While New Zealand may be better known for its snow than its surf, this beach-fringed Pacific nation is quickly climbing the ranks as one of the world’s most coveted surfing destinations. Set your sights on the North Island, where twin coastlines lay claim to hundreds of beaches and waves just waiting to be carved.
Surf’s up! Grab your board and a van rental in Auckland and hang ten at one of the North Island’s best surf beaches – from the black sands of Piha to Raglan’s legendary left-hand break.
Less than an hour’s drive from Auckland, Piha is a popular port of call for surfers looking to catch a wave close to the city. However, it’s not just notorious left and right-hand breaks that beckon board riders to these shores. Equally famous for its charcoal-coloured sand and towering cliff edges, the dramatic scenery of this west coast beach see surfers of all skill-levels paddling out, while beachcombers and sunbathers settle in for the view.
If you can’t bear the thought of sharing your wave, skip town and head north to Te Arai. An hour and a half from Auckland city centre, you’ll need to take a dirt track to reach this north-eastern outpost, but once you arrive, you’ll be spoiled for choice with uncrowded beaches, metre-high swells and big, barrelling waves that rival the country’s most famous breaks.
Another ideal surf spot for off-the-beaten-track adventurers, the swells at this far north point-break are as suited to seasoned veterans as they are to amateurs. While not as consistent as its southerly neighbours, a good day at Shipwreck Bay brings some of the longest riding waves in the country – all without any other surfers in sight.
Arguably the country’s most iconic wave, no North Island surf trip is complete without a stop at Raglan. Consistently topping lists of the world’s best breaks, this left-hand point welcomes a steady stream of international champions, local pros and board-riding beginners all year round. Just two hours south-west of Auckland, spending a day at this world-class break is as easy as grabbing a van rental with your mates and piling your boards into the back.
Known as the ‘Naki to locals in the know, this south-western town has more than its fair share of surf beaches. Take a trip down to Stent Road – a right-hand break that’s earned itself a reputation as Taranaki’s best wave; or see what swells you can dig up at the Kumera Patch – a calmer stretch of sand known for its dependable, hollow tubes. Out of the water, be sure to drop in to one of the resident surf shops, where friendly staff are known to share inside tips on the island’s secret spots.
Boasting some of the country’s warmest weather all year round, this south-eastern off shoot is one of the only beaches where you can shake loose your wetsuit on a sunny afternoon. Complete with consistently solid surf conditions and beginner-friendly barrels, this one-size-fits-all break is a mecca for surfers of all skill levels. Got spectators in tow? No problem – this picturesque beach is also a favourite for horseback riding, sunbathing, walking and swimming.
Affectionately known as New Zealand’s answer to the Gold Coast, Mount Maunganui and its string of sandy beaches are a favourite on the North Island surf-circuit. A beautiful spot to catch a wave at any time of day, surfers on the dawn patrol will be particularly rewarded, as the sun sets the beach’s extinct volcano ablaze in shades of orange, red and yellow each morning.
Ready to dive in? See all of the North Island’s surf spots with an Auckland truck rental.