Take the plunge and explore the best swimming holes in New Zealand, Brought to you by the team behind our weekly Travel magazine, published on Tuesdays.
Northland really does have more than its fair share of stunning beaches on both coasts; wild and windswept, golden and gentle, crowded and private. We'll restrict ourselves to four idyllic spots: Picture-perfect Maitai Bay on Karikari Peninsula; Charlie's Rock swimming hole in Kerikeri, a waterfall tumbling over cool rock formations; the crystal-clear dune lakes at Kai Iwi on the Kauri Coast just north of Dargaville; and Whale Bay on the Tutukaka Coast, a stunning, hidden, sheltered family beach near Matapouri.
Not knocking Mission Bay, Narrow Neck or Piha but they can get, you know, crowded. Let's look elsewhere. In the north, Mathesons Bay (Leigh) is a pretty, safe beach, sheltered by its reef and island; Tāwharanui has white-sand beaches, wildlife and awesome rock pools; Kendall Bay is a sandy, shelly, calm gem amid Birkenhead's bush.
Out west, if you're after black sand and surf, head to Muriwai Beach. Be careful of rips, wear jandals on the scorching sand and check out the gannets. Less well-known is Lake Wainamu, a freshwater swimming mecca behind vast dunes near Te Henga.
South and west, tranquil Kauritūtahi Beach on Āwhitu Peninsula is our pick.
If you're east, head to Maraetai to stroll or snatch Vitamin D. Or further south, fish, rock-hop or swim at family-friendly Mātaitai Bay.
And don't overlook the Hauraki Gulf: Ladies Bay (Rotoroa) and Little Oneroa (Waiheke) are just a ferry ride away.
Bay of Plenty
With 259km (259km!) of golden sand and Pacific surf, the Bay of Plenty has more than its fair share of … sorry, you've heard that before. Looking for somewhere other than Waihī Beach, Omokoroa, the Mount, Pāpāmoa, Maketū, Pukehina, Ōhope or Ōpōtiki? Revisit Rotorua's 14 accessible lakes for swimming, fishing, picnicking and whatever else floats your boat. For thrills, jetboat through a geothermal valley or whitewater raft down the Kaituna River.
Top of the South
Don't let the local rugby team's nickname – the Mako – put you off. If your idea of heaven includes any activity involving H20, you'll find it here. Marlborough has the Sounds, three drowned valleys of serene water, secluded bays and coves surrounded by bush-clad ranges; Nelson has kilometres of golden-sand beaches, from city escapes to the treasures of its national parks. The best way to see the Sounds is a day cruise on the Pelorus Mail Boat which has delivered mail, groceries and supplies to isolated homesteads for almost a century.
Tāhunanui Beach, near Nelson's city centre, is a beautiful, safe and family-friendly beach; not too far away are the cafes and galleries of Mapua Wharf. In Abel Tasman National Park, Kaiteriteri is modestly known as "New Zealand's premier outdoor recreation destination". Nearby Cleopatra's Pool is nestled among forest with a natural moss waterslide and canyoning adventures. Wainui Falls is a popular swimming hole and the Riwaka Resurgence spring claims healing properties.
Punting – or more recently waka ama – on the Avon doesn't really rate here. North of the city, Motunau/Gore Bay and lakes Sumner and Taylor in the Hurunui region are get-away-from-the-crowd options. And you won't have to look too far to find a quiet cove around Banks Peninsula. Avoid Akaroa - seek out Charteris Bay or Diamond Harbour. South, an exiled Timaruvian insists we mention Caroline Bay. We've done it.