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Top Ten Best Beaches in the Far North, Northland, New Zealand

A guide to the loveliest bays and beaches north of the Bay of Islands

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Matai Bay, Karikari Peninsula, Northland

Matai Bay, Karikari Peninsula, Northland

Image Courtesy of Malene Holm

Northland is most renowned for its fabulous beaches. Here is my list of the top ten in the Far North, on a line from the Bay of Islands northwards, although there are of course many more. If you are travelling to this part of New Zealand you will definitely want to check some of them out. One of the best things about the beaches in this part of the country is how remarkably uncrowded they are; don't be surprised if you are the only person there.

Matauri Bay

This is the location of the sunken boat the Rainbow Warrior, which gained notoreity in 1985 when it was bombed by French Secret Service agents while in Auckland harbor. The wreck is now a popular dive site from its resting place near the Cavalli Islands off the coast from Matauri Bay. A memorial also stands on the hill at the end of the bay.

This is another magnificent sandy beach, with a large campsite along the beach front. It's close proximity to Kerikeri makes it an ideal day trip if staying in the Bay of Islands.

Wainui Bay

Wainui Bay is to the north of Matauri Bay and is along a stretch of coastline seldom visited by tourists. It is one of a string of small coves and alternating rocky outcrops that is picture postcard Northland. Absolutely beautiful.

Coopers Beach/Cable Bay

Coopers Beach is one of the more populated beaches in the far north, with a number of holiday and permanent residents. The beach comes very close to the main road and driving through gives a magnificent view of the Karikari Peninsula in the distance.

Cable Bay is the adjacent bay. Both offer safe swimming and a beautifully colored sandy foreshore.

Taupo Bay

Taupo Bay is the first beach north of Whangaroa Harbour on the east coast. It is reached from a turnoff from the main highway and although quite isolated, it is a stunning beach. Rocks at either end provide snorkelling and fishing opportunities and the beach itself has a good reputation for surfing.

Matai Bay

Could this be the most beautiful bay in Northland? It certainly may well be. A small, semi circular cove, it is sheltered from the ocean swells and offers ideal swimming and sunbathing. Matai Bay is found at the end of the Karikari Peninsula, past Tokerau Beach. There is a campsite at the beachfront which is extremely popular in the summer.

Ninety Mile Beach

Actually only 55 miles long, this almost-straight stretch of sand reaches along the west coast from Ahipara near Kaitaia to just a few kilometers south of Cape Reinga at the very top of the island. It's popular with fishermen, and good for swimming and surfing. Vehicles are frequently seen along here and in fact it's part of the national highway.

Kaimaumau Beach, Rangaunu Harbour

This is another 'secret' spot that seems to be known only by a few locals. This beach is situated on the northern shore of Rangaunu Harbour. The road to the beach leaves the main highway just to the north of Waipapakauri and passes through a couple of Maori settlements. The beach itself, although inside the harbor, is white sand and is ideal for walking, swimming and fishing. This is a remote and very beautiful spot.

Henderson Bay and Rarawa Beach

These adjacent beaches are reached from the main road just north of the Far North settlement of Houhora, on the east coast. They are quite similar and show the wild beauty of this part of the island at its best, with exposed and windswept sand dunes and rolling surf.

Henderson's Bay is a renowned fishing beach and the larger of the two, with a golden tinge to the sand. Rarawa Beach has the almost pure white silica sand that is a feature of this part of the coast north.

Tapotupotu Bay

This beautiful tiny cove is the most northerly readily accessible beach in New Zealand. It is accessed via a gravel road just a short distance south of Cape Reinga. A campsite is located right on the foreshore. It's well worth a stop if you make it this far north.

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