6 beaches near Auckland: Where to go for sun, sand, and surf

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Best beaches near Auckland

Located on a narrow strip of land on New Zealand's North Island, Auckland is a city with two large harbors and endless miles of coastline. So as well as being one of the biggest and busiest cities in New Zealand, Auckland is also home to some truly beautiful beaches. In fact, beach culture is such a big part of life in the city that it's hard to imagine coming here and not visiting at least a couple of the best beaches in the area. And whether you're looking for a placid sandy beach for a quick paddle or a scenic location on the wild West Coast, Auckland has something to offer just about every beach lover.

Part of the charm of Auckland is that although the city has tons of great cultural attractions, restaurants, bars, and things to do, you're also never far away from an encounter with the incredible natural side of the country. As well as lounging on the beach and enjoying the Antipodean sunshine, you'll find no end of hiking trails, mountain vistas, charismatic wildlife, and everything else that makes Auckland so special. It's a remarkably short journey from downtown Auckland and its iconic Sky Tower to the natural beauty of Auckland's West Coast or the North Shore, and the best beaches in Auckland are the perfect places to experience that dichotomy for yourself.

As with anywhere else, Auckland is best enjoyed without carrying more than you need to. Take advantage of suitcase storage options in Auckland to leave your heavy bags behind and enjoy the best beaches the city has to offer without being weighed down with unnecessary bags.

Piha Beach near Auckland

Piha Beach

Perhaps the most famous of all the beaches near Auckland, Piha Beach is as scenic as they come. Located on Auckland's West Coast, Piha Beach deserves its place at the top of this list thanks to its incredible scenic beauty, great activities, and place in the hearts of local beachgoers.

Travel distance from Auckland

It's about 40 km from Britomart Station in downtown Auckland to one of the best beaches on the West Coast. But don't let the short distance fool you; this is not a place that's readily accessible via public transit. Driving is about the only way to get here and will take you about 50 minutes.

Activity recommendations

Photography: To a committed beach lover, all beaches are beautiful. However, this one is really something special. Split into two beaches by the iconic Lion Rock, Piha is famous for its black sand beach that can make it extremely hot under your bare feet in the summer, so water shoes are a good idea here. The crashing waves, Lion Rock, and the iconic volcanic sand make this an exceptionally photogenic place, so bring your camera or your phone to make sure you capture your visit here.

Surfing: As well as being beautiful enough to justify the journey from town, Piha Beach is known for having some of the best surf breaks of any of the beaches near Auckland. Bring your own board or rent one from a nearby business and take on the surf here. If you're a novice, there are plenty of companies that can give you lessons and teach you the basic skills you'll need to master this popular beach sport.

Summers in Auckland are warm, and few places are more inviting than the beach to cool off. However, Piha's astonishing scenic beauty makes it a great place to visit at any time of year. Even in New Zealand's winter, which takes place around July and August, the rolling waves and iconic Lion Rock make this a wonderful place to visit to appreciate incredible scenery, get some photos, and drink in the tranquil vibe.

View of Rangitoto Island

Cheltenham Beach

Cheltenham Beach offers more of an urban beach experience, though it doesn't always feel that way. While it may be close to the city, the views it offers out to Rangitoto Island and the Hauraki Gulf make this beach feel like it's a very long way from Auckland indeed, even though it's very easy to reach from the city.

Travel distance from Auckland

Just over the iconic Auckland Harbor Bridge, Cheltenham is only about a 20-minute drive from the center of the city. You can also get here via public transit by taking a ferry to Devonport from the downtown ferry terminal. This offers probably the most scenic and relaxing way to reach the beach, and it won't take much longer than using the bridge, so it's definitely worth considering.

Activity recommendations

Maungauika/North Head Historic Reserve: This is an area steeped in New Zealand history. At one end of the beautiful beach, you'll find this fascinating history park that lets you explore the tunnels and gun emplacements that were established as the coastal defenses of the city. The views from here, of both Auckland itself and the coastline that surrounds it, are also magnificent, so this is a great place to enjoy a walk and learn more about the history of New Zealand at the same time.

Takarunga / Mount Victoria: For more magnificent views, take the climb to the summit of this mountaintop park. The view you get from here over Auckland's harbor and the city is virtually unrivaled, and if you get hot hiking the forest trails, you know there are several beaches nearby, including Cheltenham Beach, that make the ideal place to cool off after your walk.

Mission Bay Beach near Auckland

Mission Bay Beach

With its backdrop of tall cliffs, Mission Bay Beach is as scenic as any in the area surrounding the city. However, it's also closer than most. This sandy beach is, therefore, one of the most popular with city dwellers, combining great amenities with natural splendor to provide everything you could want from a New Zealand beach trip.

Travel distance from Auckland

Only seven km separate Mission Bay from downtown Auckland, making it an easy 10-minute drive and making this one of the best beaches in Auckland itself. It's also possible to take a bus from Britomart Transportation Station, which will take around 15 minutes depending on traffic.

