6 of the Best Beaches in Bay of Plenty

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New Zealand might be celebrated around the world for its rugged, mountainous landscapes (thank you, Lord of the Rings), but considering this dual island nation is literally surrounded by coastline, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that NZ also boasts its fair share of incredible beaches. One area is especially reputed for having some of the best beaches in New Zealand’s North Island; with the Bay of Plenty perhaps one of the country’s most popular seaside holiday destinations.

Located in the island’s north-east, the Bay of Plenty stretches 260 kilometres from the Coromandel Peninsula to Cape Runaway. So, you can rest assured that there’s a beach here for every type of holidaymaker. Plus, considering you can easily drive from Auckland to the Bay of Plenty in a few hours, the region makes for a wonderful weekend getaway. The only question remaining is which beach is right for you? With that in mind, here are just some of the best beaches around the Bay of Plenty.

Mount Maunganui Main Beach

Perfect for: A bit of everything.

Mount Maunganui’s Main Beach is not only one of the North Island’s best beaches; it’s one of the best in the South Pacific. Mount Maunganui’s Main Beach was voted New Zealand’s best beach for the sixth year in a row in TripAdvisor’s 2019 Traveller’s Choice awards. It also scooped the gong as the fourth best beach in the South Pacific. And really, it’s not hard to see why.

Named for the extinct volcano that sits atop the peninsula, Mount Maunganui Main Beach features vibrant green water, bright white sand and fantastic waves. The beach is popular with every type of beach-goer, from sunbathers and surfers, to beach volleyball players and sand castle builders. It’s also the ideal spot for swimmers, owing not only to the presence of surf lifeguards, but to the fact that sea temperatures here can reach 21 degrees Celsius or more in summer. Fishing enthusiasts may find the beach a little too busy for surf-casting, but across the nearby bridge to Moturiki Island, anglers will find an ample supply of snapper, kahawai and gurnard off the rocks. It’s little wonder that this is one of the most popular Bay of Plenty beaches with locals and travellers alike.

Mount Maunganui and Beach. Credit: Dave Pollard | CC BY-NC 2.0

Pilot Bay Beach

Perfect for: Families with young children.

While Mount Maunganui Main Beach might get the lion’s share of international attention, the town’s second beach is just as impressive. Located on the harbour side of town, Pilot Bay Beach is sheltered from the open ocean, and is therefore one of the best Bay of Plenty child-friendly swimming beaches. Here, you can settle into a relaxing afternoon looking out over Tauranga Harbour, or take advantage of the calm waters to try your hand at paddle boarding, jet skiing or kayaking. If you feel the need to stretch your legs, you can also access a 3.4-kilometre walking track at the northern end of Pilot Bay that will take you around the base of Mount Maunganui volcano or, if it’s not too hot, up to the summit, where you can take in stunning panoramic views across the town and the bay. Back down on the seashore, you’ll find a number of barbecues and picnic tables, so pack a portable lunch and enjoy a truly relaxing day at one of the Bay of Plenty’s best beaches.

Pilot Bay. Credit: skepticalview | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Papamoa Beach

Located only a few kilometres from Mount Maunganui, Papamoa Beach offers warm sand and rolling surf. As such, this is an incredibly popular destination in the summer, attracting thousands of sun-seekers. Don’t worry though, you won’t feel crowded – after all, Papamoa Beach stretches for 16 golden kilometres, and is also one of the widest beaches in the region. As such, it’s perfect for families that love to break out the beach cricket set or toss a frisbee around. The water is just as inviting as the shore though, with kite and windsurfing rather popular here. When the swell is high, Papamoa is also a favourite surfing destination among locals, with both left- and right-hand breakers accessible along the coast.

Papamoa Beach. Credit: steven_n_maher | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

?hope Beach

Perfect for: Stunning scenery.

While there are so many things to do in the Bay of Plenty, part of the area’s appeal is that it’s also the perfect place to do absolutely nothing. Perhaps one of the region’s prettiest beaches – and therefore the ideal candidate for a vacation of pure relaxation – is ?hope Beach, which stretches for 11 kilometres from the ?hiwa Harbour entrance in the east to West End beach at the base of the K?hi Point headland. Lazing on the white sand, your view captures Moutohor? (Whale Island), so named because it is shaped like a whale, as well as the active marine volcano Whakaari (White Island), which sits on the horizon. With gentle waves lapping at the shore and Norfolk Pine trees providing a touch of greenery, you’ll be surprised (and delighted) to discover that your only company at ?hope Beach could very well be the seagulls. The beach is great for kayaking, windsurfing and paddle boarding, however truly the best way to spend your time here is by doing nothing but soaking up the scenery and serenity.

?hope Beach. Credit: m o u s e | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Pukehina Beach

Perfect for: Surf-casting.

Offering the best of both worlds, the Pukehina peninsula stretches for 10 kilometres and provides its visitors with access to a sheltered estuary as well as the Pacific Ocean. This means that there are ample opportunities for swimming, surfing and fishing, with surf-casting particularly popular here. This is due to the numerous underlying reefs and rocks that attract fish, with the fishing best at the north-west end of the beach around Dotterel Point. This area of the peninsula is also one of the better areas to swim, owing to the presence of Pukehina’s Surf Rescue Club, which means there are typically lifeguards on duty. If you’re interested in glamping in the Bay of Plenty, you’ve also come to the right place, with options available further inland. Truly, there’s not much you can’t do at Pukehina Beach.

Pukehina Beach. Credit: Stewart Baird | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Waihi Beach

Perfect for: Surfing.

If it’s incredible surf you’re after, look no further than Waihi Beach. Situated less than two hours’ drive from Auckland, Waihi Beach is a 9 kilometre-long stretch of white sand and crashing waves, making it a popular holiday destination for both surfers and families. While you can swim anywhere here, the safest area is at the northern end by the Waihi Surf Lifesaving Club. However, Bowentown at the southern end is a more sheltered spot, providing great fishing opportunities at Anzac, Shelly and Cave Bays. For those looking to make the most of the surf, there are numerous quality spots dotted along the coastline. Never surfed before? Take a lesson at the Waihi Beach Surf School. At Waihi Beach, much like every other Bay of Plenty beach, you have absolutely everything you need for a world class beach holiday experience.

Waihi Beach. Credit: Florian Pilz | CC BY 2.0

Maddison is a freelance writer specialising in adventure travel. She has written for titles in Europe, Asia and North America, and is currently planning her next escape to somewhere mountainous.

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