Surf Cities in New Zealand

Raglan

Nestled on the Waikato coast west of Hamilton, tiny Raglan has achieved legendary status as a surf mecca for its epic left-hand break – said to be one of the longest in the world.
But there’s more to New Zealand’s surfing scene than Raglan. Uncrowded waves, breathtaking scenery and dramatic coastline guarantee plenty of fun, whatever your level. Even better, many of the North Island’s city surfers are just a hop, skip and a jump from some of the country’s best surf spots, so there’s never far to go for a slice of aquatic action.

Auckland

Set around two stunning harbours, the City of Sails is spoiled for choice when it comes to world-class surf spots, with a string of black sand surf beaches stretching down its wild west coast. Just 40km from Auckland, city surfers can check out Piha, New Zealand’s most popular west coast beach. There are left and right-handers at South Piha, and a challenging right-hander at North Piha. Just to the south, Karekare Beach offers plenty of action with a fast point break at its northern point. Muriwai’s exposed coastline has some good waves and great barrels when the surf fires up, as does Bethells Beach 8km to the south. If you’re at Bethells, slip over the northern headland to O’Neill’s Bay, where there’s a fun-filled right-hander off the southern point.

Check out the local's guide to the Top 5 Surf Spots Around Auckland.

Hamilton

Surfers who live in the Waikato’s riverside city are a handy drive (48km) from New Zealand’s hottest surfing mecca – Raglan. Ever since Manu Bay featured in the 1966 surfing doco Endless Summer, surfers have made a beeline for Raglan’s south breaks with their perfect peelers and long joyrides. Just 8km from Raglan, Manu Bay is claimed to be longest left-hand break in the world. Catch the right wave, and you can cruise for up to 2km. Neighbouring Whale Bay, once a peaceful sanctuary for Maori warriors, also boasts a fine left-hand point break with great hollow waves. Head a kilometre offshore and you’ll find The Indicators, another superb left-hand point break that serves up the area’s largest barrels.

Tauranga and Mt Maunganui

At the heart of the Bay of Plenty, Tauranga and its neighbouring Mount Maunganui are often hailed as New Zealand’s answer to the Gold Coast. The Mount, as it's fondly known, was one of the forerunners of New Zealand’s early surfing boom. This wonderful stretch of golden sand remains hugely popular with holidaymakers and when the big swells roll in, you’ll find plenty of breaks to catch a ride. There are clean reef breaks off both ends of the beach and, if you head over the southern headland, Ocean Beach has a string of beach breaks just off the main coastal road. Across the Tauranga harbour, Matakana Island is popular with surfers when the north-easterly swell rolls in, creating tubes that can out-do The Mount in size and power.

Gisborne

This chilled out surf city enjoys some of the country’s hottest weather and a range of breaks to satisfy every surfer. Within a stone’s throw of the town centre, Waikanae Beach is perfect for beginners, while surfers of all levels can tackle the range of left and righthand breaks at Wainui Beach, 6km from town. The Island, a kilometre before Wainui, has a local repuation for Gisborne’s longest barrel waves or head to Makorori Point – one of Gisborne’s most famous surf spots. When the surf’s up, a right-hand break sets up a long, sweeping dream of a ride. North of Gisborne, the beautiful beaches of the East Cape are also worth checking out, with a series of beach breaks stretching through Tolaga, Tokomaru, Waipiro and Hicks Bays.

New Plymouth

Taranaki’s wild coastline dishes up some of the country’s best surf with epic drops, fast barrels and a host of adrenalin-pumping rides within an hour’s drive of the city centre. The fun begins at New Plymouth’s Fitzroy Beach, where westerly swells frequently stir up hollow waves right along the beach. South of New Plymouth, the beautiful coastal resort of Oakura Beach attracts surfers with good sandbank breaks at high tide, while near the tiny township of Warea, Stent Road is one of New Zealand’s undisputed surfing hot spots. Heavy swells pound this boulder-strewn bay from most directions, creating consistently good surf and a superb right-hander that breaks over a shallow reef.

Wellington

With its rugged, exposed coastline, Wellington often attracts wild weather, but it’s the big southerly swells that drive in the best breaks. Most of the capital’s local activity is on the south coast at Lyall Bay, where back in the 1920s, Maranui Surf Club first pioneered surf riding. The most popular spot is The Wall – a fast break created by a sandbank near the airport breakwater that can sometimes carry riders right back into the beach. To the west, Houghton and Island Bays have beach and reef breaks when the southerly swell fires up, and Titahi Bay can also attract big swells. Further afield in the Wairarapa, Castlepoint is a firm favourite with Kiwi surfers for its outstanding beach breaks and equally worth the drive for its dramatic scenery.

Surfing Dos and Don’ts
  • Always check out the surf conditions before entering the water. If you are going surfing at an unfamiliar spot, get some local advice first.
  • Be aware of other surfers and water users. If you are surfing on a patrolled beach, keep within the designated surfing area. 
  • Many exposed surf beaches have dangerous rips and currents, so watch out for still stretches that might suggest a rip. If you are caught in a rip, paddle across it (ie parallel to the shore).
  • Always go out with a surf buddy so there is someone to help you out if needed.
  • Wear a good waterproof sunblock, and consider a UV-proof rash vest for body protection.
  • Remember, the surfer who is closest to the breaking wave has priority. If you see someone already on a wave, wait for the next one.
Useful websites

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