Peter Jackson might have put New Zealand on the map as a major tourist destination, but those in the know have been aware of the unrivalled splendor and beauty of this island nation for ages. Auckland is perhaps the best-known city in New Zealand, and it is the largest, located on the North Island, with a population of over one million. It’s a major tourist destination, known as the “City of Sails” (with one third of the population owning a boat), built over a not-entirely-extinct volcanic field and much like other bustling metropolises, there is a significant ethnic population that, in some cases, outnumbers the native land from which they came.
Of course, any city with direct sea access is bound to have beaches that spell sand, sun and fun. Auckland is no exception and many who come to visit are left with the indelible impression that they just experienced some of the most beautiful places on the planet. There are good beaches and then there are Auckland beaches.
Best Beach for a Wedding: Kaitarakihi Beach
If you’re one of those people who listed “long walks on the beach” on your dating profile before you met your spouse-to-be, then Kaitarakihi Beach will be a seamless blend of what you love. It’s secluded, the sand is soft and white, and the water is pristine – in a word, perfect – which could save you a bundle in Photoshopping after the wedding. Thanks to the popularity of nearby Cornwallis beach, Kaitarakihi Beach is also much less crowded, meaning you and your guests are assured a beautiful and intimate evening.
Best Beach for Serious Surfing: Muriwai Beach/Maori Bay
Some might say Piha, some might say Port Waikato, but if you’re a serious surfer with the right skills, Muriwai Beach is where you want to be. When possible visitors can enjoy paragliding and hang-gliding, but most that come, come for the surfing thanks to the easterly offshore breeze and point breaks on the left and right hand. Muriwai is also one of Auckland’s famous black sand beaches; its sand is that color because it’s actually volcanic material that was eroded. Oh, and watch out for the gannet colony, one of only three on the New Zealand mainland.
Best Beach for Kayaking: Browns Island/Motukorea
Browns Island, also called Motukorea, can only be reached by private boat, so kayakers in the Hauraki Gulf might find themselves pleasantly surprised by how empty the area is once they’ve landed. The island is quite close enough to the mainland (if safety is your concern) and its most impressive feature is the volcano which last erupted somewhere between 10-20,000 years ago. Different kayak companies will offer different opportunities, but some include special tours of the island, and others a night-time experience, with a beautiful sunset and picnic supper at the summit of the volcano while the lights from the mainland twinkle across the water.
Best Beach for the View: Karekare
No trip to Auckland is complete without seeing a waterfall (we’re sticking to that statement). Karekare Beach is a popular place among the locals, but visitors should feel more than welcome to head over to the Karekare beach area, take the short hike up the valley and prepare for jaw-dropping and eye-popping. The falls are pretty spectacular and the surrounding beach area isn’t too hard on the eyes, either.
Best Beach for the Whole Family: Tawharanui Regional Park
With a native coastal forest, wetlands, ecology trail, diving and snorkeling, white sand beaches and a campground with water hook-ups and toilets, Tawharanui Regional Park will keep everyone in the family busy for days. Nearby are two parks, one for the conservation of native plants and animals while the other, Tawharanui Marine Park, brings swimmers and snorkelers up close to vivid and beautiful schools of fish.
Best Beach for a Sunset: Port Waikato
Even when you’re a proud out-of-towner, sometimes it’s more fun to just blend in. Port Waikato isn’t humming with the same kind of activity as Piha Beach, but that’s one of the best things about it. And if it’s sunsets you seek, then look no further. Well, look a little further, to where all the surfers are. That’s the part of Port Waikato known as Sunset Beach and that’s where you want to throw down a blanket, cuddle up to someone you love and watch the day slip away in a haze of orange, red, yellow and purple.
This article was written by Chris Gustafson. Chris is a native of New Zealand who recently relocated to Sydney, but his heart will always be in his native land. He works as a writer and teacher.