7 Epic Surf Spots in New Zealand
With so much coastline to explore, it'd be rude not to hit the surf on your next NZ break.
With nearly 3,500 kilometres of coastline, there are incredible surf breaks around so many of New Zealand's corners.
The North Island has epic surf regions: Northland, Coromandel, Taranaki, Raglan, Bay of Plenty, Gisborne, Mahia, Hawke's Bay, Wairarapa and Wellington. Wax down your surfboard and head to the North Island's superb beaches for some surf and sun, Kiwi style.
Northland’s beautiful east coast is famous for white sand beaches, sweeping bays and clean, well-formed waves. There are more than 60 surfing spots to discover, so boredom is out of the question.
Mangawhai Heads is an interesting left-hand break peeling across the river bar. Pakiri Beach has a good beach break that performs well around high tide. You can snorkel at nearby Goat Island, a marine reserve. Sandy Bay on the Tutukaka Coast is a popular location for surf competitions.
Beyond the Bay of Islands, Matauri Bay gets a five star rating from the locals. Tauranga Bay is best in a southerly wind and has both lefts and rights. On the West coast half way up the Ninety Mile Beach is a prominent reef called The Bluff, which has exciting beach breaks on both sides. When a big southerly pushes through, the place to be is Shipwreck Bay in Ahipara. Read more.
Gisborne, East Coast
If you're keen on surfing, you've arrived in surfer's heaven! The coastline is open to ocean swells coming from north and south so you can usually catch a wave at one of the local city beaches or north of Gisborne.
Wainui Beach is the most popular spot for surfers of all levels as it consistently provides good waves throughout the year. The best waves are found at the southern end of the beach at a break known as Stock Route, where right and left-hand tube rides are the order of the day.
Makorori Point is another famous surf spot. A right-hander breaks over a shallow reef system setting up a long sweeping ride that is a surfer's dream. Makarori Centre is slightly north of the Point and produces good right and left breaks that build up over reefs and sandbars.
Make sure to take a bodyboard to Rere Falls, inland of Gisborne for a wild ride down rock waterfall slide! Read more.
Stay: YHA Gisborne
Raglan is a surfing mecca for wave riders, with three world-class point breaks. Whether you’re looking for world-class surf, stunning scenery, beautiful beaches, inspiring arts or simply a good cup of coffee, laidback Raglan offers the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Manu Bay is said to offer the longest left hand rides on the planet and featured in Bruce Brown’s 1964 classic surf film The Endless Summer. Further along the coastline sit the breaks of Whale Bay and Indicators – not recommended for beginners or the faint-hearted. For the less experienced head to Ngaranui Beach. Read more.
Stay: YHA Raglan
New Plymouth, Taranaki
Taranaki is the home of Kiwi surf; almost every road that heads towards the coastline leads to a pristine uncrowded wave. With 180 degrees of coastline, you will struggle to find a day when there aren’t any waves! This region was recently named one of the best in the world to visit by Lonely Planet, so you know it's worth a visit.
A drive around the iconic Surf Highway 45 – the coast road from New Plymouth to Hawera – will lead you to dozens of world-class surf breaks. Stent Road and Kumara Patch are some of the more infamous breaks as well as Fitzroy beach right on the shores of New Plymouth. Boulder breaks, farmland and surfing in the shadow of Mt Taranaki makes this a must visit surfing destination. Read more.
Stay: YHA New Plymouth
For many New Zealanders living close to the best beaches, surfing is a way of life and the South Island has its share of spectacular breaks: Kaikoura, Canterbury, Dunedin, Riverton and the West Coast.
Westport, West Coast
The wild West Coast. From Haast in the south right up to Westport in the North, the coast is covered with exceptional wild and beautiful surf breaks. It can be the most consistent place in New Zealand for swell, taking the brunt of many storms throughout the year. It is a beautiful place to get out amongst the water, but be wary of the sandflies once you get back on shore - they'll eat you alive!
Tauranga Bay is the most renowned surf spot with a surf school and nice open bay for all levels. Places such as Punakaiki also offer sand and reef breaks but be cautious on stormy days as the swell can be huge and the currents, unpredictable.
Canterbury picks up a lot of swells that come up from the deep south, as well as north swells when weather patterns align. New Brighton has great sand banks working on easterly swells. Sumner is also a popular surf break which works on an incoming tide backed by an easterly swell. Taylor’s Mistake has been the locals' worst kept secret since the 1960s, and can be found just around the headland from Sumner.
The South Canterbury coast around Timaru and Oamaru also has some great options and uncrowded breaks. Almost every river mouth produces a surf break. Just remember in winter, you will need a 4/3 steamer and potentially booties and a hood, as it can get very cold!
Conveniently located on the Otago Peninsula, Dunedin provides easy access to surprisingly high number of excellent beaches. Given the spread of northern and southern facing beaches, you'd be hard pressed to find a day with no off-shore wind anywhere!
Close to town and a popular surf spot, St Clair is well known for not only it's consistent surf break, but also it's cafe-lined esplanade. There's even a hot salt-water pool! Waves break both ways and are best between mid and low tide. Other popular beaches include Blackhead, Smails Beach, and Karitane Beach, all featuring both left and right hand breaks and suitable for a wide range of surfing abilities.
It's southerly position means many of the Dunedin beaches get consistent swells of 1-3 metres, but over winter it's reasonably common to see 4-6 metre waves. You may hear of the occasional shark in this region so be aware of your surroundings; not all beaches have surf life savers on duty so look out for rips. Read more.
Stay: YHA Oamaru
Want waves? We know where to find them. Need a bed? We’ve got your accommodation sorted.
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Escape to YHA Ahipara Backpackers and Holiday Park, a 5 minute walk from spectacular Ninety Mile Beach. Our spacious grounds include a variety of facilities including a backpacker lodge with small lounge and kitchen, private cabins, and our reception building containing our communal lounge, internet cafe, table tennis, and fully-equipped kitchen.
This cosy and charming character hostel is nestled in spacious grounds in New Zealand's sunniest city. Unwind in the sunshine and enjoy the relaxed, warm atmosphere of YHA Gisborne.
YHA Raglan, Solscape Eco Retreat, offers an eclectic collection of accommodation options designed with environmental sustainability in mind. Try a converted train carriage, Eco Bach, or venture to the Tipi Forest nestled among native bush.
YHA Punakaiki Te Nikau Retreat offers a series of unique cabins scattered throughout native forest for a sense of privacy, tranquility and escapism. These character lodges include comforts like WiFi, fully-equipped kitchens, homemade bread and chocolate brownies for sale, and of course, a chorus of native birds from the surrounding bush.
Stay in our comfortable modernised heritage building, complete with 5 Star Gold Qualmark rating. This hostel is second-to-none for location, a stone's throw from art galleries, museums, gardens, and a full array of venues to enjoy food, drink, and live music.
Cosy and quiet, YHA Oamaru, Red Kettle is a traditional small hostel just minutes from the Oamaru town centre and attractive Historic District. Our homely, welcoming atmosphere makes for a comfortable stay within easy walking distance of the local penguin colonies.
While Queenstown gets all the glory for being New Zealand’s adrenaline capital, we know a few more hotspots to suit your mood and adrenaline tolerance!
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