The Best New Zealand Beaches, Lakes and Rivers for Summer Swimming.


Mother Nature has been kind to us here in New Zealand, providing natural pools and beaches in beautiful settings to enjoy, after all, we are a country with over 14,000 kilometers (8,700 miles) of coastline with some stunning inland lakes and wilderness rivers.

Pelorus River New Zealand

New Zealand's Best Beaches, Lakes and Rivers

Here is a locals guide to some of our better swimming holes to help you explore some of the Best New Zealand Beaches, Lakes and Rivers where you can relax and unwind on a hot summer's day.

1) Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve - Marlborough

This wild river is famous for its magnificent swimming, crystal clear water with its many bolder clad gorges. It is also classified as one of the cleanest and purest water sources - drink a cupful and you’ll surely agree. The Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve offers visitors the opportunity to relax and enjoy refreshing native forest and wild river scenery, it is also considered one of the most accessible examples of virgin native forest in the Marlborough area with a mix of beech and podocarp growing in the river valley. The river was also used as a film location for The Hobbit trilogy in the movie ‘The Desolation of Smaug’.

Getting There: The Pelorus River is at the northern end of the South Island in the Marlborough region located approximately midway between Blenheim and Nelson where State Highway 6 crosses the Pelorus River at Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve.

Don’t jump off the Bridge: 15 meters (49 feet) above the Pelorus river the Pelorus Bridge overlooks the Pelorus river, it is hard to judge just how deep the water is at any given time and unfortunately there have been instances of broken arms, legs and ribs with some fatalities – no thanks!

2) Charlie's Rock and Pools – Kerikeri, Northland

Charlie's Rock located on the Waipapa River and is a fun picturesque swimming hole located in the far north town of Kerikeri. The cliffs surrounding the main pool range from 4 meters (13 feet) to 12 meters (40 feet), with the waterfall flowing in at a 4-5 meters (13 to 14 feet) point and the depth of the water is unknown, but it is deep. In mid summer (January / February) the water spilling over the water fall is warm and builds up a 2 meter (7 feett) warm layer in the main pool.

Safety: If you are planning on jumping off the cliff into the water, follow the lead of the locals as they know the safest places to jump from.

Getting There: From the town of Kerikeri there is a 500-meter (1640 feet) public walkway to the swimming hole starts at Cherry Park House and follows the boundary of the Kerikeri Croquet Club before dropping down to the riverbank. It is reached by walking through the kiwi fruit orchards and is about a 15-minute  walk.

3) Kerosine Creek – Central North Island

Kerosine Creek is a beautiful hot stream with a waterfall right in the middle of lush native bush, thousands of little bubbles are forced down a rock face (waterfall) and jet up to the surface causing a natural spa. The creek runs over an old lava flow and heats, and here you can relax under the warm waterfalls in two naturally-heated pools.

Getting there: Drive south along the highway towards Taupo from Rotorua and approximately 30 kilometers (18 Miles) south of Rotorua (just south of Lake Rotowhero) turn into the Old Waiotapu Road, which is just after the Rainbow Mountain. Drive down the road about 2.2 kilometers (1.3 Miles), where there is a strip of grass and you will see a path leading downstream, take the walk to the hot springs.

Safety: The water levels and temperature changes day to day, especially during and after rain, always check water temperatures before entering. It is advised not to submerge your head.

4) Whale Bay, Tutukaka Coast, Northland

The Tutukaka Coast sits on the east coast of the North Islands Northland and has been amazing tourists for decades and recently was included in a list of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. The coasts best-kept secret is Whale Bay, a beautiful, white sandy, native bush-fringed cove only accessible by a short walk through groves of ancient Puriri and native Kowhai tree’s. The walk keeps the bay remote and often you may find yourselves the only folk there. Pohutukawa boughs reach down over the sand making for a great place to shade or even to sit as you take in the tranquil west-facing beach.  Early Maori used Whale Bay during their whale hunting expeditions because of the calm waters. This bay and the bush-walk is one of the best examples of beautiful New Zealand coastal scenery.

