There’s no doubt about it, we live in the most incredible country in the world. But all too often, we find ourselves day dreaming about far away destinations—forgetting about all the amazing places on our own front doorstep. We’re talking about a whole bunch of hidden treasures you might not even know about—think secluded beaches, secret bays, lakes and islands, without the swamp of tourists. Some will take a bit of manual effort to get to, but we promise these will all be worth the trek.
Here are eight of the best places you’ve never heard of in New Zealand.
Anawhata Beach, Auckland
If you’re after some quiet time, head out west to the beautifully rugged Anawhata Beach. Just an hour from Auckland Central, this empty spot is a best-kept secret and will give you all the space and solace you’ve been searching for. You can’t drive down to the beach, you’ll have to endure 20 minutes of forced exercise to reach it, but it will be worth it. Marvel at the views on the way down, then find your spot on the beach, check out the surfers, and remind yourself how lucky we are to have views like this in our backyard.
Sea lions, albatrosses, penguins, oh my! If you’re into wildlife, this is a top (or more correctly bottom) place to check out. The Auckland Islands, which lie 465km south of the South Island, are the largest of New Zealand’s sub Antarctic islands and is home to a huge variety of plants and wildlife including some of the rarest birds on earth! FYI you’ll need a permit if you’re keen to visit.
Kai Iwi Lakes
A three-hour drive north of Auckland takes you to the beautiful freshwater Kai Iwi lakes. There’s white sand and crystal clear water perfect for swimming, water skiing, kayaking and even trout fishing. The two campgrounds are in prime position on the lake foreshore, making accommodation easy, breezy, beautiful. This place really is the epitome in summer, but we recommend taking a winter excursion and beat the sunshine crowds. Embrace your inner iceman, clear out the cobwebs, and go for a brave wintery plunge!
Kapowairua Spirits Bay
This beautiful isolated bay is tucked away at the most northernmost tip of New Zealand and has to be one of the best-kept secrets of the area. It also holds a sacred place in Māori culture as, according to the legend, the site is where spirits of the dead gather, before departing from this world. Should you wish to visit this special area, there’s a campground set in a gorgeous valley that’s only a three-minute walk to the turquoise waters of the beach.
New Chums Beach, Coromandel
A Kiwi summer would not be complete without our beaches, but if you’re looking to escape the crowds, head to New Chums Beach in the Coromandel for an untouched slice of paradise. This perfect stretch of coast has bright golden sand, crystal clear water and is fringed by native forest and pohutukawa trees.
From the north end of Whangapoua beach, access the beach by a 30-minute walk via the Manakahia track. The remoteness and purity of New Chums makes all the slimy rock-hopping worth it. It’s really no surprise, New Chums had been voted one of top 10 beaches in the world. But, surprisingly, even in the middle of summer, you can have the place all to yourself. Perfect your Instagram shot on this iconic, postcard-worthy beach.
Punakaiki's Pancake Rocks
You’ll flip out (but remember…hold on) when you see the dramatic pancake rocks and blowholes at Dolomite Point, on the South Island’s West Coast. This limestone labyrinth got to work more than 30 million years ago to create an impressive natural wonder made up of hundreds of slices of stone that really do look like a stack of pancakes. Additional magic comes at high tide, when the seawater geysers put on your very own water show for a truly spectacular sight.
Te Puia Springs, Kawhia
If you holiday around the Coromandel, you've probably heard of Hot Water Beach but this off-the-beaten track West Coast beach is home to one of the Waikato’s best-kept secrets, a natural hot water beach—minus the huge crowds. Skip fighting with tourists over your spot and soak in a sandy spa pool made as big as you like. Three hours away from Auckland, grab your spade, don your togs and check for low tide!
Tunnel Beach, Dunedin
Tunnel Beach will blow you away—sometimes literally, depending on the wind that day—but that all adds to the charm of this wild beauty. Just a short drive south of Dunedin, descend down the Tunnel Beach track that leads to a magnificent vista of rugged sandstone cliffs, arches and a man-made tunnel to the often deserted sandy beach with pounding waves. Best at low tide and pack the gym shoes—not jandals, this is a magical spot right on Dunedin's doorstep.