New Zealand’s most irresistible beachfront accommodations, like those tickling the fringes of Ōhope Beach. Picture / Bay of Plenty Tourism Picture / Bay of Plenty Tourism
Hotels, motels, resorts, campgrounds and vacation parks that truly can be called “absolute beachfront” for a late summer getaway of sun, sea and sand. Ewan McDonald organizes a selection.
We like to be next to…well, anything wet. Sea, lakes, rivers, hot pools, just about any form of H2O will do. So much the better if there’s a place to crash just above the dunes or right on the shore, whether your budget is headed for a luxury resort, a 5-star hotel or the classic Kiwi Campground.
You’ll find all three of them in Northland, where the only thing that separates Camp Waipū Cove from the water is a tiny sand dune. On the Waitangi waterfront, the Copthorne Resort and Hotel Bay of Islands is a true resort-style hotel.
Further north, there is nothing but blue skies and water between Opononi’s Onepu Moana Retreat and the port of Hokianga and its dunes; The six-bedroom, two-story vacation home is perfect for groups and families. Golden Sand Beachfront Accommodation is literally that, Cable Bay beach lapping at the front door. Pets are also welcome.
Coromandel’s Hahei Beach Resort was a finalist in our recent Best of Summer 2022 poll – “You’ll wake up 500m to the Pacific beachfront at your doorstep (or tent) or steps down a sandy path”, we wrote. Just outside the town of Coromandel, the McFarlane family’s Shelly Beach Top 10 Holiday Park is on the other side of the peninsula, and the DoC’s Fletcher Bay Campground is a gem (see our Plan in advance).
Also on a peninsula, in Whaingaroa Raglan Harbor this time, Raglan Holiday Park is almost surrounded by water, accessed by a road bridge that makes it a private hideaway just a two-minute walk from the beach. Atop the cliffs of Karioitahi, the chalets and studios of Castaways Resort have private terraces with views of the ocean and its magnificent sunsets. If that’s not relaxing enough, Bersantai Day Spa is on site.
From Orokawa Bay to Cape Runaway, the Bay of Plenty stretches for 260 km, most of which are stunning east-facing golden sand beaches on the Pacific Ocean – summer getaway territory choice for Kiwis, dotted with seaside campgrounds.
Our readers voted Ōhope Beach Top 10 Holiday Park as the nation’s favorite in our Best of Summer 2022 poll; other hotspots include Mount Beachside Holiday Park, operating since the 1930s on the legendary main beach of Mt Maunganui, and Bowentown Beach Holiday Park, a stretch of surf beach a short walk from a cabin or campsite, as well as a sheltered bay for fishing, kayaking and swimming.
The Trinity Wharf Hotel in Tauranga is built on three quays at the edge of the harbour. If you’re lucky, you might spot a seal basking on the private dock. The hotel has 123 rooms and apartments, an infinity pool and an on-site restaurant.
Lake Taupō pushes 200 km of shoreline and easily as many places to lay your head. In a secluded location near Tokaanu on its southern outskirts, Braxmere has 10 studios for guests to relax and enjoy the fresh air, bush and water, with a popular restaurant on site.
Black Barn’s award-winning Havelock North bistro will be out of service for a while following a fire this month, but their stunning properties (recommended by this writer and the Cumberbatch Clan) are still open for enjoyment. The Beach House is a three-bedroom retreat, reflecting a rather glamorous take on the Kiwi bach in an upscale yet private location on Waimarama Beach.
Nearby, the White Beach House is a six-bedroom retreat, just steps from the same beach.
In Napier, the 4.5-star Crown Hotel has 39 studio, one and two-bedroom suites overlooking the seafront and Ahuriri, the gentrified historic village of pubs, cafes, restaurants and wines, beers and spirits alluded to in and around the famous old tobacco factory. Just 30 km north of the city, Waipātiki Beach Holiday Park is a family campsite.
Heading west, Taranaki is home to another of our top holiday parks at Fitzroy Beach, in the heart of New Plymouth. Belt Road Holiday Seaside Park is another great place to stay in the city. To the south, Ōakura Beach Holiday Park is right on the black sand surf beach and Ōpunake Beach Holiday Park is in a location known for safe swimming and surfing. Urenui Beach Camp, nestled on a spit at the mouth of the river 30 minutes north of town, has been a summer playground for over 100 years; families might like a self-contained unit at Wai-iti Beach Retreat.
