between the beach and the road is a large reserve, often full of people playing pick-up games of football or rugby, and the other side of the road is lined with cafes, bars, and an ice cream parlour or two.
3. Cathedral Cove
Without a doubt one of the most picturesque parts of the country, Cathedral Cove features a natural rock structure opening onto a gorgeous small beach; it has been featured in many movies such as Prince Caspian, one of the Narnia films.
4. Moeraki Boulders on Koekohe Beach
Nobody really knows what formed the giant natural boulders that scatter this beach, though the Maori legend is the most interesting — they say the boulders are the remains of goods and food (like kumara and eel baskets) that were washed ashore after a waka (a sailing canoe) was wrecked nearby. However they were formed, they’re awesome to look at and fun to jump between.
See: Travel diary 2011
5. Milford Sound
It’s not particularly easy to get to — at least two hours of windy roads from Queenstown — but Milford Sound’s beauty draws crowds of tourists every day. Whether you hop on a boat trip to admire the views or walk the incredibly popular Milford Track, you’re sure to think the journey was worthwhile.
If you’d prefer to avoid the crowds and find your own private bay or cove, that won’t be hard — with 14,000km of coastline and only 4.5 million inhabitants, New Zealand probably has a bay with your name on it.