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Family fun

Top 11 family friendly beaches in Zealand

  • 6 minutes

Mount Maunganui, Bay of Plenty

Number 11 surprisingly offers kids a hot salt water pool to swim in

Top 11 family friendly beaches in New Zealand include a beach not wall to wall with skyscrapers rather lush native bush cascading down a cliff face. Tips on where to get your coffee fix is part and parcel of the description. Perhaps activities include forest walks, waterfalls and playgrounds.


For your essential family tips what to take to the beach check out Beach tips, how to plan a great family day.



Why go to Long Bay Regional Park, Auckland?

Long Bay is the perfect place for families interested in the outdoors, short forest walks and a place where heritage is next door to a great playground.

While the beach is a perfect family safe day trip the fascinating sideshow is the heritage aspects of the pocket sized park.

Long Bay Regional Park Auckland playground and carpark, New Zealand
Long Bay Regional Park
  • Long Bay Regional Park is an oasis of native reserves, coastal edges framed with mature pohutukawa trees and wetlands with a thriving wildlife.
  • Together with the adjacent Okura Marine Reserve, nature buffs have a variety of ecological habitats to explore on easy walking tracks. While the park’s open space and the beach are its major attractions, Long Bay is a beautiful setting with interesting natural features.
  • The historic farm homestead has been restored and open to the public. Check opening hours before visiting to avoid disappointment. The Torbay Historical Society has restored the homestead. For military fans there is a World War II gun emplacement north of the beach. This was part of a defence network to protect the Waitemata harbour from the Japanese. It is interesting looking at the views today and recreating the concerns that led to the gun emplacement.

Will kids be interested?

  • Premier playground, wheelchair accessible
  • Birthday party central with BBQ facilities
  • Long beach is spectacular and a well known local favourite.

Walks and tracks are extensive with mature pohutukawa trees offering shade as well as a glorious blaze of colour during spring.

Can you camp or stay overnight at Long Bay Regional Park, Auckland?

No camping allowed overnight at Long Bay Regional Park however self-contained vehicles are permitted in designated areas.

There are no lifeguards at this beach.

Long Bay Regional Park Auckland perfect sandy beach in Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
Long Bay Regional Park

Abandon Auckland urban cityscape and find a stunning conservation area in your backyard. Tahuna Torea is over 25 hectares of protected coastal estuary, beach and sandspit extending out into the Tamaki Estuary. Let’s have a picnic where conservation is making a difference.

Tahunanui beach in Nelson New Zealand
Tahuna beach
  • Look for bush areas where birds shelter from predators and nest
  • Look for the difference between fresh and saltwater wetlands
  • Gorse is a great protector for immature native trees
  • Natural debris from trees, windblown leaves eventually composts returning goodness to the soil
  • The best time to view wading birds is between full-tide and half-tide from November to March.
  • Over 25 hectares of plants and birds

The long sand bank extends into the Tamaki Estuary giving you a birds eye view of nature. At the dam, you will find stilts, herons, kingfishers and ducks. The best time to view wading birds is between full-tide and half-tide from November to March. You can walk along Sandspit beach.

At low tide the spit extends well out into the river towards Bucklands Beach. If you’re feeling adventurous you can cross the mudflats at low tide to the Cable Beacon Point and lookout. Join up with the walkway end at the West Tamaki Road car park. The sandspit lookout has spectacular views of the entire reserve. Stop for views of the fish dam and Sandspit beach, as well as the estuary mouth and Musick Point.


For more places in Auckland to picnic check out Auckland 5 picnic spots: the estuary & beach – Best Bits.

Map of Tahuna Torea reserve
Map of Tahuna Torea reserve

Why pick Pilot Bay Beach, Mt Maunganui as a favourite destination for families?

Pilot Bay Beach is a great place for families as it is a gem hiding in plain sight of Mt Mangauni’s showstopper Mt Maunganui’s Main Beach known as The Mount.

