Sure enough, if you’re planning on doing some travelling around Australia and New Zealand, you’re likely to choose NZ for the stunning scenery, the wild activities and maybe a spot of hobbit-spotting, and then Australia is your go-to for surfing. Right? Wrong! Whilst our Aussie mates obviously have world-famous surfing beaches, don’t rule us out for some of the best surf spots in the Southern Hemisphere.
Whilst you’re on a Mighty road trip experiencing Black Water Rafting in Waitomo, bungy jumping in Queenstown and taking selfies with the Franz Josef Glacier, add to the adventure bucket list and stop along the way at our favourite surfing beaches in New Zealand - we’ve helpfully divided it up by North and South Island, so all you’ve got to do is grab a board, jump in your Mighty camper and head on down to the best beaches in New Zealand.
Our journey starts on the North Island. If you’re driving The Great New Zealand Touring Route, you’ll get to experience all the best surf beaches on each side of the coast.
We’re going to start right up at the tip-top of the island, where you’ll find the Tutukaka Coast. A little bit of exploring will lead you to Sandy Bay, a much-loved surf spot, renowned for hosting a variety of surf competitions throughout the year. Further back down the island, hit up the West Coast for a succession of hidden surf gems- starting in Auckland.
45 minutes outside of the North Island’s capital city is Piha Beach, a south-westerly-facing beach that catches consistent waves all year- and probably NZ’s most famous surfing haunt. Considering the short journey to get there, Piha’s laid-back feel is a relaxing change from the buzz of the city.
Two hours away from Auckland is the picturesque seaside town of Raglan, complete with a Holiday Park so you can spend a couple of days here enjoying the forever-summer vibe. Whilst based here, check out Manu Bay, which is said to have the world’s longest left-hand break or Whale Bay. For beginners, we’d suggest trying Ngarunui Beach: Raglan Surfing School runs beginner lessons here for those of you who need a little encouragement.
The aptly-named Surf Highway 45 is known as the home of Kiwi surf. The coastal road from New Plymouth to Hawera leads to a number of legendary surf beaches, from Fitzroy Beach to the slightly smaller-waved East End Beach (better for beginners). Continuing along, we’ve got the black-sanded Back Beach- one for experienced surfers, Oakura Beach, Opunake Beach and finally Ohawe beach right at the southern end of this surfing journey.
Check out our Mighty camper friends, Sarah and Lee’s, account of surfing these spots, including their accommodation recommendations.
Over on the other side of the island, Gisborne – ‘Gizzy’- is home to another selection of surfy favourites: Makorori North and Makorori Point, The Pipe and Wainui Beach. Gizzy is a chilled-out city that suits the surfing community down to the ground; spend a couple of days here and soak up the atmosphere whilst getting to know the different beaches.
Down at the southern-most point of the North Island, Wellington (fancy the South to North driving route, anyone?) also has a few surf hotspots, whether you’re about to jump from North to South Island or you’re at the end of your North Island adventure. Uruti Point’s punchy waves are great for surfers of all levels.
If you’re South Island-bound, how about you try the South Island Roadie? At the top of the South Island on the West Coast we have Farewell Spit, a relatively remote little beach: you’ll often find you’re sharing the beach with just a few penguins and dolphins.
Head for the East Coast straight to Kaikoura for some South Island surfing (amongst a whole host of other Kaikoura activities!) Kuhutara (on the way down to Christchurch) is recommended to more experienced surfers, as is Mangamanu thanks to Kaikoura being at the end of a deepwater trench. Gore Bay is a little coastal town, perfectly located for a midway break between Kaikoura and Christchurch.
Once you’ve reached Christchurch, you’ve got a number of bays and beaches ready for you to try out. Taylors Mistake may not have the most enticing name but don’t be fooled! This secret little beauty is a favourite amongst South Island surfies. Te Oka Bay on the south side of the Banks Peninsular is a good choice if the more popular Magnet Bay is busy- and both are ideal for surfers of all standards.
Further down past Christchurch, we’ve got Dunedin- St Clair Beach is just five minutes from the city centre and known for having a consistently good swell throughout the NZ winter months (that’s June, July & August for those of you getting your hemispheres confused). The same can be said for Dunedin’s other famous surf beaches, including Karitane Point and Brighton- both good for beginners- whilst more advanced surfers might prefer Oamuru Harbour.
In the South Island’s southernmost region, the aptly named Southland, there are plenty of beaches for all abilities. An hour from the city, Porridge has a left-hand point break and is best for advanced surfers. At the most southern end of Porpoise Bay, Curio Bay is a little further away from Southland’s centre but worth it for the golden sands and unusual fossilized forest that the area is known for. This bay is fine for beginners. For the surfing experts amongst you, Beatons is just 60 minutes from the city and generally offers a really good length ride, whilst Papatowai is a favourite amongst big wave riders.
See? There’s even more to New Zealand than you’d even realised. So why not make a road trip out of it? Hop in your Mighty Camper and head down one or both the islands, making it a resolution to check out all the surfing beaches en route. You can pick which Mighty campervan is best for you here and map out your journey using our App. Enjoy your journey, adventure-seekers!