Looking for a new beach to test drive this summer? Here are a few to choose from ...
Come summer, Kiwis down-tools en masse and head for our spectacular coastline. Whether it's the golden sands of Northland or the east coast, or the black sands of the windswept west, everybody has a top spot that beckons them year after year.
But have you seen them all?
As part of its New Zealand "must-do" series, the AA has compiled a list of 10 must-visit Kiwi beaches (in no particular order of preference - to avoid any number of over-the-barbecue arguments). Try one you've never been to before, you just may be converted.
New Chums Beach, Coromandel Peninsula
The Coromandel Peninsula's shy superstar, New Chums Beach is perhaps New
Zealand's most beautiful beach - and we're not the only ones who think so. The UK's Observer newspaper has previously rated this secluded spot, about 15km northeast of Coromandel township in Wainuiototo Bay, as one of the top 20 beaches in the world. Getting to it involves a 30-minute walk - including a wade through an estuary. But it's worth it to be greeted by a perfect stretch of gold sand, fringed by pohutukawa. And the icing on the cake? It's often deserted.
Kaiteriteri, Nelson Bays
On one of those perfect sun-soaked days that define summer in the top of the South Island, Kaiteriteri Beach is the place to be. The water is so clear and the sand is so golden you could be forgiven for thinking you've misdirected yourself on to a tropical island. And, as well as being beautiful, it's a great, safe and sheltered place for the kids to swim. And there are other, similarly perfect spots dotted all the way along the coast through Abel Tasman National Park. You can catch water taxis into the park from Kaiteriteri or pick up a sea kayak from Marahau, the next bay around.
Ocean Beach, Mt Maunganui
Mt Maunganui's main beach, Ocean Beach, is spectacular - and action-packed. It's one of the best city beaches in the country, stretching several kilometres from Papamoa all the way up to the full-stop of the Mount itself. Yes, come Christmas and for most of January it's jam-packed full of people, but if you have kids to entertain there's always something happening. And if the weather turns bad you can always trade in the sea for a dip in the iconic saltwater hot pools.
Wainui Beach, Gisborne
Wainui Beach, just north of Gisborne, is one of the first beaches in the world to see the sun every day and it's one of the country's best surf beaches. What better way to greet the New Year sunrise, than bobbing off the East Coast on your board, waiting for the next break. It's another spot that can get busy in the summer holiday season, but the beach is so sprawling there's plenty of room for everyone.
Sumner Beach, Christchurch
For sweltering Christchurch city-dwellers in need of an after-work dip to cool off, Sumner Beach is the perfect place to go. A 20-minute drive from the city centre and you're on a pretty stretch of sand, with great, safe swimming. It's a great place to take the kids during the school holidays, too, as there are playgrounds and cafes close by and it's excellent for fun stuff like volleyball, beach cricket and windsurfing.
West Coast beaches, Auckland
Bethells, Piha, Muriwai and Karekare - Auckland's rugged, quartet of black-sand, west coast beaches are nothing short of stunning. They can be treacherous, so you keep between the flags when you're swimming. But even if you stick to dry land the scenery is enough to keep you happy. Hit the surf, walk the dogs, chase the frisbee, watch the people - and if you're at Karekare, duck across the road to swim under the waterfall. If you're at Muriwai, visit the gannets. If you're at Piha, wander along one of the beachside tracks and, if you're at Bethells, cast your fishing line into the surf and t catch lunch.
Hot Water Beach, Coromandel Peninsula
This long stretch of sand along the Coromandel's west coast is home to a classic Kiwi beach experience. One of the few places in the world where you can dig your own spa pool in the sand. For two hours either side of low tide, hot spring water is there for the soaking. Take your shovel, or use your hands, and join the crowds for a spontaneous soak.
Caroline Bay, Timaru
If you're around South Canterbury in early January with kids to keep busy, head to Caroline Bay. Every year, this Timaru beach hosts a fun carnival including plenty of rides, games and stalls. The beach is the safest of swimming spots and has a maze, mini-golf, a children's paddling pool and a playground.
Raglan and Port Waikato, Waikato
The black-sand beaches of Raglan on the west coast of the Waikato region are world-famous for their surf. If you're a novice you can learn to surf at one of the town's excellent surf schools. The sleepier seaside town of Port Waikato, where the mighty North Island river flows into the Tasman Sea, keeps its retro, Kiwi small town, summer vibe even in the height of summer - and if Wainui is the place to see the sun rise, then this is definitely the place to see it set.
Ninety Mile Beach
If there's a prize for New Zealand's most iconic beach, this must be the winner. Despite clocking in at a mere 55 miles (88.5km) in reality Ninety Mile Beach is a spectacular, sandy highway that will take you almost right to Cape Reinga, should you choose to drive it. It's not so great for swimming but if it's quad biking, sand-dune sliding, or fishing you're keen on, this is the place.
For more New Zealand "must-dos" visit aatravel.co.nz