Local Escapes

New Zealand’s 10 Best Hidden Beaches And Where To Find Them

By Natasha Van Der Laan

Wharariki beach

New Zealand has no shortage of spectacular coastlines. In fact, our country has 15,000 kilometres of coastline—making it the ninth longest in the world. We’re spoilt for choice with everything from wild, rugged surf to tranquil, calm shores.

While it’s not hard to find a great beach, Urban List has done a little more exploring to discover these secret gems. So without further ado here are some of New Zealand’s best hidden beaches.

Wharariki Beach

Whakariki Road, Pūponga

Beautiful expanse of Wharariki Beach
Image credit: Whakariki Beach | Tyler Lastovich

At the northernmost point of the South Island is Wharariki Beach. The secret beach is accessed by an easy 20-minute walk along the photo-worthy coastline, passing through farmland and forest. The seemingly endless West Coast beach is lined with staggering sand dunes, sea caves and the odd seal or two.

The beach is too dangerous for swimming so leave your togs at home and opt for your camera instead—the windswept beach and views of the Archway Islands are a photographer’s dream.

In fact, a scene from Wharariki Beach is the default lock screen image on Microsoft Windows 10. If it’s good enough for Bill Gates, it’s good enough for us.

Rotoroa Island


Glorious Rotoroa Island, peppered with trees and lined with hidden beaches.
Image credit: Rotoroa Island | Alice Rich

Rich in history and nature, Rotoroa Island is another Auckland gem with not one but four of New Zealand’s best secret beaches. Closed to the public for nearly 100 years, the island was once a sanctuary for people recovering from drug and alcohol addiction.

Rotoroa is now accessible for all to enjoy and doubles as a wildlife sanctuary for native species including kiwi and takahe.

Here you’ll find four sandy beaches boasting crystal-clear water perfect for swimming (Ladies Bay, Men’s Bay, Mai Mai Bay and Cable Bay). Ferries to Rotoroa Island depart from downtown Auckland on a regular but seasonal basis. Make a getaway of it and book a night or two in one of the island’s handful of holiday homes.

New Chum Beach

North End, Whangapoua, Coromandel

It’s somewhat of a mission to get to this off-the-beaten-track beach. But, like anything worthwhile, the effort in getting there is worth it. New Chum Beach is accessible only by boat or via a 30-40 minute walk along a partly unformed rocky track.

Go at low tide and wear decent walking shoes—especially if you want to detour to the stunning lookout. The beach itself is a spectacular 1km stretch of golden sand, fringed by Pohutukawa and native forest. Better yet, the azure waters are calm, clear and perfect for a refreshing dip.

Mākara Beach

Makara Road, Wellington

Makara Beach
Image credit: Mākara Beach | Nick Woods

Escape the capital with a 30-minute drive to Mākara Beach—one of New Zealand’s best hidden beaches. Wild and untamed, the beach is covered with smooth stones, driftwood and rock pools.

There is a range of walking tracks showcasing views of the secluded beach, nearby wind turbines and even the South Island in the distance. Rug up warm as the beach is known for being windy and chilly.

But don’t let the weather put you off—it just adds to the beach’s wild and moody magic. Pack your sandwiches and bring a flask of comforting coffee for a picnic on the beach.

Whatipu Beach

Waitākere Ranges, Auckland

When it comes to Auckland’s West Coast beaches, the likes of Piha and Muriwai get more than enough praise. However, the rugged coastline also offers some lesser-known beaches that are equally—if not more—magical.

At the end of a narrow, dirt road, you’ll stumble upon Whatipu’s breathtaking beach with its toasty black sand and moody surf. The waves are a little hectic and there’s no surf patrol so leave your togs at home and opt for walking shoes instead.

There’s a range of walking tracks including a 45-minute return track to the Whatipu Caves. The caves have a fascinating history with one of the larger caves hosting formal dances in the 1920s. Take a torch with you.

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Whites Beach 

Anawhata Road, Waitākere Ranges, Auckland 

The jaw-droppingly beautiful Whites Beach, one of NZ’s best hidden beaches. Image credit: Whites Beach | Chris Harker

Whites Beach is a haven for pōhutukawa trees, grey-faced petrels, and picnickers... Provided you’re willing to go the extra mile, that is.

The coastal stretch is absolutely stunning but you sure have to work for it. Leave your car at the Rose Track Trailhead and follow the path down the hill to paradise. There aren’t any facilities at Whites Beach at all so be a tidy Kiwi and carry all your waste out with you.

A hearty picnic (and loads of water in summer) is a must—you’ll certainly need the stamina to make it back up Rose Track.

Karaka Bay Beach

Peacock Street, Glendowie, Auckland 

Hidden behind some bushes at the end of Peacock Street in Glendowie, Karaka Bay Beach is easy to miss. A bit of an urban secret, it’s well worth lugging a picnic bag down the short forested switchback and popping out the other side onto a small yet perfectly formed sandy beach that even has a glimpse of Rangitoto.

Despite being lined with houses (it’s still a mystery how they hauled their furniture down that track!) the atmosphere is relaxed. Stretch out on the sand, soaking up the sun, or paddle out to the pontoon.

Hot Water Beach

Pye Place, Hot Water Beach, Coromandel

Steam rising from freshly-dug natural sand spa pools on Hot Water Beach, one of the best hidden beaches in New Zealand.
Image credit: Hot Water Beach | Miles Holden

Ok so Hot Water Beach isn’t exactly a hidden beach, but the magic that makes it so popular sure is. In fact, you have to dig for it.

The ‘hot water’ in Hot Water Beach isn’t found in the waves, it’s underneath the sand. Yep, you’re going to have to grab a shovel and get amongst. Trust us, once you’ve done the mahi, you’ll certainly get the treats in the form of your very own natural spa pool. Choice.

Pūrākaunui Bay

The Catlins, Otago 

The Catlins brings its A-game when it comes to New Zealand’s best hidden beaches. Pūrākaunui Bay is one of those deserted gems. The small, sandy bay is surrounded by towering cliffs, a large grassy reserve and impressive waves attracting keen surfers.

Wildlife is also aplenty with birds, seals and even dolphins frequenting the remote spot. Spend some quality time with Mother Nature and nab a site at the DOC campsite here—you’ll get great views of the rugged, natural beauty from your tent. The bay is also the perfect base for visiting nearby Pūrākaunui Falls, Jacks Blowhole and the wider Catlins area.

Tapotupotu Bay

Tapotupoto Road, Cape Reinga, Northland

Tapotupotu Bay
Image credit: Tapotupoto Bay | Jeff Tweed

Get off the grid and immerse yourself in nature at the remote Tapotupotu Bay. Located on the north coast of the North Island and a ten-minute drive from Cape Reinga, this is as secluded as it gets.

This breathtaking spot showcases a sandy white beach with breaking surf nestled between hilly tree-covered terrain. It’s a great spot for a Pohutakawa-shaded picnic or—to really savour the magic—set up camp at the basic DOC campsite.

Tapotupotu Bay is also one of the stops along the four-day Te Paki Coastal Track. Attempt the full 48 km track or do a smaller section such as the 5km Tapotupotu Bay to Cape Reinga lighthouse walk.

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Main image credit: Wharariki Beach |Te Pania

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