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Best Beaches North Island

Tampa, Florida
Level Contributor
52 posts
9 reviews
4 helpful votes
Best Beaches North Island

My husband and I looking for some beautiful beaches in North Island to spend two nights. We only have five nights in North Island before spending the majority of our holiday in the South Island. This is because I have already been to the North Island, and our focus is some of the hikes in South Island. In North Island, we're thinking a day at Hobbiton/Waitomo, maybe Taupo or Rotorua, and then beaches. I've identified three areas -- but if I'm missing a good one, please let me know! Which do you think would be most beautiful, best use of our time, and most things to do in the area if we're spending two nights (this could be nearby day hikes, water activities, great restaurants, etc)

Coromandel Beach/Cathedral Cove/Hot Water Beach

----- This is where I went previously. It's gorgeous, and I think my husband would love it. But also, I would enjoy going somewhere new if it fits with our schedule.

Bay of Islands

----- Looks gorgeous with lots of beaches and hikes within an area, but I'm worried it will make it more challenging to see other parts of North Island in our limited team.

Bay of Plenty

---- We like having restaurants/bars to explore in a beach town, too. But my concern is this area may be too crowded, and I can't tell if the beaches are as gorgeous as the other two. I may be wrong!

Thank you in advance for your help!

24 replies to this topic
Tampa, Florida
Level Contributor
52 posts
9 reviews
4 helpful votes
21. Re: Best Beaches North Island

@frangipani: what do you love about Ohope? Is there a vibe or experience there that is different than what we would experience at Waihi, Mount Maunganui and anything closer there? It would add some driving for us, but I would consider it if it was a unique, highly recommended visit.

Rarotonga, Cook...
Destination Expert
for Rarotonga, Waiheke Island, Southern Cook Islands, Auckland Central, New Zealand, North Island, Cook Islands
Level Contributor
28,682 posts
140 reviews
82 helpful votes
22. Re: Best Beaches North Island

Ohope beach is simply beautiful. It's laid-back, welcoming, unpretentious, long length of shoreline and ocean beach, family-friendly, attractive Pacific ocean outlook, not over developed like Mt Maunganui, handy to Whakatane for services, enjoys warm summer temps like Whakatane does.

Not so far to drive when going from Rotorua to Ohope. But driving from Ohope to Auckland, I would avoid driving into Tauranga using SH2 if possible. Means backtracking through Rotorua though.

Palmerston North...
Level Contributor
2,361 posts
91 reviews
11 helpful votes
23. Re: Best Beaches North Island

Further to # 21 & # 22 Going to Ohope from Rotorua would involve 1.5 hours 92 km. using State Highway 30. Quite a scenic route passing 4 lakes going through Wakatane and "over the hill" to Ohope.

Ohope to AKL airport the fastest and by far the most scenic route is back to Whakatane. Then by Thornton Road to Matata joining SH 2 to Te Maunga (large sports / event centre) in eastern Tauranga. SH 29 (limited access highway) skirts around the southern parts of Tauranga and meets SH 29.which crosses the Kaimai Range onto SH 1 This route is 15 minutes / 16 km. shorter than going by Rotorua.

West of Matata SH 2 runs along the foot of cliffs for about 30 km. There are several access to what I consider is the Best North Island beach that very few people experiance. This route would involve the use of one of N.Z Toll Roads (Tauranga Eastern Arterial Route). Pay the toll by credit card by using http://nzta.co.nz .within 5 days after use.

Such a route would make a better loop than going twice though Rotorua.

Honolulu, Hawaii
Level Contributor
2,475 posts
32 reviews
14 helpful votes
24. Re: Best Beaches North Island

Commenting on a couple replies above since we just got back from 3 weeks on North Island.

In late November, Piha was beautiful, wide and mostly empty, can't climb on Lion Rock--stairs and trail closed from damage. Gannet colony trail also closed at Muriwai, although you can see the birds from quite a distance from the road above or the beach below. Some road or lane closures in the area; OK navigating but unless it's on your route, probably better choices as recommended for OP.

Mt Maunganui was busy in early-mid December, but not crazy crowded. Fantastic hike on Summit Walk or easier around the base. Miles and miles (sorry, kilometers) of beaches on both sides, very walkable. Mokuriki Island (Leisure Island) quite nice too.

Hobbiton was insanely packed with people, cars, buses. We're not LOTR fans though, so we didn't get past the parking lot before we had to bug out.

The whole place is so stunningly beautiful we didn't mind the driving. For OP's short stay, I agree it would be best to keep to a compact area if possible.

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