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Waiheke Island Beaches: Auckland’s Best Getaway

The perfect beach day starts with the perfect beach and Waiheke Island’s rugged coastline is home to some of the most picturesque shores in New Zealand. Discover which ones are perfect for swimming, learn where to find the best surf, and get the lowdown on this small island’s hidden gems.

New Zealand is filled with beautiful beaches. From hidden gems like Christchurch’s Waimarie to stretches of black sand on Auckland’s Muriwai. The beaches on Waiheke Island are no exception. Located in the Hauraki Gulf, Waiheke’s soft white sand beaches complement the island’s olive groves and vineyards. Together, they create a stunning slice of paradise. The island is easily accessible from Auckland via ferry and most ferries arrive at the Matiatia ferry terminal in around 40 minutes. From the terminal, you can take the Matiatia Walk, a picturesque coastal walking track that ends at Oneroa Bay.

But once you arrive, which beach should you choose? They aren’t always patrolled by lifeguards, so some visitors might prefer to stick to beaches with calm waters. Others might be looking for the best waves or wildlife. Our guide to Waiheke’s beaches will help you discover everything this breathtaking island has to offer.

Waiheke Island Beaches

view of oneroa beach with boats on the water.
Mica Stock

Oneroa Beach

Oneroa Beach and the Little Oneroa Beach Reserve are probably Waiheke Island’s best-known and best-loved beaches. They’re on the northern side of the island, which is more sheltered than the southern side. The water here is calm and they’re considered two of the best swimming beaches in Waiheke. Little Oneroa is separated from the main beach by a small headland and visitors can easily walk between the two beaches at low tide. It’s very popular with families and has a small children’s playground and picnic tables on the grass. (The small lagoon near the children’s playground carries a health warning and should be avoided.) There are several beautiful hotels nearby including The Boatshed which overlooks the bay. 

GETTING THERE

View of onetangi beach from the boardwalk and dunes.
Andrea Izzotti

Onetangi Beach

Onetangi is usually the busiest beach on Waiheke, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find space. Made up of just over a mile of sparkling sand, it’s the longest beach on Waiheke and is home to the island’s largest Pohutukawa trees. Pohutukawa burst into brilliant red bloom between November and January, peaking in late December. With more wind than the other northern beaches, Onetangi is an excellent option for visitors looking to surf on this side of the island. On some days it may be too rough for less experienced swimmers but with free BBQs and picnic tables, you can spend a lovely afternoon here without ever entering the water. There are many excellent eateries nearby. Try Three Seven Two, an award-winning bar and restaurant located just across the road. The Onetangi Beach Apartments offer serviced holiday apartments right next to Onetangi Beach.

GETTING THERE

Troy Wegman

Palm Beach

Named for its towering Phoenix Palms, Palm Beach is another large beach on the northern side of the island. A highlight for kids is the children’s playground on the sand in the center of the beach. It also has BBQ facilities, picnic tables and public toilets. The Palm Beach Store sells snacks, coffee and ice cream along with beach essentials like hats and sunscreen. You can also grab a bite to eat at the Arcadia Restaurant just across the road. Little Palm Beach is on the western end of Palm Beach, separated by a rocky outcrop. Sometimes called ‘Nudie Bay’, it’s a popular adult-only, clothing-optional beach. Stay at the beautiful Waiheke Island Resort, which sits on a nearby hillside overlooking the beach.

GETTING THERE

Surfdale beach with tree and swing in the foreground.
Mica Stock

Surfdale Beach

Found on the southern side of the island, Surfdale Beach is a popular spot for water activities, especially kitesurfing and jet skiing. It has jet ski lanes marked by black and orange buoys where you can go faster than the usual 5-knot limit. The nearby reserve has a playground and BBQ facilities. You can also grab lunch at the nearby French-style cafe Bisou. A small peninsula separates Surfdale Beach from Blackpool Beach. The scenic walk between the two beaches on the Esplanade path takes roughly one hour.

GETTING THERE

blackpool beach at high tide
Melanie Myhill

Blackpool Beach

Just a ten-minute walk from Oneroa Village, Blackpool Beach is one of the most popular southern beaches on the island. The windy conditions make it an excellent option for kitesurfers, windsurfers and kayakers. The water is usually calm enough for swimming at high tide. At low tide, the water recedes to reveal the beach’s tidal pools and mud flats. The Waiheke Waterfront Lodge is just a short walk down the Esplanade from Blackpool Beach. You can stay in their spacious, sea-themed rooms with king beds and enjoy a daily breakfast made from locally-sourced, organic ingredients.

