New Zealand's best secret beaches

New Zealand 04/12/2017

New Zealand is famous for its beaches - sometimes too famous.

If you want to head to a beach to cool down but don't want to share the space with hordes of people, here are the best places to escape and unwind.

Auckland

  • Karaka Bay

This secret beach is a bit of a mission to get to, but worth it. You can access the beach via a steep track off Peacock St in Glendowie.

It's one of Auckland's more colourful beaches, with a long history of eccentric characters.

It was at Karaka Bay where Governor William Hobson met with Auckland Maori Chiefs when he was collecting signatures for the Treaty of Waitangi.

At low tide there's a great walk along the cliffs to Ladies Bay, while at high tide there's great swimming.

It's the perfect picnic spot, steeped in New Zealand's history.

  • Mercer Bay

  • This West Coast gem remains largely unknown - mostly due to the difficulty and danger of getting there.
  • The path overland to Mercer Bay is like something from an Indiana Jones movie. The journey involves ropes and is 90 degrees to the ground in some places. But once you get there, it's worth the reward.

Just between Piha and Karekare, this stunning beach has some of the most dramatic cliff views in Auckland.

If you make it down, you'll find huge caves and warm rock pools. But watch out for the dangerous water - and seals.

  • Minnehaha Beach

Tucked between Takapuna and Milford, Minnehaha Beach (also known as Thorne Bay) is one of the best beaches on the North Shore.

Getting there is a short hop across the rocks, and once you've arrived you'll find this private little cove has beautiful clear water and fantastic sand.

And because it's not as well-known as the larger beaches, it's less crowded, with enough room to sunbathe in peace.

The views of Rangitoto and the Hauraki Gulf are incredible - so don't forget a camera.

Wellington

  • Princess Bay

Tucked away in Wellington, Princess Bay is one of the best places to be in summer.

Part of the Taputeranga Marine Reserve, Princess Bay has a safe sheltered sandy beach, and is a popular place for swimmers.

Located between Houghton Bay's headland and Te Raekaihau Point, it has great views looking towards Cook Straight and South Island.

  • Makara Beach

Approximately 30 minutes' drive from Wellington City, Makara Beach is a stunning untamed getaway.

This is a typical NZ stony black sand beach, wild and windswept. If you need to blow out some cobwebs on the weekend, this is the place to do it.

It's a great beach for a walk, and popular fishing spot with the locals.

It can be unpleasant on a bad day - but on a good one, absolutely stunning.

Christchurch

  • Motunau Beach

Motunau Beach is a beautiful spot to escape from the city - especially if you like surf and seafood.

It's located about one third of the way between Christchurch and Kaikoura, about an hour from Christchurch.

There's fantastic views from the top of the cliff, and the beach offers both right and left handers for all levels of surfers.

The fishing is also great, with blue cod, trumpeter and kingfish in summer.

  • Rapaki Bay

Just 2km from Corsair Bay, Rapaki Bay is the even better and less popular alternative.

Rapaki is home to the Ngati Wheki hapu, and has excellent swimming. It's an ideal grassy picnic spot too, with lots of shady trees.

You may fish from the jetty with a customary permit from the Rapaki Mataitai Kaitiaka

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