The Best and Worst Auckland City Beaches

After almost two years in the city with minimal effort spent on branching out to see what Auckland had to offer we decided that this summer was going to be one of beaches. Armed with a bottle of rapidly depleting sunblock (RIP) and dreams of the $2 Tiptop trumpet deals we made it a mission to head to as many beaches around the city as we could.

Our adventures were mainly done via foot and public transport due to not being able to drive (me and most my comrades) and not having a car (kat) but we’ve given it a pretty good effort and have a new born appreciation for the stunner place we live.

This is a misleading title because they’re all actually pretty decent but I thought I would give you a run down on what my favourites were and where was hot (like literally) and where was probably not worth the bus fare.

FROM WORST TO BEST

Point Chevalier 
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Aesthetic: Instead of facing in towards Rangitoto like most city beaches, Point Chev faces inwards and consequentially has an estuary kind of vibe. Long stretches of quite hard pebbly sand, some trees up the back towards the road and very shallow, kind of murky, water. People were legitimately walking out for 200m and still at knee depth so its pretty safe but maybe not the best for swimming at low tide.

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mastered beach photography

Vibe: It was kind of a weird beach – not really the good ol’ sea salt sand vibe but it was very hot and very relaxing. There is cool rocky walk way at one end where you can get a view of the Skytower and climb up to above the beach which was probably my favourite part of the trip.

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Travel: Take the Outerlink from wherever and get off in Point Chev, it was about a 10-15minute walk from the bus stop. If its convenient, the St Heliers bus also goes past and we caught that home.

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our valiant heroes who helped me across the rocks before diving off for a swim.

Ice Cream: There is a dairy a 10 minute walk away from the beach which did proper scoops and freezer ice creams – it was not close enough to be that convenient but it was right opposite the busstop.

Overall Rating: 5.5/10

Story: In fairness I was absolutely zonked by the time we got here and legit fell straight asleep for a solid hour on the sand but Point Chev was just not the beach for me. I appreciated the visit but definitely prefer the classic ocean, softer sand, dairy on hand kind of vibe rather than mud flats and oysters – especially considering it was one of the tricker ones to travel to. The walk around was v fun though so if you are feeling like something a bit different/have small kids on your hands/want a peaceful escape maybe this could be for you?!?

Karaka Bay
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Aesthetic: You follow a really beautiful path down off the road which makes you feel like you have stumbled upon a real bit of a treasure. It is a classic city beach with a small stretch of sand covered with rocks and shells and super calm water – I think because it is so close to the inlet of Half-moon Bay it seems especially flat. There are a few ramshackle holiday homes near the beach but otherwise it was pretty secluded with just a few patches of scratchy beach grass and some rugged looking trees.

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Vibe: Definitely a quieter and more peaceful stop. There were a few groups chilling and having a snack and some families coming back and forth on their boat. There is a really satisfying feeling of escaping the city but if i’m honest it wasn’t the most comfortable or soft beach to park up at.

Travel: If you stay on the bus until the right stop its not too bad as it drops you right opposite the entrance down and you can catch it from there too. If you do not get off at the right stop then RIP.

Ice Cream: None nearby!

Overall Rating:  6/10

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Story:
Okay so to be fair Karaka Bay being this low on my list is not necessarily Karaka Bays fault.
Kat and I headed here on New Years Eve, catching the bus from Britomart – which so began our problems. Google Map instructions tell you to get off at Riddell Road, but they do not tell you (unless you have the map up which we, being overconfident and data savvy did not) is that Riddell Road has to be one of the longest loopy roads in existence. Instead of catching the bus to outside the path to the beach we ended up going on an hour and half trek to find our beach (we were legit so far away that when we asked some passerby where the beach was he had no clue what we were talking about).

Our actual time there was short as we had dinner booked but we did have quite a nice time – the cloudy weather again probably didn’t warm us to the spot (haha get it) but I would recommend trying to venture out at least once in your life.

Judges Bay
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Aesthetic: Its not really a beach to be fair. Its an inlet enclosed by the road which makes for quite a cool ocean-like lake but you definitely don’t feel like you’re in the sea. It had a small stretch of sand with a green grass hill rising up behind it. The water is that inlet murky green and there are three pontoons that you can swim out too.

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Vibe: It doesn’t look like a beach or feel like a beach but on a nice day i think it would be a really fun family spot. It seems reasonably safe as its so contained and there are lots of spots to park your towel and have a picnic. Also the Parnell Baths are right next door if you fancy some clear blue chlorine or a spa.

