With so many great beaches, it is difficult to select just a few as highlights. Here's a selection of beaches you really should not miss. They are all east coast beaches between Auckland and the Bay of Islands and are listed from south to north.
For the best beaches further north than the Bay of Islands see Top Ten Beaches in the Far North.
Also check out the Best Nude Beaches in Northland.
1. Pakiri BeachPakiri is just ninety minutes north of Auckland but a world away. It's a long stretch of five miles/nine kilometers of almost pure white sand. On the beach itself there is a camp ground and little else, making this a great place to find some wild isolation. It's also home to one of New Zealand's best horse riding experiences, Pakiri Beach Horse Rides.
The Goat Island Marine Reserve at Leigh is also nearby. Here you can swim, snorkel or ride a glass bottomed boat amongst huge schools of fish.
2. MangawhaiMangawhai is less than one and a half hours' drive from Auckland and is a very popular holiday spot for Aucklanders. While the harbor here is large and provides safe swimming, it's the ocean beach that is particularly spectacular. In addition to swimming and surfing there is an excellent walk along the coast to the north.
3. Langs BeachNestled between Mangawhai and Waipu Cove by a winding but very scenic road, Langs Beach has some of the loveliest sand of any beach in New Zealand. It's unique pink hue has attracted many artists as well as holidaymakers. The beach sits at the southern end of Bream Bay and there is a magnificent view of the Hen and Chicken Islands, just a few miles offshore. This is a great beach for swimming, walking and just enjoying the scenery.
4. Uretiti BeachThe stretch of sand on Bream Bay to the south of Whangarei Heads is known as Uretiti Beach. This is a safe swimming beach with walks along the coast in either direction. There is also a popular camping ground here and the southern end of the beach is a semi-unofficial nude beach.
5. Smugglers CoveThis small beach is one of the best-kept secrets in the Whangarei area of Northland. It is on the northern side of Whangarei Harbor, not far from the Heads. To find the beach, follow the road to the Heads and turn off at Urquharts Bay. At the very end of the road is a carpark. From there it is a ten minute walk over farmland to the small and secluded bay.
6. Matapouri BayMatapouri Bay is one of several lovely beaches along the Tutukaka Coast, to the north east of Whangarei. The sweep of white sand beach is now backed by a number of holiday homes. It's possible to find a little more seclusion by walking the coastal track north to the next beach, Whale Bay (the walk takes forty minutes in each direction); along the way are some of the best views on this part of the coast.
7. WhananakiThe main feature of Whananaki is the narrow estuary which separates the southern and northern ends. There is a long footbridge across the river; otherwise it's a four mile/six kilometer drive by road around the river mouth.
There are fabulous beaches and walks on both sides of the harbor and a beautifully situated DOC campsite on the northern beach, Otamure Bay.
More about: Otamure Bay camp site.