Supporting New Plymouth’s newfound reputation as one of our top weekend getaways are a number of luxury places to kip. St Georges by the Sea is nestled between Tasman and Taranaki Maunga, with spa and infinity pools above the beach; for privacy, tranquility, sea views and sunsets, consider The Bungalow Coastal Retreat, a 1920s farmhouse just outside of town, or Ahu Ahu Beach Villas, in farmland near from Ōakura with an easy walk to the waves.
Sometimes wild, sometimes windswept but always spectacular and curving for miles, the west coast beaches of the lower North Island are little known to many Kiwis. Waikanae and Ōtaki are beautiful but a tribute to Hīmatangi, not far from the landlocked Palmerston North, where the holiday park offers self-contained units, cabins, bunk rooms and campsites. There’s a wide variety of family adventures at your fingertips, but what’s more Kiwi than fish ‘n’ chips on a sprawling beach at night?
Closer to Wellington is Peka Peka – an hour’s drive away, quicker if that highway ever opens – where you’ll find Atahuri, four private, luxurious and exclusive oceanfront suites right on the dunes. In the capital, you can’t be closer to the waterfront, or Te Papa and the cafe strip, than the Copthorne Hotel on Oriental Bay.
Marlborough’s Sounds, its artisan wine and food producers, lends itself to a curated collection of waterside accommodation and fine dining. Bay of Many Coves, the area’s only 5-star resort, is the best known, but Lochmara Lodge, Punga Cove Retreat and Furneaux Lodge, overlooking the calm, clear waters of Endeavor Inlet, are well worth a visit.
Don’t let the name fool you: the Picton Yacht Club is a contemporary hotel just steps from the marina, ferry terminal and town.
Even if it’s not whale-watching season, there are plenty of excuses to park on the coast between Picton and Christchurch – Kaikōura gets its name for good reason, and five minutes south is the Peketa Beach Holiday Park. An exiled Cantabrian speaks longingly of Gore Bay, her wild and secluded childhood beach getaway where you’ll find Gore Bay and Buxton Campgrounds; Lethfield Beach Holiday Park, 40 minutes north of Christchurch, has more facilities and, as a bonus, it’s one of the few dog-friendly campsites in the South Island.
We are three quarters of the motu and did not mention any waterfront property. What better place to fix that than Ōtautahi? Named after the trees that overlook Ōtakaro, the Avon River across the street, Mike Woodward and Elsa Lee’s Whitewood Motel was designed as the most luxurious motel apartments Christchurch has ever seen. “Motel” isn’t quite the right word: it’s 29 downtown apartments inspired by luxury accommodations in Asia and the United States.
There has been a farm at Annandale on the Banks Peninsula since the 1840s and today it has 1,600ha of coastal pasture, 500 head of beef cattle and between 7,000 and 14,000 sheep. It also features several hideaways, including Scrubby Bay (a private setting that sleeps up to 14 people) and Seascape (a scenic bay with an ultra-modern retreat for two, an outdoor lounge with fireplace, an outdoor hot tub, and here you are both on your own, so to speak).
And you thought we forgot the hot springs. We’ve been talking about Lake Tekapo since we started this series, so loosen up and take some time at Lake Tekapo Motels and Holiday Park, right on the lake, under mountains and dark skies. You will have to walk next to the springs.
Queenstown does what Queenstown does best at The Cottages at Lake Hayes, five lakeside cottages on the shores of the lake with hot tubs overlooking the chocolate box landscape and a Pinot communal pit (tip: the best restaurants in New Zealand wineries, Amisfield and Akarua, and the Wet Jacket winery and food trucks are within cycling distance).
Because I’m a ridiculously lucky travel writer, I can personally recommend The Rees, a 5-star terraced hotel that stretches up the hillside to the lakeside detached villas, and Eichardt’s suites and apartments on the city beach.
And if you still need convincing that you’ve been living in the luckiest country in the world for a few years, book into the Fiordland Lakeview Motel and Apartments in Te Anau. Walk out your door, cross the road and dip your toes in the clear lake water, or settle into one of two Seascape apartments at Kaka Point in the Catlins, across from the beach with ocean views to Nugget Point Lighthouse. Or lay back at Surat Bay Lodge on the edge of the Catlins Estuary, where sea lions frolic, and remember: what did Fred Dagg say about New Zealanders?
For more travel inspiration, visit newzealand.com/nz.
Check traffic light settings and Department of Health advice before traveling at covid19.govt.nz