Travel: Super easy to get to. We caught a bus from the city and it dropped us off right at the bottom of the pedestrian overpass bridge which took us through the pools to the bay.  We ended up walking back to the city on a pursuit for ice cream and crossed through the Parnell Rose gardens which are a few hundred metres above the bay and so pretty! Such a lovely detour.

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Ice Cream: There was a private function on so hard to tell if the ice cream trucks would usually be there or not? Potentially pool may also sell ice cream? As it was we ended up walking all the way back into the city to get our gelato fix.

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Overall Rating: 6/10

Story: Again we didn’t give Judges Bay the fairest chance because it was a super cloudy day which never sets the best beach vibe. I think for us it was just a little bit odd, especially at low tide with the grey weather – but it was still a lovely trip and the rose gardens after were mint.

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Ladies Bay
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Aesthetic: Super secluded and down a cute tree lined path off Achilles Point. It has a nice half crescent of gold sand with a reasonable amount of shade and some cool clay rock formations.

Vibe: It is a nudist beach so if thats not for you than don’t venture down.

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Travel: A bus to St Heliers, a walk up the hill and then a lovely stroll down the path – definitely nothing too traumatic.

Ice Cream: St Heliers shops are probably your nearest which isn’t close enough to be that helpful.

Overall Rating: 6.5/10

Story: We stumbled across Ladies Bay when walking the rocks from St Heliers. While we didn’t stay for long I appreciated how pretty and private the little cove was and how close it was in proximity to Achilles Point which was an awesome climb and SO HOT! I can’t say I will be making a specific trip there but it was a pretty beach and if you are down with nudity or a more secluded trip go for your life.

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Thorne Bay 
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Aesthetic: A small stretch of sand with lots of rocky areas that people kind of fit between. A cute spot for swimming. I think typically it is meant to be quieter but it was buzzing with people. You have to either take a coastal walk or head around the rocks to find it which is really nice and you get to pass some super beautiful swimming holes along the way

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Vibe: Crowded when we went – but you could see how it was meant to be the more peaceful Takapuna and how nice it would be if it had been a bit emptier.

Travel: The Taka bus and then the walk which is only about 10 minutes around the rocks and really fun.

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Ice Cream: Back in Takapuna – so not that close (if you’ve noticed a trend of my least favourite beaches not having accessible ice creams than you have done well).

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Overall Rating: 6.5/10

Story: We went on Flo’s last weekend and it was really nice though not the warmest day we’ve had. I think the mix of the overcrowded beach and unideal weather meant we didn’t enjoy Thorne as much as we did other areas, but it was still a good place to venture out to and definitely a little prettier than Taka.

Kohimarama
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Aesthetic: Right next to Mission Bay with a very similar vibe except without the people! Nice soft sand, a few trees up the back for shade and pretty blue water.

Vibe: Peaceful and quiet. I went with Molly and we had a cruisey time reading books, eating snacks and watching some cute babies having a playdate nearby. There were quite a lot of people chilling on there own which was nice.

Travel: Bus from Britomart that goes all the way around that beach coast and you just jump off at Kohi!

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Ice Cream: No dairies that I could spot though a kid did walk bust with a scoop ice cream so there must be something. We ended up walking around to Mission Bay for a beverage and some chips which was delicious in the late afternoon sun!

Overall Rating: 7/10

Mission Bay
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this is not my photo because I really didn’t take enough on this trip.

Aesthetic: Arguably Auckland’s most iconic and popular city beach – on a good day Mission Bay is exploding with people. The beach itself is big but not huge and so you are pretty crammed when its sunny but the sand is soft and the water is pretty nice (albeit cold). Behind the beach but before the road is a huge grass area with a giant fountain and the area is usually filled with picnickers, family sport games and splashing toddlers. There is a car park which is reasonably big?? And the Mission Bay shops just across the road.

Vibe: Its busy and its hot but its also quite a ‘Kiwi Summer’ feel. The whole place is alive with chatter and kids squealing, everything stinks of sunscreen and you kind of just get to lie back and bliss out in the heat.

Travel: Just a bus from Britomart.

Ice Cream: Movenpick (which I do not rate) is always bustling, there is also a froyo place but if you want to stick to your classics we managed to find one dairy with your basic ice creams which was pretty good.

Overall Rating: 7.5/10

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Takapuna
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Aesthetic: Takapuna is another Auckland classic – and for good reason. The beach is huge so you don’t feel overcrowded and has a golden – though a bit of a rough stretch – of sand. The water is good for swimming and its usually pretty full of people.

Vibe: Taka is one of those beaches that is super nice on a good day and probably super average on a windy or cloudy one. When its sunny it gets so hot, so lively and is so convenient as there is a playground and grassy area nearby with changing rooms and toilets. On a cold day its less easy to forgive the sand for not being that soft and harder to appreciate the signs of people (cars and concrete) in your surroundings.