Pilot Bay Beach in Mount Maunganui, Tauranga City, North Island, New Zealand
Pilot Bay Beach in Mount Maunganui, Tauranga City

Featured as one of the Bay of Plenty’s top 5 beaches Pilot Bay is an ideal family destination for people with small children.

  • Lifeguards on duty during peak summer months
  • Cosmopolitan Mt Maunganui shopping, cafes and ice cream vendors a hop, skip and jump
  • Older family members can safely enjoy The Mount where lifeguards monitor newie surfing fans

Relish the contrast between a family beach, vast container ships gliding into the busy port and the views of Mount Maunganui’s summit, Mauao. The grassed foreshore has public BBQ’s, picnic tables and generous parking spaces. The contrast between the massive container ships gliding into the busy port and the kayaker enjoying the sunset is magic. Join the dots at the Mount with a walk around the base of Mount Maunganui for a touch of Main Beach glamour. For more holiday ideas check out Tauranga things to do for free – Best Bits.


Gorgeous, stunning Ohope with its 11 km of white sands and family friendly swimming options is another hot favourite in the Bay of Plenty. The unparalleled views of Moutohora (Whale Island, and Whakaari (White Island) break the views of the Pacific Ocean offering a contrast between sea and land. The beach is lined with mature norfolk pines creating plenty of shady spots. Ohope Beach is a study in contrast with a short walk unveiling OTARAWAIRERE BAY, a sheltered lagoon area with rock pools to explore at low tide. From ocean beach to an estuary, Ohope has something to offer the most discerning beach goer.

There are lifeguards at this beach.

Read more about What’s so great about Ohope.

Ohope Beach, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand
Ohope Beach




The high standard of top ten is reflected in the campground. beachfront apartments, motel units, cabins, glamping, glaravanning, powered and unpowered campsites. The question is when is a holiday park a resort and Ohope Beach is definitely in the running for a kiwi version of a beachside resort. There is a children’s programme, extensive playgrounds, board and kayak hire, a surf school and a junior programme.

LOCATION: 367 Harbour Rd, Ohope Beach


Hahei Beach is sometimes overshadowed by its famous neighbour Cathedral Cove yet the gleaming white sand and calm water is a perfect summer haven for families intent on a day at the beach. The nearby islands form a breakwater making the beach safe for kids. With the northern end of the beach part of the marine reserve there is plenty of marine life to explore snorkelling or diving. The beach has tour operators offering kayaking tours, snorkelling tours and water taxi services. Hahei caters for the summer holiday season with cafes, restaurants and even a craft brewery, Hot Water Brewing.

An aerial view of Hahei Beach New Zealand
Hahei Beach
Hahei beach, near Whitianga on the Pacific coast of the Coromandel Peninsula. New Zealand. Image shot 2012. Exact date unknown.
Hahei beach

Hahei is home to New Zealand’s snorkel trail. A marine exploration carefully signposted with bright colourful buoys.

  • New Zealand’s only Snorkel Trail to get visitors into the marine world.

The Snorkel trail provides a point of difference to get people into the water so they are able to experience the amazing marine life in the Te Whanganui a Hei Marine Reserve. The buoys have handles on them which snorkelers are able to hold on to which can help novice snorkelers, tourists and children feel more comfortable in the water. The information panels on the buoys give information about the marine environment.

Hahei facilities include toilets, lifeguards, shops and car parking.



Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach are firm visitor favourites yet for a leisurely day at the beach hang out at Hahei Beach a mere 11 km from Hot Water Beach … read more

The 14 Best Coromandel Beaches | NZJane



Kids love beach fossicking. Explore Porangahau Beach with its breezy nature creating a wild atmosphere. Go for an invigorating beach walk rather than braving the undercurrents The nearby settlement has a pub, cafe and general store. Horse races are held on the beach at Easter and Blo Karts catch the seabreezes there all year round. The beach stretches for kilometres creating plenty of space consequently does not feel crowded. Porangahau Beach is part of Beaches Hawke’s Bay places to go – Best Bits.

