As chief executive of Surf Life Saving Northern Region, Matt Williams oversees 17 surf clubs and nearly 6000 lifesavers from Raglan to the Far North — covering thousands of kilometres of beaches on both coasts.

A keen swimmer, surfer and water skier in his time off, Williams says the best thing about Northland's Taupo Bay — apart from the great surf — is that there's "no cellphone signal. When you're there, you're there."

As one of our judging panel shortlisting the country's 10 Best Beaches, Williams had no hesitation about including this white sandy beach just north of the Whangaroa Harbour entrance.

"You go there early in the morning and you see the cloud flow down the hills to the bay like a waterfall.


"You've got a lagoon up the north end which — if it's not temporarily polluted — is very good to swim in. The campsite is very egalitarian — anyone can stay there."

Holidaymakers have been lyrical about Taupo Bay since the beachfront was subdivided in the 1950s. There are 180 private properties and only about 40 permanent residents, most from the Northland region.

The spot is immunised from over-development, thanks to nature and bureaucracy. The coast rears up into shrub-covered mountains just 150m from the beach, so housing is only two blocks deep, and council height restrictions outlaw multi-storey building.

Its location helps, too. It's a four-hour drive from Auckland, a bit far for most weekend bach-hunters. The last 13km, off State Highway 10 near Mangonui, winds and dips, and the final kilometre wasn't sealed until about 10 years ago, aiding its isolation.

For surfers, fishers, boaties and families, it's worth the trip to the picturesque, white-sand beach, a deep gouge in the east coast flanked by striking headlands of native bush.

Swimmers quickly realise the ocean is half a degree warmer in this part of the country.

The wide 1.5km beach has a gradual slope into the sea; good for launching boats, perhaps to head out for a day's fishing.

There are beachfront rental homes and the 1.2ha campsite with cabins, backpacker accommodation, caravans and campervan sites — plus the village's only store. Open only during the high season, it carries basic supplies.


As a recent visitor from California notes on TripAdvisor, "This is a special place for true beach lovers, surfers and those who are crowd-averse."

He got the right spot: most international travellers confuse Taupo Bay with a large lake 575km further south.

Which would probably suit Williams, whose enthusiasm for this remote gem carried over to his fellow judges.

Waikato University's Karin Bryan suggested to singer-songwriter Jamie McDell, "you could get a song out of that." She responded, "I'm getting all these lyric ideas."

• Castlepoint, Wairarapa
• Hahei, Coromandel
• Kaiteriteri, Tasman
• Maitai Bay, Northland
• Matapouri, Northland
• New Chums, Coromandel
• Opito Bay, Coromandel
• Taupo Bay, Northland
• Te Arai, Auckland
• Whangamata, Coromandel