Getting There: Taking the coastal road North from the township of Tutukaka, Whale Bay is only a 5-minute drive past the small township Matapouri.

5) Cleopatra's Pool – Abel Tasman National Park

Fit for a Queen – seriously! The aptly named Cleopatra's Pool is a beautifully water-worn swimming hole surrounded by large, impossibly shaped boulders. The pools feature a natural water-slide worn smooth by the gentle fall of water over hundreds of thousands of years - and if that wasn’t tempting enough, a silky fine layer of moss ensures a friction free ride all the way to the bottom. This pool is a must for anyone walking the Abel Tasman Coastal Track or cruising into the bays for a picnic. This is by far one of the best New Zealand Beaches.

Getting There: Halfway between Torrent Bay and Anchorage in the Abel Tasman National Park, is the Torrent River - A 20 minutes upriver walk or (depending on the tide) kayak will have you there.

6) Long Beach (Oneroa) – Bay of Islands

The historical township of Russell in the far norths Bay of Islands is a popular place for those wishing to escape the maddening crowds of Paihia, Russell’s main beach, Kororareka Bay, is a great place for a dip but locals and visitors in the know, prefer to walk over the hill to Long Beach (Oneroa Bay) A scenic 20-minute walk from Russell will have you staring at an expansive area of golden sand with safe, sheltered all-tide swimming beach. The northeast facing the beach commands great views across bay to beautiful Roberton Island, Cape Brett peninsular and out to open sea. At the northern end of the beach you can hop over the rocks to Donkey Bay, rip off your kit without offending anyone and enjoy one of the few of naturist beaches in New Zealand.

Getting There:  The Long Beach walkway is a paved off-road footpath from the York St. and Wellington St. intersection found in the small town of Russell, this 20 minute walk will take you to just above the Long Beach waterfront.

7) Te Rata Bay Hot Springs – Lake Tarawera

Lake Tarawera is the largest of a series of stunning lakes, which surround a majestic volcano with the same namesake.  On the very southern arm of Lake Tarawera there is a secluded beach, (boat access only – a water taxi is available) where a series of thermal springs gently rise through the lake-bed warming the water and creating steam shrouded cliffs. Here you can swim or soak in a natural thermal rock pools and picnic on this secluded and beautiful part of New Zealand. (a constant 38°C/100°F) – it is a wonderful way to relax and unwind.

Getting there: Lake Tarawera is located 18 kilometers (18 Miles) to the east of Rotorua (North Island) and five kilometers (5 miles) from Mt Tarawera. A 15-minute water taxi is required to get to the secluded beach.

8) Hot Water Beach – Coromandel Peninsula

With a spade and a small amount of effort, a couple of hours either side of high tide, provides you with your own geothermal heated spa pool. This natural upwelling of geothermal water rising from deep below the sand combined with one of the worlds most beautiful beaches makes Hot Water Beach one of the most famous New Zealand natural springs.

Getting there: Along New Zealand’s Pacific coast and just south of Mercury Bay at the northeast tip of the Coromandel Peninsula in the North Island. It is up the coast from the popular beaches of Pauanui and Tairua.

Safety: The hot springs are located not far from the sea so even at low tide you can get caught unaware by the large breaking waves. The Beach is also known for its dangerous rip currents and signs at the beach advise swimmers not to swim within 50 meters either side of the off-shore rocks (opposite the springs).

Whichever beach tickles your fancy – you will have zero regrets!

All of our self drive trips hit the coastline at some point - mention your favourites and our dedicated team of Travel Designers will make sure they are included on your route. They will  listen to your dream-trip must-do's and build an itinerary that's tailor-made to your desires.


Brent Narbey
Brent Narbey
: 22 May 2014 (Last updated: 10 Mar 2022)

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