Porangahau Beach (Waipukurau), New Zealand @Hawke's Bay NZ
Porangahau Beach (Waipukurau) @Hawke's Bay NZ

Unmissable selfie moment (if you can fit the sign into the frame). The place with the longest name in the world Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu is just a few kilometres south of Porangahau. Check out What’s so great about Waipukurau for details.



Why pick Oriental Bay, Wellington?

Location says it all. The beach is in the heart of the city, on the way to Weta Workshop (a must-go attraction for everyone) and surrounded by cafes, coffee and ice-cream carts.

Oriental Bay, Wellington with marina, yachts and hillside suburban houses, Wellington, New Zealand
Oriental Bay

Oriental Bay is a pocket sized beach and a summer hot spot with ice cream vendors. Nearby is Te Papa National Museum of Aotearoa New Zealand and Wellington waterfront cafes and happening events.

Parking:  Angle parking on Oriental Parade and car park beside Freyberg Pool and Fitness Centre

Toilets and changing facilities:  At Freyberg Pool and Fitness Centre there are changing rooms, toilets, and cold showers

Accessibility:  Wheelchair access to Freyberg Beach

There are lifeguards at this beach during summer weekends.

Features: The Carter Fountain in the centre of the bay is named after Hugh Carter, who drowned in the harbour several days after its dedication. The fountain is controlled by a wind sensor so will not activate when the wind is at a constant speed of 10 knots or higher for a period of 10 minutes. The pump will shut down and will restart again if the wind speed drops under 10 knots for 5 minutes. In calm weather the fountain can shoot water up to 16m into the air.

The Carter Fountain operates:

  • Monday to Friday: 7.30am-9am, 12 noon-2pm, 4.30pm-6pm, 7.30pm-10.30pm (to 11pm on Friday)
  • Saturday and Sunday: 8.30am-4.30pm, 7pm-11pm

The Southern Walkway begins at the northern end of Oriental Parade and can also be accessed from Grass Street.

History: A Council project to enlarge and enhance both Freyberg and Oriental Bay beaches was completed in 2004 using sand from Golden Bay, Nelson. The beach’s sand area is now four times larger than before, and the Freyberg Beach grass area is twice as large.

Source: Oriental Bay Beach – Wellington City Council

Central city beach, Oriental Bay, Wellington, North Island, New Zealand
Central city beach, Oriental Bay

Why is it called Oriental Bay?

The area was originally called Duppa because of its sole resident, but Mr Duppa renamed it Oriental Bay after the ship The Oriental that he arrived in Wellington on. The bay was so remote that it was also used for quarantine purposes – with patients tended to by a physician and nurse in a tent located on the beach.

The bay was so remote that it was also used for quarantine purposes – with patients tended to by a physician and nurse in a tent located on the beach.

There was also another undesirable element with the bay area used by the whalers for boiling whale blubber, which was reportedly an unpleasantly pungent smell.

Colonial settlement started to grow from the 1880s, although the area was primarily used for farming. But by the turn of the century the Te Aro Baths (which would later become the Freyberg Pool) had been installed, with strict rules about segregated swimming: ladies daily from 9am to 2pm, and gentlemen daily before 9am and after 2pm.

READ MORE ABOUT THE HISTORY OF A CITY BEACH Life’s a beach in Oriental Bay – Wellington City Council

FAQ: Is Oriental Bay, Wellington crowded during the summer months?

Oriental Bay, Wellington beach is not crowded in summer due to the advent of the car. Only local suburbs frequent the beach creating a sense of community for regular beach goers.