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Travel: One bus from the city and you make it there pretty easily. Just don’t get the one that drops every person in Takapuna home before hitting the beach, it will add pointless time on to your travel.

Ice Cream: Up and across the road we found a dairy nestled into this small arcade that had SUCH GOOD ICE CREAM SELECTION also fresh fruit juices and basically everything else a good dairy should have. Also next door to a yummy fish and chip store – win!

Overall Rating: 8.5/10

Castor Bay

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Aesthetic: Lovely little northern bay. There is a big playground and small grassy area right up behind the beach which is ideal for kids. It isn’t a huuuuge beach and does get pretty crowded in summer, but still, there is always room for a towel and a sun bathe. The water is classic harbour calm and there is a summer pontoon shallow enough to bounce out to in low tide.

Vibe: It gives some illusion of being very far away (even though Rangitoto is literally right there) which is quite fun. Nice for swimming with lots of relaxed, safe, summery vibes.

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Travel: It is a long bus ride – but still bussable!! The drive itself is also enjoyable because you get to peek out at all the tropical and expensive north shore housing. Fair warning that the bus from the city does drop you off a little bit away from the beach so our travels took us on a bit of a walk through suburbia, over a war monument and down past a lit lookout  – but that was also a really cool part of the whole beach experience. We bussed back via Takapuna which was a much more straight forward ride and if you want to cut out the walk is probably your best bet.

Ice Cream: Mr Whippy comes around every now and then – otherwise there is more $costly$ store a few minutes walk from the beach. We tried our ice cream luck in Takapuna, which as expected was yum as.

Overall Rating: 8.5/10

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Cheltenham Beach 
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Aesthetic: Another long golden stretch and blue water. It was quite cool to see such a close view of Rangitoto without Devonport getting in the way because it really did make you feel like you had escaped a bit out of the city.

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Vibe: Super sunny and relaxed. There were lots of people swimming and chilling out.

Travel: It is a mission to get to but I think for Cheltenham that is part of the fun of it. You take the Devonport Ferry which is fairly frequent and payable with a HOP card and boat over to Devonport. The ride itself is fairly short but super pretty and gives that satisfying feeling of going on holiday. We walked the long way to the beach so we could walk around the coast and it took us maybe 30 or so minutes to reach it but the views were good and we had some great laughs along the way.

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Ice Cream: Very good shop just around the corner from one end of the beach – had both cone and freezer ice creams as well as coffee! and other fancier treats.

Overall Rating: 9/10

Story: This day was such a hot one and probably at the peak of our beach going season. We both had delicious packed lunches, enough water and sunscreen and a book so we were able to spend a really good set of hours just relaxing and soaking in the sun.

St Heliers 
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Aesthetic: Classic Auckland golden-white sand, Rangitoto views and calm water. There are cool rocks over on the far side which you can walk around and explore and Achilles Point nearby for an unreal look out of the city.

Vibe: Its that same sweet beachy mood but without the overbearingness of the crowds at Mission Bay and the weird kind of absence of people at Kohi. Lots of families playing at the park, soft sand, pretty chill. If you like a beach day which is very relaxed than this is a winner.

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Travel: Easy as, just take that same old bus from Britomart there and home.

Ice Cream: There is a small dairy across the road which doesn’t have the best selection but definitely has all the basics.

Overall Rating: 9.5/10

Story: This was one of the first beaches Kat and I went to this summer and one of my favourite trips out (written about here). I think the fact it was just a classic city beach (which I have really really enjoyed) with the added bonus of the good views and adventure walk made it my favourite. As they say, a good day makes a place and St Heliers was one of my favourite days ever.

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BONUS (beaches you need a car for) ALSO RANKED IN ORDER from worst to best:

Kaitarakihi:

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Aesthetic: A very sheltered inlet beach. It is out West so has the typical black sand and rock formations associated with Auckland beaches without the crazy swell. Lots of kayaking and fishing, super calm water and a view over to Manukau. There is also a reasonable sized field for a ball game or picnic complete with a questionable (but usable) long drop.

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Vibe: It is a super quiet and peaceful spot. Auckland was blustery that day and we avoided all the wind by escaping down here. Also surrounded by lots of native (and non-native smh) bush so it did feel a little like an oasis. It is not the most lush or exciting summer beach – the sand has lots of shells and imbedded rocks typical of an in harbour beach – but good for a quiet arvo with your friends. Also some good rock walks so bring ya shoes!

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Travel: It is a little bit of a drive but no further than any of the Western beaches.

Ice Cream: NONE. We got one on our drive home but still tragic.

