Surfing Aotearoa. © Derek Morrison

Must-do surf breaks


This handful of surf beaches are easy to access and, in the right conditions, a good place to learn to surf.

The exception is Raglan, which is not a beginner’s wave. But I couldn’t leave it out since it is our most famous surf break and a great place to immerse yourself in the surfing ‘scene’.

1. Waipū Cove, Whangārei

My father once told me that, back when he was learning to surf in Northland during the 1960s, the lifeguards and surfers didn’t like each other at all. Thankfully, today, that animosity is mostly absent.

Waipū Cove has a long history of both surfing and surf lifesaving.

With a campground right by the beach, it's an ideal place to stay awhile and practise your skills under the watchful eyes of the local guards.

When you can’t surf so you get out the boogie boards @acklandsophie

A post shared by Laura (@laura_danford) on Oct 7, 2017 at 11:42pm PDT

2. Mount Maunganui, Tauranga

During the peak of summer, this sandy stretch of coastline can have more than 10,000 beachgoers, making for crowded waves. Luckily, the sand stretches for many kilometres,  creating lots of options. Just drive or walk a bit further down the beach and pick an uncrowded peak.

3. Raglan, Hamilton

Most Kiwis – surfers and non-surfers alike – have heard of Raglan. This is New Zealand’s iconic wave and ranks as one of the best left-hand points in the world. Actually, it’s three points, which helps to spread the crowd. This is a good thing because it certainly attracts surfers from all over the world. The nearby township has grown to cater for everyone and boasts a number of hip cafés and places to stay.

4. Wainui Beach, Gisborne

Gisborne has more waves than seems fair. And while there are a number of lesser-known breaks of a higher quality around, you can’t beat Wainui for its long, sandy beach and clean fun waves. This isn’t to say that the intensity doesn’t jump up with the swell size.

Depending on sand conditions, Wainui produces hollow, intense rides. Another plus is that the locals are usually friendly to visiting surfers.

5. St Clair Beach, Dunedin

Dunedin is known for cold water, scary sea lions, occasional sharks and excellent surf. A decent wetsuit and an ability to ignore close encounters with large inquisitive mammals is a must. There are rarely any flat days here, although sometimes the waves at St Clair can be quite powerful for learners.

Check the latest surf reports and follow The Water Safety Code.

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Things to do

Of the sea: surfing Aotearoa

When most people imagine their idyllic beach, they think of white sand and sun-dappled water. Surfers focus on wind and swell directions and the hidden bathymetry of the seafloor. Read the story . . . 

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Northwest Waikato: surfing the endless wave

It’s part of the Raglan vibe that you can walk the main street and find visitors from all over the world who have come to check out the place with the longest left-hand surf breaks. Read the story . . . 

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Road trips

Surf Highway 45: New Plymouth to Hāwera

Taranaki's hemispherical coastline between Fitzroy and Hāwera is home to 180 degrees of ocean swell where you can almost be certain of solid, pumping surf. Read the story . . . 

Find out more


Raglan: you don’t have to be a surfer, but it helps

Ask anyone with salt-draggled hair and the odd piercing where the best surf break in New Zealand is and there’s a fair chance they’ll name Raglan without a moment’s hesitation. Read the story . . . 

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