Scenic view over Tahunanui Beach and Tasman Bay, New Zealand
Tahunanui Beach
  • Nelson is coast to coast fringed with long stretches of gold perfection and shallow safe water for children to paddle
  • Campgrounds galore adjacent to ideal family holiday spots

Close to Nelson city and the airport this beach is a family favourite.  Over 1.7 km of white sands and gentle waves create a summer staple for a day at the beach for locals and visitors. The beach is safe for swimming and popular with walkers, joggers and sun-seekers, with the back beach for kite-boarders and dog walking. Low tide exposes rock pools with crabs, sea-snails a prime site for kids to explore marine life. Look out for a wharf where fishing buffs cast their lines in hopes of snapper, kahawai and blue code. Year round Tasman Bay offers sightings of dolphins and orca feeding in the ebb and flow of the tide. The beach has its own business hub Tahunanui, Nelson New Zealand – Tahunanui, Nelson New Zealand lobbying for the beach, reserve and community. For more information about what to do in Nelson city check out local cafes and what to do in nearby Stoke.


  • Large grassed areas for impromptu games
  • Extensive public facilities for changing, outdoor showers
  • Cafes adjacent to the beach
  • Cool shady nearby Beach Reserve
  • Picnic seating, BBQ and playgrounds
  • Patrolled by lifeguards
  • Public transport route
  • Adjacent golf course overlooking Tasman Bay

… read more about Nelson Top 5 Beaches

Late afternoon in Summer at Tahunanui Beach, Nelson, South Island, New Zealand
Late afternoon in Summer at Tahunanui Beach

Why pick Kaiteriteri Beach as a favourite family NZ destination?

Kaiteriteri beach is a family top spot due to its sheer golden glory and copious amounts of summer sunshine.

Kaiteriteri Beach at the Abel Tasman Park in New Zealand
Kaiteriteri Beach
  • Abel Tasman National Park is massive drawcard being on the beaches doorstep
  • Mountain biking, river estuaries and kayaking are some of the attractions located on the beach
  • Inland Nelson food and wine trail for escaping parents
  • Cycle and explore Nelson’s Great Taste Trail section from Motuka to Kaiteriteri
  • Waka Tours Abel Tasman operates from Kaiteriteri. Their beautifully painted waka (traditional double hulled canoes) are a great way to test your seafaring skills. All age groups will enjoy time on the water learning how to paddle in unison and gain insights into local Maori culture and history

Read more about what to do in Nelson with kids Things to do in Nelson City Attractions, Activities & Places to Visit.


Sumner, the Christchurch seaside suburb, is a bustling hub for families. The main promenade is perfect for a stroll with buggies, walkers, wheelchairs, scooters, and kids. Swimming is recommended in front of the surf club’s watchful eye. This shallow beach has a gradual slope at high tide, and at low tide kids can explore Cave Rock. Cave Rock, or Tuawera, is a volcanic rock formation believed to be a hollowed-out whale, beached by black magic. Kids will love climbing inside these mysterious cave formations.

Sumner Promenade beside Cave Rock

Close to the township of Sumner this Christchurch beach that continues onto Scarborough beach by a 1.25 km promenade starting at Cave Rock. Sumner beach also has the nearby outlet of the Avon Heathcote Estuary. Note although it is possible to reach the South Shore side of the outlet from Sumner beach hidden strong rips and undertows at the mouth can be a danger to swimmers.

The Sumner Bar is a sand bar where the estuary meets the sea and had a reputation in the early days as being dangerous for shipping to cross.

There is reasonable fishing at the mouth of the estuary and you will see plenty of people trying their luck if conditions are right.

Sumner beach itself has a wide sandy area and is popular with families as it has a gentle sloping tidal area “always swim between the flags”.

Located on the beach and across the road are cafes etc. with some parking available.

Sumner Beach, Sumner, Christchurch, Canterbury Region, New Zealand
Sumner Beach

Surfers generally surf on the other side of Cave Rock which has a swell suitable for learners and intermediates, although an offshore wind can produce something for the more experienced surfer (further up at Scarborough beach under the right conditions can produce a very nice wave as well).

