The Bay of Islands is world renowned for blue skies and sandy beaches, so it’s natural to ask, ‘Where are the best beaches in Kerikeri?’
Kerikeri is a waterfront town, and there are a number of places where you can enjoy dinner and drinks while gazing out over the Waipekakoura River. While beautiful, most of the rivers and inlets leading into the Bay of Islands are rocky outcrops and mangrove swamps instead of sandy beaches.
While Kerikeri may not be a ‘seaside town’ exactly, there are a number of nearby beaches. They aren’t as well-known as the beaches around Paihia and Russell, which means you have a better chance of finding a quiet, relaxing spot during the peak summer season.
Beach-going in New Zealand
Swimming in the Bay of Islands
Even during peak summer times, the beaches around Kerikeri and the Bay of Islands are not patrolled by a surf lifesaving club. If you plan on swimming or enjoying the beaches around the Bay of Islands, you’ll need to take some personal responsibility.
Even the most confident swimmers should stay fairly close to the shore to avoid getting into trouble. Always keep an eye on your family, young children, or the people you are with.
Beach opening hours
Because the beaches are public property, you can enjoy them any time of the day or night. In fact, sitting on almost any beach in the Bay of Islands is a perfect place to watch the sun rise or set.
The beach facilities may have opening hours, so when you arrive at the beach, check the public toilets or any access roads to see when they may be close up. You don’t want to be caught short!
Also, it’s safest to swim during daylight hours only.
Check before you swim
A safety check before you head into the water will make sure you have a good time.
- What’s the weather forecast like?
- What do I need to know about tide and swells?
The weather in the Bay of Islands can change rapidly. While in summer you’re almost guaranteed long, gorgeous, sunny days, it’s not uncommon for the wind to pick up out of nowhere.
Keeping one eye on the weather forecast will give you an idea about what you need to take to the beach. Knowing high and low tide times will also make sure you’re not caught out in the water.
Keep our beaches beautiful
The Bay of Islands is one of the most beautiful places in one of the most beautiful countries on Earth. Let’s keep it that way.
Some of the busier beaches will have rubbish bins for you to dispose of your lunch wrappers or empty sun-block bottles, but many of the smaller beaches won’t. Please, leave only footprints on our beaches and take away everything that you brought to the beach.
When to visit beaches in the Bay of Islands?
You can visit the beaches around the Bay of Islands at any time of the year. Lying on the sand may not be as pleasant during one of Northland’s famous tropical winter rainstorms, but you can still do it if you choose.
In fact, you might find the water a bit cold for swimming, but even during the winter months of June and July, when it’s sunny, the beaches around the Bay of Islands are lovely places for a walk.
For peak, postcard worthy views of sand and sun, the summer months between November and March are best. The warm weather and warm waters are a perfect combination for swimming, sandcastle-building, or just relaxing beach-side.
What should I take to the beach?
Plenty of water, food and snacks. During summer it’s easy to become dehydrated, and swimming uses up a lot of energy.
- Towels and spare clothes.
- A wide-brimmed sun hat, or even a sun umbrella if you can’t find a shady spot.
- Sunscreen – So important! The New Zealand sun is harsh and between 11am and 1pm on a summer’s day you can burn in just 10 minutes. Always apply sunscreen half an hour before going to the beach and keep reapplying during the day.
- Rubbish bags – many beaches don’t have rubbish bins. A rubbish bag makes it easy to take your litter home with you and dispose of later.
- Bug spray -You could say the one downside to the Bay of Islands’ beaches are the sand-flies or midges. A touch of bug spray should keep them away.
Roughly a 20 minute drive north of Kerikeri is the picturesque Opito Bay. A small seaside community largely made up of holiday homes where it’s easy to ‘get away from it all.’
The upside of being a small, remote, coastal community is that Opito Bay can be that quiet, relaxing getaway you need to rest and recharge. The potential downside of that remoteness is that there are no shops in Opito Bay. If you’re planning on staying in Opito Bay or just coming out for a day trip, remember to stock up in Kerikeri before you leave.
Getting to Opito Bay
Take Kerikeri Road/ The Twin Coast Discovery Highway north until you reach the roundabout, then take the second exit onto Waipapa Rd. Follow Landing Road around to the left and at the next roundabout take the first exit onto Kapiro Road. After 9km, turn right onto Redcliffs Rd, right onto Rangitane Rd, left onto Opito Bay Road and keep going until the road runs out.
Activities in Opito Bay
Fishing and boating in Opito Bay
As Opito Bay is right on the north-eastern edge of the Kerikeri Inlet, where the tidal waters enter the Bay of Islands, it’s a popular site for fishing. Fish also move with the tides and water currents, so standing out at one of the heads of Opito Bay, or getting out in a boat as the waters are approaching high tide is ideal for picking up a snapper for dinner.
As there are no bait or tackle shops in Opito Bay, you’ll need to make sure you have brought your own, or have rented some gear in Kerikeri. You can find out more about fishing in the Bay of Islands here.
Opito Bay has a good boat ramp, so is a fantastic place for launching off if you’re spending a day on the water.
It’s worth noting that Opito Bay is exposed to south-westerly winds, so the weather can be cool and the water a little choppy at times. While these may be pretty good conditions for fishing, they may not be what you want for a day relaxing or reading a book on the sunny beach.
