Good old kiwi summer holidays mean endless days of lazy swims, picnics, hokey pokey ice creams and the sand crunching between your toes. And - if you’re lucky – ending the day by sitting on the beach and watching a magic sunset. There are a handful of New Zealand beaches that stand out more than others for the show they put on at the end of the evening, so we’ve put together what we think are the five best beaches in the country to watch the sun set. These are the places we remember best from our summer holidays as kids and just what we love sharing with guests on our tours when they're visiting us here in New Zealand.
There’s something pretty cool about watching the sun burn yellow, orange then red in a place full of Maori history. Bet you didn't know that it was the Hokianga Harbour where the very first Polynesian explorer Kupe first landed in New Zealand! There’s no doubt Kupe and the others that came with him would have been impressed with what they saw – massive white sand dunes are at the entrance to the harbour, and heaps of white sandy beaches dot the coast. Just up the road is the Waipoua Forest and Tane Mahuta, NZ's biggest kauri tree and other really special spot to the locals. All of the beaches around the Hokianga Harbour offer a stellar display come sunset. We always love it the most when we've just tucked into a feast of locally caught mussels, scallops and oysters!
Muriwai and the West Coast beaches of Auckland
Even though it’s only 30 minutes drive from town, it’s a different world out on Auckland’s West Coast. The Tasman Sea crashes against sand so black, you’ve got to run to the ocean on sunny days because your feet burn so badly! There are a couple of other things that make this stretch of coast so cool. The rocky headlands are massive and there is tussock growing all over the sand dunes. Keen Kiwi surfer and the 'Big Moa' here at MoaTrek, Miles even lives out at Muriwai and because he loves the vibe of the West Coast so much. The sun sets out over the ocean, making the breakers glow orange. There are a handful of West Coast beaches to choose from – Muriwai is our pick but also on the list is Bethells, Piha, Karekare and Whatipu.
Punakaiki, West Coast
If high tide times in with sunset at Punakaiki, then watch out - you’re in for a real treat. You'll find the Punakaiki pancake rocks along a lonely stretch of the South Island’s West Coast. They're pretty hard to miss because they jut out from the foreshore looking like a big, oversized stack of hotcakes. Over plenty of years layers of hard limestone and soft sandstone have been sandwiched together by the ocean, then earthquakes pushed the rocks high above the waves. The rocks are dotted with skinny, tunnel-like air shafts, and when they are hit by the ocean swell at high tide they erupt with hissing, steaming streams of water. Combine this with the sun setting out in the Tasman Sea, and you’ve got a pretty epic example of mother nature!
Paraparaumu Beach, Kapiti Coast
Yep, it’s a bit of a tongue twister, but Paraparaumu Beach is on the lower West Coast of the North Island and sets the scene for a pretty special sunset. The beach looks directly out to Kapiti Island, a long, thin landmass just offshore that has become a haven for endangered species. Dotted with giant rainforests and the call of rare native birds, Kapiti Island feels and sounds a bit like the land that time forgot. Paraparaumu Beach is long and windswept and is also home to our famous West Coast black sand. Bring a jumper because evenings here can be a little chilly, but sunset is most definitely worth it – on clear evenings the sun sets behind Kapiti Island itself, lighting up the outline of the island sanctuary with a golden, halo-like glow.
Koekoe Beach, Moeraki
Scattered along this Northern Otago beach are huge, spherical boulders; each weighing several tonnes in size. On one side is a steep cliff; the other, the ocean – as kids we thought these boulders were from outer space! Science proved that idea wrong pretty quickly though, they’re actually calcite concretions created about 65 million years ago. However, an ethereal feeling still haunts the beach (Maori legend says that the boulders are gourds from a voyaging canoe called Araiteuri that was wrecked when it made landfall a long time ago). The sun sets behind the Moeraki peninsula; sit on one of the boulders themselves to watch the show and soak up that ‘end of the day’ magic.
We like to think all of our MoaTrek tours embody a fair bit of that ‘kiwi holiday magic’ we loved as kids, right down to plenty of opportunities to watch the sun setting on the beach! Our New Zealand itineraries like our the 23 Day Kakapo Tour visit many of the beaches we’ve hand-picked above – everyone loves Muriwai, Punakaiki and the Hokianga Harbour! Is a stellar beach sunset on your kiwi bucket list? Talk to us about making it happen or get your Free MoaTrek brochure now.
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