Overall Rating: 6.5/10

Omaha:

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Aesthetic: Looong beach, pristine white sand, limited natural shelter if you’re not a big wave kind of person. It had quite a dumping wave swell when we went but can imagine how it could be flat on a beautiful day.

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Vibe: It is a very classic NZ northern beach. It was full but so big it never felt overcrowded. There was a surf club with bathrooms and showers, and a good convenience store (feat beach equipment, snacks and ice cream) only a 2 minute walk from the beach so a good place to spend the say.

Travel: It’s an hour or so away (excluding traffic) so prepare yourself with some good CDs, friends and a good driver.

Ice Cream: Quality collection from the store – close proximity.

Overall Rating: 6.5/10 – I really liked Omaha but it we went on a cloudy day so my rating is a little biased. It was a super beautiful beach and a cool place to go if you’re local but for the length of the drive it wasn’t spectacular.

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Piha
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Not actually a city beach you can reach with public transport but I took a trip out with Nick, Dan and Frankie and it was such a stunning time that I wanted to add it in. West Auckland’s beaches are some of those most incredible that I have visited in New Zealand – all so immense and beautiful.

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Piha was its classic black-sand beautiful self. It was busy but because it was so big you felt like you had heaps of space. The sand was super hot so definitely bring jandals and something to lie on to avoid actual burns and apply about x100 sunburn because we all were fried by the sun despite layering the stuff on.

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The water there is insane – fun, but insane. There were good waves when we went and it was reasonably shallow for quite a way out which was cool, but still Piha Rescue taught us all that Piha waters are pretty ruthless and even between the flags there were some wicked strong currents trying to push you out.

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We did the climb up Lion Rock which was a good view and then headed to Kitekite falls. Something I didn’t realise is that you can walk to the falls from both the top and bottom – while both are stunning I would recommend going from the top for some beautiful mountain views and these cool, shallower pools that you can sit in and overlook the forest. If you did want to see the waterfall properly or a less hilly track  head in from the bottom. It is possible to walk between the top and bottom but not overly necessary.

I would rate Piha a solid 8.5/10. It is incredibly beautiful and when you add in the falls it becomes such a satisfying day trip – like I would rate my whole day out there a 10/10 and would absolutely recommend.

Anchor Bay: 

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Aesthetic: Beautiful little crescent beach with MASSIVE CRASHING WAVES. There is a grass bank up behind overlooking it with lots of trees if that is more your beach day out vibe.

Vibe: The bay is part of Tauwharanui Reserve so you are surrounded by nature – you have to drive through these crazy gravel roads covered with sheep, past some beautiful trees and sheltered bays before you finally reach the car park. Even from the beach you can progress over the hill on foot to find some more secluded and sheltered beaches or some amazing rock pools. The reserve is designed to let nature and people interact and its a really cool place for a day trip.

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Travel: It is a fair way out of Auckland – definitely give yourself over an hour for the drive but its a fun road trip.

Ice Cream: NONE. So bring your own snacks and stop in Matakana on your way home for a fresh Kapati scoop.

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Story: I wrote a whole seperate post on Anchor, Kaitarakihi Castor and Omaho, which you can check out here – but if you just want a basic takeaway you can’t take your dog here so it is not the beach for pup families.

Overall Rating: 9/10

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~~~
Well this turned into the worlds longest ever post but it has been so long since I last wrote, I thought I better deliver something! Currently the exhausting aspects of my life are a bit overwhelming – kind of like a lot of things have caught up with me at once and I have this weird emotional hangover but I am very slowly getting back on track and I know in my heart of hearts that writing here helps, even if it isn’t easy on the more tiring days.

Still happy last month of Summer my Southern Hemisphere babies, and congrats to the rest of you on surviving your seasons. If you do live in Auckland I would 10/10 recommend heading out to your nearest beach on our next sunny day (not until the weekend according to the forecast RIP). I think sometimes Auckland is so big its easy to forget that you can have really peaceful, beautiful spots in it – but you can, and in classic Auckland fashion, once you discover one you find there are more than you ever thought you needed.

Love you and see you v soon (pinky swear) xx

*POST WILL BE UPDATED WITH NEW BEACHES*

 

 

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. As much as I feel at home with the white beaches of the East coast (as it the closest to the beaches in South Africa), I have fallen in love with the rugged black sands of the West coast. This summer has surely been one for exploring 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. lovefromzar says:

      Yes! I have been loving all your posts about your families adventures!

      Like

    2. Marnie says:

      I’m so glad that the inertnet allows free info like this!

      Like

  2. Katie Kuo says:

    Love this beaches review! x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. lovefromzar says:

      You’re the best ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Katie Kuo says:

        you, you’re the best too!

        Like

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