The Ultimate Kiwi Summer Guide Part One – The Beach
The sun beating down on the back of your neck, sand between your toes, an ice-cold beer in one hand and the other left free for the staring one-handed-catch in backyard cricket. All year we count down the days until the Kiwi summer, until we can retire our shirt and tie and bring back the jandals every day. Unfortunately, we all know that it’s easy to blink and find yourself back at your desk staring at your summer-themed screensaver wondering where the time went. To ensure this doesn’t happen and to help you dominate your summer, we have gone out in search of the greatest summer activities, antics and adventures. By the end of your break you will feel as though you have made the most of your summer holiday and, hopefully, you will have created a fair few memories and tales to share as you huddle around the coffee machine on your return to work.
No matter where in the country you live, it simply wouldn’t be a Kiwi summer without scorching sand, cool waves and the occasional ‘I-lost-my-togs-in-the-waves’ incident. From exciting adventures to secluded beaches that are perfect for sunbathing, there is no hotter place to be this summer than your favourite beach.
Paddle to the Centre of Paradise
Whangamata is definitely a destination to tick off during summer; it has everything you need for a great time: surf, sun and even a bit of solitude. For New Year’s Eve, the town gets filled with party-goers and families out to have a great time and this holiday hot spot definitely caters to all age groups. For the adventure fiends out there, Whangamata is home to the beautiful Whenuakura Island (also known as Donut Island). Whenuakura is a beautiful wonder and is mostly a well-kept secret that seems to only be known by the locals and a few regular holidaymakers. As you may imagine by the nickname, Whenuakura is shaped just like a donut, and you can only access the ‘hole’ by kayak or stand up paddle board – and only at specific low tides when the water is low enough to enter through the secret opening. The island is not only a wildlife sanctuary but also a sacred place to the local Iwi, so climbing on the island isn’t permitted, but you can paddle in and bask in the beauty that is Whenuakura.
Hooked on Adrenaline
Get your heart pumping with your adrenaline junkie mates and get immersed in salt water with some jet-skis. There are loads of places around that hire them out for however long you need, but I definitely recommend having them for at least half a day. With generous space to blat around on the water, Maraetai Beach in Auckland is the perfect place to head to for a full day’s worth of action-packed fun. The beach has a bustling stretch of cafes and bars for a refreshing beverage after a long hot day. There is a great child-friendly playground and big public park to keep the little ones entertained for hours on end as well as plenty of bench seats to finish the day off with some hot fish and chips by the sea.
The Tropics in Our Own Backyard
A short hop, skip and a jump from Auckland City is a complete other world to explore; an underwater haven that is a Department of Conservation marine reserve – Cape Rodney-Okakari Point (popularly known as Goat Island or Leigh marine reserve). The reserve offers some of the best snorkelling and scuba diving opportunities close to Auckland. If you haven’t been, this is a definite must-do, and if you haven’t been snorkelling before, then this will be an absolute treat! The Cape Rodney-Okakari Marine Reserve is New Zealand’s first marine reserve. Established in 1975, the reserve protects 547 hectares of shore and sea on the north-eastern coast around Cape Rodney, Okakari Point and Te Hawere-a-Maki/Goat Island. Beneath the waves is a variety of habitats – rocky shores exposed at low tide, as well as deep reefs, underwater cliffs, canyons and sand flats. Just be sure not to interrupt the natural behaviour of the marine life and the sea bed.
The Jewel of the Coromandel
The Coromandel Peninsula offers plenty of good old Kiwi natural beauty, but this has to be one of its most spectacular sights. Accessible only by foot, boat or kayak, Cathedral Cove attracts thousands of holidaymakers during the summer and the second you get down the steps, catch your breath and wipe the sweat off your brow, you will be overwhelmed by its beauty. There are two beach spots, separated in the middle by the distinctive rock arch (that is all over social media at the end of the summer). Be warned: the walk here is not for the fainthearted, especially the walk back, but armed with supplies and your beach needs, it is well worth it. If you are really keen, grab the paddles and kayak around the neighbouring coves before taking a rest at Cathedral Cove.
A Hidden Gem
Heading to the beach and finding a spot where your neighbour is not sharing your towel or flicking sand on you every time they roll over can be a challenge. Rather than sharing your spot with someone else, why not head out west to Anawhata Beach, a spot commonly dubbed the best-kept secret on Auckland’s west coast. Within an hour from Auckland central, this beach will give you all the space you are after – probably because you cannot actually drive to the beach, rather it is a 20-minute bush walk. Before you head down to the dunes, the views are worth marvelling at. There are plenty of hidden crannies and places to view the scenery from. Find your spot and remind yourself how lucky we are to have views like this in our backyard.
A Northern Getaway
Undeveloped beaches and the country’s first colonial capital are just two of the highlights you can enjoy in the Bay of Islands. This subtropical micro-region is a little slice of paradise, with turquoise waters and some of the most picturesque picture-postcard spots you will see in New Zealand. You cannot pass up the opportunity to pop over to Russell, home to historic buildings and a seaside setting best enjoyed from the deck of The Duke of Marlborough with a pint in hand and fish and chips on their way. If you are looking for a romantic escape this summer, Russell should be on your list. Get in early and book a voyage of discovery and enjoy one of the daily cruises or a yacht charter, or rent a sea kayak and enter a maritime adventure playground. While you’re at it, drive to the top tip of New Zealand, to Cape Reinga, and marvel that you’re standing at the north-westernmost tip of the country.