New Zealand is a country where fun, outdoor experiences are the name of the game. From bungee jumping in Queenstown to exploring the wilderness of Northland, there is a genuine plethora of things to see and do outside in this fabulous country.
As a nation that consists primarily of two main islands, neither of which are particularly wide, the beach is never far away. In fact, Te Ara encyclopaedia states that no location here is more than 130 kilometres from the great blue, and there is around 18,000 kilometres' worth of coastline to be explored.
We've awarded some of our favourites with special titles, to help you figure out what should feature in your New Zealand beach holiday road trip plan.
Most popular beach
Considering that Statistics NZ states over 2.8 million people arrived from overseas to visit Aotearoa last year, it's pretty hard to discern where the most popular beach actually is – they all saw some action!
To help, we looked to popular review website Trip Advisor. In its 2015 Traveller's Choice Awards, Maunganui Beach in Tauranga took the cake. It ranked first in the top 10 NZ beaches, and 393 out of 540 people who have reviewed it reckoned it was worth five stars.
Best beach for surfers
About 46 kilometres outside of Auckland, you'll find the self-proclaimed ‘most famous beach in New Zealand': Piha. We think it's worth the title, and then some.
Its conditions will have surfers dancing with glee. Waves consistently rise to 2 or 3 metres (sometimes even higher) and popular competitions such as the National Surfing Championships are held here.
The ideal swimming beach
While you're in the Auckland area, head on over to one of the country's most relaxed swimming beaches: Mission Bay. This area is about 15 minutes just out of the CBD along the coast, and features a lovely white-sand shoreline sheltered by high cliffs. Even better, there are loads of cafes, restaurants and takeouts just across the road from the water, so you're never far from a good feed.
Ace Rental Cars 'hidden gem' award
When your NZ road trip holiday inevitably takes you to the South Island, be sure you venture into the heart of the Nelson region to find Kaiteriteri. This is our absolute must-visit beach, if not just for the golden sand, but for the fantastic driving opportunity to get you there.
The township only has a population of around 740, so it has that quiet, quintessential Kiwi small town feel. This makes it a blast for the kids, who'll have loads of space to run around screaming and digging.
Most unique beach
For something a little different, jump in your rental car and travel to the northern tip of the Coromandel Peninsula for a unique geothermal seaside escapade. Hot Water Beach is one of the most popular spots in the entire region thanks to the toasty water that bubbles up through the sand in certain spots – water that can reach up to 64 degrees Celsius, might we add.
Claim a place here two hours either side of low tide, dig a hole to sit in and relax. Who needs a spa, anyway?
Of course, we can't leave without adding a few extra names to this list. Choosing winners for these titles is nearly impossible, as every beach in the country has its own character traits and scenic vistas that make it special. Below, we've listed a few names that always pop up in our minds when recommending great spots for a road trip.