Updated 29 November 2016
New Zealand is one of the world’s biggest and best playgrounds when it comes to surfing. With over 15,000kms of coastline, nature has been kind to New Zealand when it comes to perfect surfing destinations. With smalls bays and coves benefiting from some fantastic breaks, it’s no wonder people travel from all around the world to come and surf on New Zealand’s shores.
Surfing in New Zealand offers consistent waves, spectacular scenery and un-crowded beaches, the perfect playground for first timers, enthusiasts or those in search of fun in remote locations. One of the best things about New Zealand is that the beaches here offer surfing all-year round, with the North Island boasting warmer temperatures in summer (December–March) allowing you to ditch the wetsuit, or keep it on for surfing in the South.
From clean barrels rolling onto pure white sand on the east coast, to gnarly waves pounding rugged west coast beaches, there is a surf break for everyone, whatever your experience.No matter where you are travelling in New Zealand, it’s rare you will find a place on the coast where a surfing beach will not be within a short driving distance from you. Below we take a look at some of New Zealand’s best surfing beaches.
Auckland, The Far North and Waikato
Raglan, on the Waikato coast west of Hamilton is New Zealand’s hottest surf spot with a surf school to help everyone from beginners to riders who fancy brushing up on their skills. With three-hour lessons available daily, seven days a week, friendly and enthusiastic instructors will have you up on your board in no time. With board and wetsuit hire included as well as transportation to the beach from Raglan town, at NZ$89 a group session, this is great value for money. It is quite common to take just one lesson with an instructor then practice on your own the next day, hiring the equipment alone. Alternatively one-on-one sessions can be booked at NZ$149 per person or NZ$129 for two people. Raglan continues to hold its title as New Zealand’s surfing mecca for its epic left hand break, one of the longest in the world.
Auckland is also a surfing hotspot whether you want to surf those long breakers onto the lovely sandy beaches in Orewa and slightly further north of Auckland, the stunning Tawharanui Regional Park or whether you want to take on the serious breakers of the wild west coast at Piha, Muriwai or Bethells, Auckland is definitely a great place to come and surf. Piha continues to be Auckland’s most popular surfing destination with a tricky right hander to contend with but it’s worth the effort when you get it right.
Taking us a bit further north and sticking this time on the east coast, Mangawhai is an ever-popular destination for surfers along with Ahipara and Te Arai. Taupo Bay is also another great place to catch some waves and is not to be confused with the great lake where you will not be able to do any surfing!
The Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay, Taranaki and Wellington
Heading south down the country, the east coast continues to deliver some world class beaches and surfing to match. New Zealand’s first artificial reef at Mount Maunganui is a super-popular spot, especially in the summer and the town has a great vibe during those lazy summer months. Just down the coast is Papamoa, another popular spot with surfers. Finally as you head down the east coast, Whangamata offer sup some outstanding surfing and some of New Zealand’s most beautiful beaches.
Skipping past East Cape and hitting the Hawke’s Bay region, Gisborne, the first place in the world to see the sunrise is a fantastic spot for a morning surf. Knowing you are the first person to catch a wave on that day is also pretty cool! The Mahia Peninsula is also a great place for a surf.
Switching coasts and heading over to Taranaki, there is also some great surfing as you head down surf highway from Raglan to New Plymouth. There is good surfing and a great vibe in New Plymouth as well as Opunake which is well worth a stop off with the boards.
Finally we hit the country’s capital and just minutes from the city centre, you can be surfing some great waves in Lyall Bay which benefits from some pretty awesome southerly swells. If you thought Wellington was all about the city, then think again – the beaches and the surf down here are both spectacular so the next time you head to Wellington, be sure to pack your board!
The best of the South Island
Whilst the North Island is undoubtedly the best place to surf year round, when the weather is just right in the South, some of the surfing down here is spectacular. Again, it’s possible to surf on both the east and west coasts and pretty much from top to bottom. Starting at the top, try Mangamaunu in Marlborough before heading down towards Kaikoura (roads permitting) and on to Canterbury where you can surf some awesome waves at Sumner Beach and New Brighton.
The West Coast is one of New Zealand’s most spectacular coastlines and there is good surfing to be had all down the coast from Westport to Greymouth. Perhaps the jewel of the South Island when it comes to surfing is Dunedin with a large number of breaks within close proximity. The next time you’re down that way, give Papatowai, Brighton or Karitane a whirl.
Whether a surfing virgin or a pro on the board, New Zealand’s coast has every surfing break and swell covered for the ultimate ride. Take a day to master the skills then grab a board, catch a wave and be your own free agent. Nothing beats the feeling of this adrenaline pumping ride.