Visit The Most Zen Beaches in New Zealand

Amy Sowder

From the black sands of the west coast on the North Island, to the penguins perched on the rugged southeast coast of the South Island, New Zealand is a must see destination for beach lovers looking to relax and find their zen.

Whether or not you practice yoga, you’ll find yourself soaking in the meditative beauty of these beaches along New Zealand’s two major islands, from the black sands of the west coast on the North Island with breathtaking cliffs and neon-green rolling hills, to the penguins perched on the rugged southeast coast of the South Island.

You pretty much can’t go wrong visiting any beach in this country. However, if you are interested in feeling your spirit soar to another plane of Zen and relaxation, then the list below is for you.

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To keep it tranquil, visit during off-season. Tourism picks up in mid-November, peaks in January, and falls off by the end of March. Winter tourism ramps up for winter activities in July and August, mainly in the South Island. For those in the Northern Hemisphere, remember: The seasons are the opposite in New Zealand, and it’s hotter on the North Island and cooler on the South Island, which is close to the South Pole, a.k.a., the Antarctic.

All around, drink in the awe-inspiring clear, turquoise waters. These are the perfect places to breathe deeply, say your ommms and rest your weary mind. Give it a go.

Cathedral Cove Coromandel Legend Photography
Cathedral Cove Coromandel. / © Image by Legend Photography

It’s an ethereal experience to feel your higher power calling at the Cathedral Cove on the Coromandel Peninsula of New Zealand’s North Island. A boutique guided boat tour can help you explore the inspiring coastline around Hahei, where you will mingle with marine life and sea birds. The ancient volcanic coastline also features blowholes and blindingly white sand beaches.

Wenderholm. © image by Amy Sowder

This isn’t the flashiest of beaches that are all about seeing and being seen, and that’s why people love it. Visitors to this east-coast beach on the North Island near Auckland come for the long, sandy, peaceful shoreline bookended by majestic cliffs carpeted in emerald green. The shady pohutukawa trees offer respite from the sun, if need be.

There are also native forest walks that climb the park’s headland, which lies between the Waiwera and Puhoi rivers. If you’re hiking, you might be rewarded with long-range views of the Puhoi River valley and across the sea to the distant islands of the Hauraki Gulf. Look for rare North Island robins as you kayak through mangroves to a wharf near the historic Bohemian town of Puhoi.

Otago Coast
Otago Coast./ © image by Otago Penguin Place

If you want to be alone in your beachy Zen state, then rugged, isolated, rural South Island is for you. This is where you could mind-meld with a penguin without stepping a frigid foot in Antarctica. The yellow-eyed penguin, “hoiho” in the Maori language, is probably the world’s rarest penguin. It lives near Dunedin along the wild southeast coast of the South Island.

Gaze at these curious creatures from one of only four viewing huts on the Otago coast, because you don’t want to disturb their calm either. Around dawn, the penguins waddle out of their nests to dive into the sea for a day of fishing, returning by dusk.

Kaikoura Canterbury
Kaikoura Canterbury./ © image by Kyle Mulinder

Known for its natural beauty, the northernmost settlement in the Cantebury region on the South Island is a 2.5-hour drive, or 67 miles, from Christchurch. Encounter whales, dolphins, fur seal colonies, and albatrosses as they explore the seaside. Those into moving meditations, (like hiking) can explore Mount Fyffe and the Puhi Puhi Reserve.

Even more remote is the remarkable Black Pebble Beach north of Kaikoura near the small town of Kekerengu. Often overlooked, you’ll contemplate its contrasting elements: the dark pebbles along the bright emerald green ocean waters, against the backdrop of the wondrous Southern Alps.

Black sand Piha Beach Auckland
Black Sand Piha Beach Auckland./ © image by Scott Venning

You’ll see black iron volcanic sand along many beaches along the wild west coast of the North Island. This distinctive sand is so hot that padding barefoot isn’t recommended when the sun’s high, unless pain is your path to relaxation. Piha is a popular spot where surfers chill with the pounding waves and strong current, so make sure to swim only in patrolled areas.

Nearby, Waitakere Ranges Regional Park has subtropical native rainforest and trails to waterfalls such as Kitekite and Fairy falls. Karekare, to the south, also has a black sand beach. The windswept Muriwai beach also has rolling black sand dunes and crisp sea air, but with cliff-side gannet colonies, sometimes 1,200 pairs nesting between August and March. Viewing platforms give you sweeping views far over the Tasman Sea. Stroll along the boardwalk hugging the coastline and breathe that clean air. ■

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