As a 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 moulding 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. 

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. 

Dolphins in the Bay of Islands
Dolphins in the Bay of Islands

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.

Mission Bay New Zealand
Mission Bay beach — great place to eat fish and chips.

Cathedral Cove

Without 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 featured in many movies such as Prince Caspian, one of the Narnia films. 

Cathedral Cove New Zealand
Cathedral Cove — one of my favourites.

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. 

Moeraki boulders NZ
The Moeraki boulders are an awesome geological feature.

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. 

Milford Sound
Milford Sound

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. 

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Your thoughts on "Top 5 New Zealand bays and beaches"

  • Informative share! The Milford Sound looks amazing.. Are those clicked by you? you surfed there on a Boat?

    on September 9, 2017 at 9:45 pm Reply
    • Thanks Naveen! We walked the Milford Track and to get back to civilisation from the end of the track you have to go by boat. :)

      on September 12, 2017 at 2:42 am Reply
  • Milford Sound and Cathedral Cove are amazing! Cathedral cove is so surreal. :) I didn't know about the Moeraki Boulders when I visited :/ . Shoud've read your article before!

    on November 11, 2017 at 12:16 am Reply

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