Nothing quite relaxes the mind and refreshes the body like beach camping right beside the ocean. The coast has many charms with opportunities to swim, surf and beachcomb — or to simply read in the shade of a pōhutukawa tree.
As an island nation, New Zealand has over 15,000km of coastline so you’ll be spoiled for choice trying to pick the best beaches to visit on your motorhome holiday.
To help you choose, we’ve put together our top five must-see beaches across the country — three from the North Island and two from the South.
1. Waipū Beach — Whangārei, Northland
A seriously long stretch of sand known as Waipū Beach is a main attraction in this area of New Zealand. The beach is part of Waipū Cove — a beautiful coastal settlement with deep Scottish roots just 120km north of Auckland.
This sleepy little beach camping village offers:
- Safe swimming — for kids (and adults) in the mellow river at the south end of the bay
- Easy-going surf — ideal if you’re learning and enough to challenge more experienced wave riders
- Birdlife — and plenty of it, including rare species like dotterel, fairy tern and the bar-tailed godwit.
The birds even hang about right next door to your motorhome camping ground, Camp Waipu Cove.
Camp Waipu Cove is a classic Kiwi campground located right on the beachfront with top-notch facilities such as barbecues, a playground, outdoor chess and even a tennis court.
You can also have a round at the local golf course, horse ride on the beach and explore nearby waterfalls, caves and bush walks.
If you’re new to surfing, visit the local surf school — or if you want to relax and enjoy the local brew, head to McLeod’s Brewery. The little settlement also has a café and a fish & chip shop where ice creams sell like hotcakes.
For more things to do and see in Northland, check out our guide to exploring the Far North.
Waipū Beach Must Dos
2. Te Kopua Beach — Raglan, Waikato
New Zealand has a mix of golden sand and black sand beaches, so it would be a mistake not to have at least one black sand beach in our top five.
The picturesque town of Raglan is only 48km west of Hamilton and 150km south of Auckland. Sitting on the outskirts of the town is Te Kopua Beach where Raglan Harbour meets the Tasman Sea. It’s a:
- Magnet for campervan hires and motorhome travellers
- Relaxing spot for morning walks
- Drawcard for people wandering across the town’s footbridge
- Popular zone for young ones entertaining themselves at the nearby bike, scooter and skateboard parks.
And right next door, Raglan Holiday Park is a relaxing beach camp due to its location on a peninsula within Raglan Harbour — surrounded almost entirely by water. Facilities include a games room, barbecue space and playground.
Stroll across the footbridge into Raglan’s township where restaurants and cafes offer incredible culinary experiences. At night, the bridge is illuminated creating a magical light sculpture.
If you’re a keen surfer, you’ll love Raglan’s left hand break — while stand up paddleboarders and kayakers cherish the coastal limestone formations.
Te Kopua Beach Must Dos
Get the lowdown on surfing in New Zealand if your adventures will revolve around the waves.
3. Anaura Bay — East Cape, Tairāwhiti
The turnoff to Anaura Bay from State Highway 35 is difficult to spot — blink and you’ll miss it. But take it, and you’ll find some kind of heaven in beach form.
Roughly 75km north of Gisborne, Anaura Bay is tucked right inbetween the more touristy Tolaga and Tokomaru Bays. The area is surrounded by forest and bush that rings out with birdsong. Being so secluded, it’s idyllic for:
- Swimming — pristine beach conditions make for extended summer swims in the sea
- Surfing — a beach break for all levels of surfer
- Chilling out — on a perfect sunny day you’ll only want to lie down on the sand and relax
- Exploring — Anaura Bay is long and interesting with dotterels and oyster catchers going about their business.
Getting to Anaura Bay Motor Camp right on the beachfront involves a winding drive with picturesque views across the big blue plate of ocean. In the distance is prominent Motuoroi Island.
The motor camp has all the amenities you’ll need for beach camping, including paddleboard and kayak hire. It’s old school camping at its best.
Anaura Bay Must Dos
Take a look at our blog about the best campervan spots to park up in New Zealand which features the East Cape.
4. Tōtaranui Beach — Abel Tasman National Park, Golden Bay
Tōtaranui Beach is one of the most beloved and rustic beach camping spots in the country. A very isolated spot, it’s located at the northern end of Abel Tasman National Park.
Right on the waterfront is Tōtaranui Campground where you won’t find mobile reception, power or hot running water. But what you will find is a long golden sand beach with crystal clear waters. If you make the journey to this wonderful slice of nature, you’ll likely:
- Relax to the sounds of native birdsong along with waves lapping at the shore
- Enjoy the camaraderie that comes with communal cooking on open fires with your camp neighbours
- Get in plenty of walking — not only on the beach but also on the Abel Tasman National Park trails
- Swim, kayak and stand up paddleboard
- Explore the sheltered estuary on a water taxi excursion.
It’s an über-popular campground from Christmas to late-January so make sure you book well in advance if you plan to stay here then. And remember to bring all your provisions — the nearest town is 40 minutes drive away.
Tōtaranui Beach Must Dos
Find out how to hire your campervan without road restrictions in New Zealand.
5. Monkey Island Beach — Orepuki, Southland
Freedom camping doesn’t come much better than at Monkey Island Beach. Located almost at the very bottom of the South Island, it’s as isolated as it gets — but is still only 67km away from Invercargill.
The beach overlooks Monkey Island (Te Puka o Takitimu) which in Māori legend means the anchor stone of the canoe. You can reach the island at low tide. Stairs will take you to the top for views across Te Waewae Bay all the way out to Fiordland.
Park up at the freedom camping space by Monkey Island Beach and enjoy:
- Searching rock pools for crabs, seahorses and other tidal sealife
- Wading out on foot to Monkey Island
- Spotting southern right whales on their annual migration
- Making your own fun — swimming, surfing, picnicking, paddling or building sand castles.
It’s a magical spot for bird watchers, stargazers and kids. The small beach camping area has toilet facilities and is the best place for a picnic. You can stay here for up to 28 days — though three or four will probably be plenty.
Sunsets here are particularly sublime but do bring bug spray as the sandflies love tasty campers.
Monkey Island Beach Must Dos
With so many spectacular beach camping sites in New Zealand besides the five we’ve highlighted, all you need to work out is which ones appeal most to you.
Check out our range of itineraries to see if one matches up with the beaches you plan to visit.