Six great Kiwi beaches

Last updated 05:00 05/01/2014

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With so many beautiful beaches, we are spoilt for choice. Six locals give the lowdown on a top seaside spot in their region, and why you should visit.

Ohope Beach, Bay of Plenty

While many holidaymakers in the North Island head to the Coromandel, those after a bit of quiet seclusion go to Ohope Beach. It's easy to find your own spot on this long, sandy stretch, one of the sunniest places in the country. A lack of development means it still feels like a 70s beach town.

How to get there: Fly into nearby Whakatane Airport or Rotorua Airport and then drive for about an hour. If driving, you need to go through Whakatane and from there it's a 10-minute trip. You can also get there via Opotiki if you're heading around the coast.

Best for: Relaxing. The nicest spot is West End, where you'll also find the best waves if you're keen to do some surfing. The beach is safe for families and it has a surf club which operates in summer. If you get tired of lazing around on the beach, there is a mix of walks to historic pa sites, through wildlife reserves, and to hidden beaches.

Local's tip: When the wind gets too strong on the beach, head to the harbour where it's sheltered and quiet, with the bonus of some great fishing.

Blayne Slabbert

Manu Bay, Waikato

Ever since the long, left-hand break of Manu Bay featured in the classic 1960s surf flick The Endless Summer surfers have flocked to the west coast township of Raglan. Manu Bay, also known as The Point, is one of 19 surf spots under government protection since 2010. It is the most easily accessible of the three world-class point breaks near Raglan.

How to get there: Head 7km west of Raglan township on Waikato's west coast. Hamilton, about 50km away, is the closest major airport.

Best for: Surfing, of course.

Local's tip: While the waves can get crowded, there is ample room for picnicking landlubbers. There is also a boat ramp and the reserve offers fishing when the swell is small.

Harry Pearl

Oakura Beach, Taranaki

As one of just three beaches along the entire west coast of New Zealand that faces north, and with Oakura village nestled close to the Kaitake Range that juts out from the north side of Mount Taranaki, Oakura is a heat trap where temperatures are often several degrees warmer than other parts of the region.

How to get there: Oakura is 15 minutes' drive west of New Plymouth. Head out of town on State Highway 45 and follow the signs. New Plymouth is the closest major airport.

Best for: Swimming and surfing. This black-sand beauty is swimmable the entire kilometre from the mouth of the Oakura River to the rocks to the west, although the resident New Plymouth Old Boys Surf Club advises bathers to swim between the flags and leave the rest of the beach to the surfers.

Local's tip: Pick up a fish and chips feast from Oakura Fish Shop, then head off for a beer at Butlers Reef Hotel, a well-known local which doubles as one of Taranaki's great live-music spots.

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Rob Maetzig

Waitarere Beach, Manawatu

Kilometres of sand dunes cover the west coast of Manawatu and Horowhenua, and all are worth exploring. One patch of sand with a bit more to it is Waitarere, a large beach with a growing town on its edge.

How to get there: Three minutes north of Levin on State Highway 1 is a clearly marked turnoff leading to the coast, which is about 5 minutes' drive away. The closest major airport is Palmerston North, 45 minutes away, but Wellington Airport is just 90 minutes from the beach.

Best for: Quadbiking and dirtbiking - the beach is wide and a legal road. There's also plenty of space for horse-riders, beach cricketers, volleyballers and sunbathers.

Local's tip: Fishers using longlines from the shore are extremely successful and there are large snapper in deep water off the coast.

Chris Hyde

Caroline Bay Beach, Canterbury

Timaru's Caroline Bay is rather grandly known as the "Riviera of the South" because of its shallow U-shaped coastline but, unlike modern resorts in Europe, there is plenty of room to spread out on this sandy, man-made beach.

How to get there: Timaru is a two-hour drive south of Christchurch and two-and-a-half hours north of Dunedin. From the top of Timaru's main street it is a 5 to 10-minute downhill walk to Caroline Bay.

Best for: Family holidays. With gentle waves and water which deepens gradually, this is an ideal spot for kids. There are outdoor showers at either end of the beach plus an aquatic centre, skate park, children's playground including paddling pool, bird aviary, public barbecues and rose gardens all close by.

Local's tip: At dusk, little blue penguins can be seen toddling up the beach to their nests as they swap shifts with their partners waiting among the rocks around the port.

Esther Ashby-Coventry

Kakanui, North Otago

While Kakanui's beaches aren't well-known beyond the region, they are easy to find and easily accessible.

How to get there: Kakanui is about 15 kilometres south of the township of Oamaru. Drive through Oamaru to Beach Rd, then follow the signposts. Kakanui's main beach, Campbells Bay, is just a few metres from the township's residential areas. The southern end, known as All Day Bay, is a couple of kilometres further on. Dunedin, just over an hour away, is the closest major airport.

Best for: As well as swimming and surfing, there are grassed areas at both bays with plenty of space to kick a ball around or to have a picnic.

Local's tip: All Day Bay is a little more sheltered at the southern end. If you're a surfer, head straight for the northern end.

Daniel Birchfield

- © Fairfax NZ News

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