New Zealanders are obsessed with beaches and while we’ve cut roads right through hillsides to reach many of them there are still a few hard-to-reach slices of paradise. Here are our top three walk-in beaches to put on your bucket list. By Derek Morrison
Homunga Bay, Orokawa Scenic Reserve, Bay of Plenty
A stunning crescent of white sandy beach overhung by pohutukawa trees
The easy 2.5-hour stroll to Homunga Bay along some of the country’s most beautiful coastline begins at the northern end of Waihi Beach.
The trail skirts Rapatiotio Point and climbs up and across the coastal hillside affording some great views of the Pacific Ocean. About 45-minutes along you will come to Orokawa Bay – itself a stunning white sand beach with plentiful surf and pohutukawa meeting over the sand. A side-trip at the northern end of Orokawa Bay will take you to William Wright Falls – an impressive 30m high waterfall. Allow an hour to get to the falls and back again. Be sure to explore the shallow cave on the platform at the northern end of Orokawa Bay – many travellers have spent nights in this cave perched above the surging ocean. Following the headland and cliff-edge trail north for an hour will bring you to the lost jewel that is Homunga Bay. This bay is similar to Orokawa with pohutukawa straining over the sparkling sand and offering welcome shelter on hot days. There is a shortcut to Homunga Bay through farmland from Ngatitangata Road, but the coastal route (return) is by far the most spectacular.
Access From the northern end of Waihi Beach (avoid high tides and rough seas)
Time Six hours return.
Big Bay, West Coast
Sandflies and weather systems rule the roost in this seldom visited spot
On its day, Big Bay is one of the most amazing wilderness experiences you can have in this country. From Awarua Point in the north to the Hollyford River mouth at Martins Bay lies a jumble of rocky, driftwood-strewn coast defined by long stretches of gritty sand beaches and an impossibly perfect bush-clad hinterland.
Getting here is the hard part. Allow four days to walk the Hollyford Track to Martins Bay and then add a day to boulder hop the 12km around the coast to Big Bay Hut. Alternatively, if you are brave, mad or insane, you can branch off the Hollyford Track at the head of Lake McKerrow and walk the challenging Pyke-Big Bay Route.
To save time, many parties arrange a fixed wing or helicopter pick up/drop off at Martins Bay.
Big Bay Hut is nestled above the beach in the crook of the bay. It has nine bunks, a stove, toilet and tank water. It will feel like you have arrived at paradise. With sandflies …
Access The Hollyford Track starts at the end of the Lower Hollyford Road, 100km from Te Anau
Time Up to six days in each direction (unless flying in/out)
Map CA08, CA09
Te Pukatea Bay, Abel Tasman National Park
One of Abel Tasman’s finest beaches
This halfmoon-shaped bay mixes golden sand with the azure charm of the park’s becalmed waters, creating an experience that will turn any tired walker into a bubbling fizz of adjectives.
Soak your feet before completely immersing yourself in the crystal clear waters and exploring the rocky shoreline at both ends of the beach. If you’ve still got energy to burn, and your tent is pitched in the DOC campground just behind the shoreline, then venture north to Pitt Head (20min). An old pa site, Pitt Head has great views directly from the track back into Te Pukatea Bay and into Torrent Bay.
Getting to Te Pukatea Bay on foot will require a 12.4km walk (4hr) from Marahau. From there a 20-minute stroll will bring you to the bay on the loop track that takes in Pitt Head before returning to Anchorage.
Te Pukatea is a little off the beaten track for most Coast Track walkers so doesn’t get very busy, though it is popular with sea kayakers. No matter how you arrive, you’re in for a real treat.
Access The Coast Track starts at Marahau, which is 67km on sealed roads from Nelson.