Wharau Road Beach
If Opito Bay is a bit windy, try Wharau Road beach on the southern side of the Kerikeri Inlet.
If you thought Opito Bay was remote, Wharau Road Beach is even more rustic. Entry is via a gravel road, there’s not a lot of parking, and unlike Opito Bay there are no public toilets. However, it’s remoteness makes Wharau Road Beach ideal if you have had enough of the more popular tourist beaches and need an escape for the afternoon.
Want to see more of the Bay of Islands’ famous beaches? Have a look at our guide to the best beaches in the Bay of Islands.
Getting to Wharau Road Beach
It will take you roughly 20 minutes to reach Wharau Road Beach from the centre of Kerikeri. Take Cobham Road past the Kerikeri Library and Domain before turning left onto Kerikeri Inlet Road. Keep following Kerikeri Inlet Road as it also becomes Te Araroa Trail, and after 9 kilometres turn right onto Wharau Road. Follow Wharau Road until you can’t go any further.
There is space for a few cars to park on the gravel shoulder by the ‘No freedom camping’ sign, then it’s a short walk around to the beach.
Activities in Wharau Road Beach
If you want to have a digital detox and unwind for the day, Wharau Road Beach is a place where you can make your own fun. Bring a book to read, a bucket for sandcastles, a ball to kick around or a frisbee to throw. Enjoy Wharau Road Beach for the secluded, remote place that it is.
Wharau Road Beach rockpool
By the gravel path entrance to the beach, you’ll notice a small rocky outcrop. Hunting around the rockpools at high tide for crabs, shells and small sea-creatures will keep the kids occupied for a couple of hours.
Boating at Wharau Road Beach
The ramp down to the beach is a bit rough and ready. When you add to that the limited parking and turning space, it’s no wonder there are local council signs saying vehicles aren’t allowed down it.
If you have come down with your kayaks and want to paddle around, the gravelly ramp makes it easy to drag or carry your kayak to and from your vehicle. If you’re wanting to launch anything bigger, there are other beaches like Opito Bay with more accessible boat ramps.
Wharau Road Beach is dog friendly
Because it’s not a tourist hot-spot destination, dogs are allowed on Wharau Road Beach. What dog doesn’t love a run along the beach and splashing in the waves?
It goes without saying, please be a responsible dog owner and take away anything your furry friend may ‘leave behind.’ You should also be aware that while dogs are allowed on Wharau Road Beach, the land adjoining the beach is a kiwi sanctuary. Just make sure you keep an eye on your dog at all times.
Feeling adventurous and love a gorgeous view? Taonui Beach overlooks Takou Bay, opposite Te Puna Inlet, roughly 30 minutes north of Kerikeri. While this means Taronui Beach isn’t ‘technically’ part of the Bay of Islands, it’s close enough to Kerikeri to include in our guide to Kerikeri beaches.
Getting to Taronui Beach
From Kerikeri town centre, take the Twin Coast Discovery Highway north. Turn right onto Waipapa Road, left onto Landing Road, then left again onto Kapiro Road. After 3 kilometres along Kapiro Road, turn right onto Purerua Road and follow it along for 11 kilometres until you see Hewitt Road on your left. You’ll find car parking on Hewitt Road, which is where the track to Taronui Beach begins.
Activities in Taronui Beach
Taronui Beach walking track
This might count as an activity, given the walking track is the only way of accessing Taronui Beach. You’ll appreciate a refreshing dip in the sea all the more after having walked there.
While the track is clearly marked and largely flat, it’s 3.7 kilometres one way, you have to cross over three stiles, and the Department of Conservation (DoC) estimates it will take you 45 minutes to an hour to reach the beach from the car park.
While the white sands of Taronui Beach are worth the effort, and the track is rated easy, bear the long walk in mind if you have young children or you have a lot of gear you want to bring with you.
As the Taronui Beach walking track is on DoC land, no dogs are allowed.
If you enjoy the Taronui Beach walking track, have a look at these walks and hikes around the Bay of Islands .
What you need for the Taronui Beach walking track
In addition to everything you’ll want to enjoy on the beach, make sure you have good walking shoes. The track features gravel and mud in some places, so even in summer this is not a walk you want to attempt in jandals.
The track is quite exposed, so especially if you’re walking to Taronui Beach in summer, you will need plenty of drinking water. Remember, there are no facilities at Taronui Bay, so you will need to bring all the drinking water you need for the day with you.
Swimming at Taronui Beach
A natural outcrop of rocks almost forms a lagoon around Taronui Beach. The extra shelter makes for very warm, calm waters for swimming at low tide.
Access to Tapuaetahi Beach
Many people come north to see Tapuaetahi Beach, which is adjacent to Taronui Beach, but are disappointed to find that access to the beach is via a private road.
You need to be friends with a resident at Tapuaetahi Beach to get the access code for the gate. Sorry, we can’t help you there.
Come visit these Kerikeri beaches
There is no denying Te Ti Bay in Paihia or Oneroa beach in Russell are gorgeous. But the next time you’re in the Bay of Islands and want to enjoy a more secluded beach spot that’s off the beaten track, give these Kerikeri beaches a try. But remember, keep their location to yourself, so they stay Kerikeri’s best kept secrets.