New Zealand is an island nation with over 6,000 kilometres of coastline. Swells consistently slam into the country providing some of the most reliable surfing conditions in the southern hemisphere. While it’s fame as a surfing nation is often overshadowed by that scary older cousin Australia, New Zealand provides a surfing experience like no other.
Imagine uncrowded waves, rugged and raw coastlines, breathtaking scenery and wildlife to match; from the world-famous left-hand break of Raglan to Taranaki’s Surf Highway 45, there’s always somewhere pumping and ready for you to explore. It’s warm from December to March so you can ditch the wetsuit, and when your arms will serve you no longer you can enjoy the super laid-back beachy towns that are dotted around the country too. NZ offers the full package.
The top surf spots in the North Island include:
Arguably New Zealand’s kindest surfing spot, Shipwreck Bay offers warm and humid summer temperatures year round. The bay is sandy with a few rocks around the point, and is well known for long rides and epic left-handers. While close to Kaitaia, this beach takes a bit of effort to get to, so why not make a weekend of it and tack on some sandboarding at 90-mile beach
The waves at Piha are massive and consistent all year round, offering both left and right hand breaks. Being close to New Zealand’s largest city – Auckland, this black sand beach is crowded on the weekends during summer months and is notorious for swimmers getting into trouble due to strong currents and rips. It even has its own TV show called ‘Piha Rescue’ about the local surf lifesaving club. One for the more experienced surfers. Be sure to explore the stunning native bush and chase waterfalls while you’re there
You know you’re onto something good when you visit a beach featured in the 1966 surf film Endless Summer. Raglan is probably New Zealand’s most iconic surfing town. The famous Manu Bay has glassy left-handers and potentially one of the longest point breaks in the world. Combo this with the small-town hippie vibes and a thriving arts scene and you’ll probably never want to leave. Beginners can also play in the calmer waves found at Raglan’s Ocean Beach
Mount Maunganui is one of my hometown favourites. Just 30mins north of my family home, this place is the surfing and partying mecca throughout the summer months. Consider it the Surfer’s Paradise of New Zealand. Hollow waves break straight onto a beautiful sandy beach (which the council actually grooms), and you can get a good right point break off Moturiki Island – also known as “the blowhole” – in the right swells. There are often crowds and swimmers to be mindful of but if you travel further up the beach along Marine Parade, you can also find an epic break at Tay Street where they’ve built a little reef from sandbags.
Can’t skip my local break – it’s just too good. Newdicks Beach is rugged and raw New Zealand; a hidden treasure that most of the Bay of Plenty locals don’t even know about. About 30mins drive south of Mount Maunganui, Newdicks is accessed by a privately owned gravel road at the end of Town Point. It’ll cost you $5 to drive down there or it’s free to walk. Worth it in a south southwest offshore wind where you’ll find sheltered goodness. Just watch out for the rocks.
Gisborne is the first city in the world to see the sun, and home to some of the nicest weather in the country. As such, this surf town is a great holiday spot for all levels of surfer. For the beginners, try Waikanae Beach, or head over to Wainui for something a little more serious. Nearby Makoriri Point also plays host to a long right-hander that breaks over a shallow reef system. It’s one of those waves that’ll lave you dreaming of more.
Taranaki is home to Surf Highway 45. Over just 30 kilometres of coastline you will find 11 world-class reefs and point breaks that’ll knock your socks off. The local favourites are the Kumara Patch and Stent Road – both fast-breaking lefts. Wait for a 4-12ft swell rolling in from the south-west and she’ll be ON! Afterwards, why not hike Mt Taranaki for unbeatable views of the coast from above.