Top 5 Beaches in New Zealand for Surfers

by Julia on July 19, 2017

With over 15,000-kilometers of coastline, it is hardly surprising that there are a number of New Zealand beaches that are well known to surfers from across the globe. New Zealand’s diverse surfing beaches include long sandy bays, small coves, reefs, and sandbars all creating an infinity of different breaks, points, and waves. Here’s our top 5 picks of New Zealand’s best surf beaches, perfect for those just starting out or seasoned pros.


Located on the East Coast of the North Island, Raglan is an excellent surf spot for beginners and pros alike. The fast, hollow barrow river mouth waves of around 2-feet coming in at low or incoming tide onto a sandy beach give novices a long ride on both right and left handers. This has become one of the most famous surf spots in New Zealand, after Manu Bay, just 8-km away, was featured in the 1966 surfing doc called Endless Summer. Raglan is only a two and a half hour drive from Auckland, making it easy for visitors landing at the Airport to collect a rental car and drive down. Everyone lives and breathes surf in Raglan, so gear hire and surf lesson providers are plentiful, and beginners can find plenty of helpful tips and advice from locals.

Despite its popularity, the beaches, remain uncrowded, peaceful and perfect for learning the art of surfing.

The Bluff

The Bluff, situated at the southernmost point of 90-mile Beach, just north of Kaitaia on the North Island is a great spot for intermediate surfers. This sand and rock outcrop produces a punchy beach break with an optimal south-westerly swell direction and there are both right and left-handers from different points along the beach. This is one of the most popular beaches in New Zealand with fun waves for all levels of surfers.

The Supertubes

For advanced surfers, the big long rides of Supertubes located around the point to the west of Shipwreck Bay on the west coast of Northland, is a surfing spot not to be missed. The rocky point forms a left-hand point break with long barrels which offer some of the best surfing in New Zealand. At low tide, the waves are solid and start out with a steep drop in followed by a long barrel section and ending with a wally part. It’s definitely worth the long walk out to them to enjoy these high-performance waves.

Papatowi Beach

Papatowi is one of the best New Zealand beaches for big wave surfing. Located to the south of Dunedin in the South Island, this spot is best experienced by expert surfers. These are extreme waves, with a huge right-hand reef break as well as a wicked left-hander. The optimal southerly swell produces waves in excess of 10-feet with all tides, and the waves need to be at least 5-feet to be ridden. There’s a steep drop in followed by a massive barrel. As it’s on the point you do need a boat or Jet Ski to get out there, and be sure to watch out for the seaweed covered rocks. A good wetsuit is a must as this water is COLD.

Rarotoka Island

Experienced surfers seeking the thrills of some really massive big wave surfing should check out the remote beaches of Rarotoka Island in the Foveaux Strait off the coast of Stewart Island.   The western end of this small island has been eroded by the pounding force of the waves into a triangular reef which splits the predominantly west or south-westerly swells. Here surfers can experience the most powerful left-breaking waves and it is undoubtedly one of the best surf spots in New Zealand with waves of up to 15-teet!  Access is not easy, but for an unforgettable surfing experience, it’s worth it.

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