If you want to explore Cave Rock (at low tide) from the seaward side of Cave Rock it is an easy walk through the short tidal cave and you come out on the other side near the foot of a walking ramp onto the promenade. Cave Rock itself is an easy climb for someone sure of foot and a plaque on the tower at the top is dedicated to Captain of the Sumner Lifeboat, Joseph Day, who saved many lives between 1867 and 1880.

The promenade is a wide asphalt path on the seaward side of the seawall and there is another path on the land side. On a summer’s day the promenade is busy with other walkers, joggers, parents with strollers or people sitting and enjoying the day.

Stroll along the promenade from the beginning by Cave Rock.

Sumner Beach, Christchurch, New Zealand
Sumner Beach

If you want to explore Cave Rock (at low tide) , wander across Sumner beach to the seaward side of Cave Rock. It is an easy scramble through this short tidal cave and you emerge on the other beach near the foot of a walking ramp onto the promenade. Cave Rock itself is an easy climb and a plaque on the tower remembers Captain of the Sumner Lifeboat, Joseph Day, who saved many lives between 1867 and 1880.

It is easy walking around to Scarborough Park, which sits under the cliffs. There are toilets here, as well as a children’s playground and paddling pool and plenty of shading trees. No dogs are allowed in the park.

For variation on the return walk try Nayland Street or the less busy Wiggins Street. There are still many interesting and homely houses that reveal Sumner’s origins as a quiet seaside escape. Past the Sumner shops, if you cross Wakefield Avenue, it is well worthwhile to walk down the last part of Nayland Street with its idiosyncratic houses, stone walls and cliffs. Cross Main Street at the pedestrian island back to the car park.

Source: Find out about swimming at Sumner and Scarborough.


Why brave South Island temperatures (and we are talking about summer) and swim in the brisk swell of St Clair beach? Consider a dip in a hot water pool instead.

Visiting St Clair beach has options galore. Swimmers can don a wetsuit and join Esplanade Surf School and learn to surf with the kids. Or spend the day enjoying a vintage hot salt water pool. The Antarctic is the next stop for the ocean with an average summer temperature of 17c in January making any swim a brisk affair. Check out Dunedin – St Clair Water Temperature (Sea) and Wetsuit Guide (Otago, New Zealand).

Yet St Clair is charming with its cafe lined promenade encouraging visitors to linger. Enjoy the spectacle of surfers and intrepid swimmers braving the elements. Adding the icing on the cake is the St Clair Hot Water Pool.

The popular surf beach and Esplanade at St Clair in the south of the Dunedin capital city of Otago South Island New Zealand
St Clair beach


Families have the option of a vintage hot salt water pool. Enjoy the day at the beach in Dunedin with reliable water temperatures. The open air swimming pool is folded into the rocky cliff face of Forbury Hill and is metres from the ocean. Combined with a visit to Dinosaur Playground nearby in St Kilda and pizzas from a local cafe has the makings of a day at the beach.

Surfer riding the waves, St. Clair Beach, Dunedin, New Zealand
St Clair beach

The pool’s location creates a sense of ocean swimming with waves breaking mere metres from the pool’s open sides. Waves crash on the rocky shore below the St Clair Hot Water Pool adding a soundtrack to the leisurely laps in a controlled water environment.

Hot Salt Water Pool Features:

  • 28 degree Celsius
  • 1.1m – 1.4m deep
  • 6 x 25m lanes
  • Toddlers Pool
  • Disabled changing area
  • Cafe, open 9am – 5pm daily

For more information about Dunedin beaches and what to do visiting Dunedin & Otago Peninsula check out Dunedin Travel Guide.


Outdoors walking families will enjoy a cliff top track around to Second Beach with its rugged coastline views.


What to do at the beach holiday inspiration. De-stress with What to do at the beach, wellness treatment tips and treatment or need ideas for the kids check What to do at the beach: Sandcastle building tips and have a budding builder in the family team then here’s some tips for the driftwood What to do at the beach: driftwood mansions & art.



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