GETTING THERE

Boats at sandy bay beach, Waiheke Island, New Zealand
iStock

Sandy Bay

Sandy Bay is an excellent option for travelers looking for a more secluded, quiet beach. It’s one of the least crowded options on the western end of the island. The beach itself is quite small, but there’s usually plenty of room. Paddle boarding and kayaking are popular here. There’s also a boat ramp, and it can be a great spot to sit and watch boats get launched. It’s a well-equipped beach, with public toilets, changing rooms and a picnic table on the grass above the sand. You can find it between Oneroa and Palm Beach on the northern side of the island, close to the beautiful Sacred Blessing Sanctuary Garden

GETTING THERE

woman paddleboarding on shelley beach at sunset.
Pao Meggiolaro

Shelley Beach Reserve

Shelley Beach (sometimes spelled ‘Shelly Beach’) sits on the southern side of the island, almost directly opposite Palm Beach. High tide is usually the best time for swimming but be aware that the water gets deep fast. As its name suggests, there are lots of shells on the sand. While this makes it a fun beach to explore, it can also be a bit hazardous in bare feet, so bring a pair of comfortable beach shoes. Shelley Beach also sits next door to the Goldie Estate Vineyard, giving you the full Waiheke Island experience.

GETTING THERE

Whakanewha regional park beach at sunset.
Mica Stock

Whakanewha Regional Park

Experience New Zealand’s stunning wildlife at this beautiful protected bird sanctuary bordered on one side by a sweeping stretch of white sands and clear blue water. Whakanewha Regional Park is closer to the eastern part of the island, so you might want to use a car. You can rent one on the island or bring one from Auckland on the car ferry. The bay is sheltered and the water is usually very calm at high tide. In the broader park area, you’ll find several walking trails, campsites and picnic spots. Of course, bird-watching is a popular activity here with herons, ducks, and other seabirds often spotted in the coastal areas. The Omana Luxury Villa is a gorgeous accommodation option, around a 13-minute walk or a 2-minute drive from the park.

GETTING THERE

Boat sheds on rocky bay beach.
iStock

Omiha Beach Reserve

Omiha Beach Reserve (also known as Rocky Bay) is a small beach that sits on the western side of Whakanewha Bay. You can look out across the bay and get beautiful views of the Whakanewha Regional Park. It’s also almost directly opposite Auckland’s Maraetai Beach. Many visitors love it for the quiet ambience, picturesque terrain and scenic coastal walks in the region. It’s also a great place to spot the island’s striking Tūī birds, which make their home in the trees. Check out the Omiha Memorial Hall next door, which often holds live music events.

GETTING THERE

Sandy beach with rocks on Palm beach, waiheke.
Troy Wegman

Enclosure Bay

With crystal-clear water and the chance to spot some marine life, bring your snorkeling gear to Enclosure Bay. The water is partially separated from the sea by unique rock formations, which help keep this beach calm and sheltered. Snorkel near the rocks during high tide and search for marine life on foot in the rock pools at low tide. Some visitors also like to fish off the rocks at Enclosure Bay. (Try the right-hand side of the bay for the best chance at a bite.) It sits between Sandy Bay and Palm Beach. The nearby Palm Beach Lodge offers gorgeous sea-view accommodation options. Pictured: Palm Beach (just on the other side of Enclosure Bay) displaying similar rock formations found in Enclosure Bay.

GETTING THERE

view of sheep on pastureland looking at hooks bay in the background.
Guy Cowdry (Hooks Bay)

Cactus Bay & Hooks Bay

Looking for the most secluded, secret beaches on Waiheke? You can’t go wrong with these two beaches at the eastern end of the island. Neither can be reached by car which makes getting to them trickier, but the result is worth the effort. The Cactus Bay beach is sheltered and serene, with beautiful Pohutukawa trees and Agave cacti on the sparkling white sands. It isn’t well known to travelers, but it’s beloved by locals. Land access is blocked, but you can still access it via boat. Hooks Bay is surrounded by picturesque farmland which you can walk through to reach the beach. Follow the signs from the Stony Batter Historic Reserve, past green pastures and down to the quiet, peaceful beach.

Brian Scantlebury

Man O’ War Bay

Waiheke is well known for its vineyards but the Man O’ War Vineyard is the only vineyard and tasting room on the island located directly on the waterfront. You can spend the morning swimming or relaxing on the beach, and the afternoon sipping crisp wine while looking out over the water. With direct views of the beach, parents can keep an eye on kids playing in the sand while enjoying a delicious glass of wine at the cellar door.

GETTING THERE


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