With over 125km of coastline, it’s no surprise that the Bay of Plenty is home to some of the best, and most pristine, beaches in New Zealand (and, some would argue, the world!). But don’t just take our word for it – check out some of the accolades our sandy shores have received and what makes them so special.
MOUNT MAUNGANUI'S MAIN BEACH
Where do we start? In 2019 Mount Maunganui's Main Beach was voted the best beach in New Zealand for the sixth consecutive time and the fourth best beach in the South Pacific by TripAdvisor. But what makes the Main Beach so special? Lying at the foot of Mauao (Mount Maunganui), Main Beach is a beautiful wide expanse of white sandy beach with a gentle swell (perfect for swimming) and uninterrupted views towards the Pacific Ocean. Spending a day here feels like the quintessential Kiwi summer – beaches, boogie boarding, surfing, ice creams and lots of sand!
Access to the beach is easy, with plenty of parking all the way along (although we recommend walking if you’re staying nearby or catch an Uber. As it’s the best beach in New Zealand, it can get busy during peak times). There’s plenty of facilities next to the beach: showers, toilets, cafes, shopping and drinking water. You can easily spend a whole day here but remember to pack your sunscreen. If you’re visiting during Autumn or Spring, there’s still plenty to do – you can learn how to surf or stand-up paddleboard (SUP), go for a walk around the base track of Mauao, or take a good book, sit back and relax.
Let’s not forget the surfing – Mount Main Beach is a great destination for surfers of all levels. There’s no shortage of breaks and there’s often a good right point break off the tip of Moturiki/Leisure Island.
While you’re there, make sure you treat yourself to an ice cream from Copenhagen Cones – their house-made waffle cones are a Mount tradition!
You can’t come all the way to the Bay of Plenty without visiting New Zealand’s ‘Most Loved Beach’ as voted by AA Traveller in 2018 (it’s also the fifth best beach in the country as voted by TripAdvisor in 2019). Located a short 15-minute drive over the hill from Whakatāne, Ōhope Beach has 11km of stunning coastline lined with ancient pōhutukawa, soft white sand and a family friendly swimming beach. On a clear day you’ll have unparalled views of Moutohorā (Whale Island) and Whakaari (White Island).
There is space for everyone at Ōhope Beach - you can spend an hour walking along the shoreline without seeing another soul - one of the reasons this beach is so loved by locals and visitors alike. This is the perfect beach for families - there's plenty of space, safe swimming and it's close to shops and other amenities. If you're feeling active, there's plenty of short walks nearby, including the popular and super picturesque Otarawairere Bay, which is just a short 20-minute walk around the headland at low tide.
Fifteen minutes up the road from Mount Maunganui is the sprawling coastline of Pāpāmoa Beach, voted the fourth best beach in New Zealand in 2019 by TripAdvisor. This is a super relaxed beach; you’ll see loads of people out walking their dogs morning and night, but it never feels crowded. If you’re an early bird, we recommend getting up to watch the sunrise – the view out over the horizon is unforgettable (and totally Instagrammable!).
Pāpāmoa is a thriving community and there are shops, bars, restaurants and other amenities just up the road from the beach. Accommodation is abundant – we recommend Pāpāmoa Beach Resort which is the only beachside accommodation in the Mount Maunganui and Pāpāmoa areas.
While you’re there, we recommend checking out The Island – one of the local craft beer breweries who are doing good things with beer! Located next to The Island is Pāpāmoa Beach Tavern, a great place for all the family with a playground (complete with a lifeboat taken from the Rena shipwreck which famously ran adrift off the coast of Pāpāmoa in 2011), great food, and there’s often live music to enjoy.
Enjoy a classic New Zealand holiday beside the beach at this friendly coastal town. As well as countless water activities, there’s plenty of great cafés, boutique shops and a selection of picturesque walking and cycle trails. Waihī Beach offers the chance to learn to surf at one of New Zealand’s safest surf beaches.
Waihī Beach is a 40-minute drive following the scenic coastline north from Tauranga. It’s worth doing the short 45-minute walk over the hill to Orokawa Bay – a beautifully secluded bay lined with pōhutukawa trees. You'll feel like you’re a million miles away from civilisation.
PILOT BAY BEACH
For something a little calmer, try Pilot Bay, located on the harbour side of the Mount Maunganui peninsula. There is so much to love about this tranquil bay, from the calm waters perfect for swimming (it’s a favourite for young families) to the stunning sunsets (even better if you can catch a cruise ship leaving port). Pilot Bay – voted the eighth best beach in New Zealand in 2019 – is ideal all year round. The view is always spectacular and access is easy, with plenty of parking on the road.
Thanks to the mostly calm waters (it can get windy – particularly in October), Pilot Bay is ideal for water sports including SUPing, kayaking, and sailing. Take a blanket, grab some fish and chips (there’s a fish and chip shop at the port end of Pilot Bay) and sit back, relax, and take in the scenery.
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BAY OF PLENTY BEACH EXPERIENCES