Activity recommendations

Ōrākei Marae: Perched on the headland above Mission Bay, this area offers expansive views of some of the best beaches in Auckland. But there's so much more than that going on here. This is a cultural center for New Zealand's Maori people, and you can learn more about the fascinating history and culture of the Maori here. A popular place for weddings and other events, this cultural center gives you an insight into Maori life and the history of the original inhabitants of the land.

SEA LIFE Kelly Tarlton's Aquarium: Journey beneath the ocean waves in this fascinating aquarium where you can meet sea life from the New Zealand coast. Glass viewing tunnels let you walk right through the tanks that are home to sharks, manta rays, seahorses, penguins, and other aquatic creatures. One of the best family activities in the area, this is one you shouldn't miss, especially if you're traveling with kids.

Takapuna Beach in Auckland

Takapuna Beach

With picture-perfect views and a lively beach town atmosphere, Takapuna Beach is justifiably one of the most popular beaches in the area. Not far from Auckland city, this is one of the best of Auckland's beaches if you want to get away from it all but still have lots to do besides swimming in the ocean or lying out on the sand.

Travel distance from Auckland

Located on Auckland's North Shore, Takapuna Beach can be reached with just a 12-minute drive over the Auckland Harbor Bridge. Thanks to the popularity of this beach, there is also a shuttle bus that connects with the center of the city in around 15 minutes.

Activity recommendations

Shopping: Beaches and great retail experiences don't always go hand-in-hand, but they certainly do here. Takapuna has some of the best and most interesting shops in the Auckland area, making the town an ideal place to explore once you've had enough of the beach. Don't miss the Sunday market, which is a great place to shop for food, clothing, local handicrafts, and just about anything else you might want.

Bruce Mason Centre: Located just a few blocks back from the beach itself, this theater and art center is a great place to go once your beach day is done. There is almost always something going on here, from plays to theater performances to musical concerts, so whatever your taste, you have a good chance of finding something interesting to see here. Keep an eye on the schedule to see what's happening while you're in the area.

Karekare Beach in Auckland

Karekare Beach

If scenic beauty is what you're after, legendary Piha Beach is hard to beat. But if you want something a little more secluded while still being easy to reach from the city, you're in luck. Nearby Karekare Beach is another of Auckland's stunning black sand beaches surrounded by rugged mountains, but it's far less well-known and, therefore, far less crowded than its more famous neighbor.

Travel distance from Auckland

It's approximately a 40 km, 50-minute drive to here from the center of Auckland. As with Piha Beach, public transportation to this area can be difficult, so driving is probably the best way to get here.

Activity recommendations

Karekare Falls: The gorgeous natural environment is undoubtedly the main attraction here. As well as the rugged beauty of Karekare Beach itself, this stunning waterfall is within walking distance of the ocean and makes a great hike to stretch your legs and see what makes this region so special.

Swimming: The sea at Karekare Beach is even rougher than that at Piha, so it's not the best destination for taking a swim. However, you can easily cool off at the base of the falls in the chilly plunge pool you'll find there. One of the most scenic swimming spots in the Auckland area, this will make you feel like you've found an isolated wilderness all for yourself - except in this case, you can easily head back to the city for dinner and a comfortable bed to sleep in that night.

Muriwai Beach

With mountains, crashing waves, black sand, and abundant wildlife, this beach is what the West Coast is all about. Located to the north of Piha, this gorgeous beach is far less popular than its neighbor, which makes it a great way to encounter the wild side of Auckland for yourself.

Travel distance from Auckland

At around 40 km from the city, you can reach Muriwai in about 45 minutes. As with the rest of the West Coast, public transportation options are very limited out here, so a car or taxi is probably the best way to see this wild beach area.

Activity recommendations

Surfing: Like Piha, Muriwai is a legendary destination for surfing. Bring your own board or rent one from local businesses in Auckland or Piha and tackle these waves for yourself. Note that this more isolated beach is best left to those who have surfed before and have at least a reasonable level of competence in the water.

Hiking: The area around Muriwai is rich in hiking trails, with many scenic lookouts over the beach and the ocean to enjoy. Explore the famous Muriwai Grotto or see local wildlife at Muriwai Gannet Colony. With plenty more hiking trails in nearby Muriwai Regional Park, you'll never run out of places to stretch your legs here.

Conclusion

Auckland is surrounded by amazing beaches, from family-friendly urban places to paddle to wild West Coast beauties that will make you feel a thousand miles away. Plus, in a city that is not always particularly cheap, these beaches offer great free things to do when you're exploring Auckland on a budget. And with many beaches easily reached by public transit, there's really no reason not to enjoy New Zealand's laid-back beach culture.

Drop off your things at an Auckland baggage storage and check out some of these fabulous beaches for yourself. As well as great destinations for day trips, these beaches provide some of the best weekend trips from Auckland and give you an opportunity to explore the wilder side of New Zealand on your trip.

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