The Ultimate Guide to Auckland Surf

by Rich Francis

You’ll have to leave the city to seek out the Auckland surf, but there are some great spots close by, from legendary Piha Beach to the bays nearer Northland. This guide has all you need to know…

Auckland surf

Auckland surf at a glance

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The good

  • Combine NZ’s best city (soz, Christchurch) with some waves
  • Some of the country’s best surf is nearby
  • Spots that are rarely busy are up for grabs

The bad

  • You will have to travel to the breaks – Auckland isn’t a surf city
  • Traffic on the way in and out of town
  • Don’t stick around too long – NZ is about nature!

This is just one guide of many in our series about surfing in New Zealand

What’s in this guide to Auckland surf?

An introduction to Auckland surf

Auckland is the City of Sail; the largest town on North Island and the largest city in NZ as a whole. A lot of people come here on their way to exploring the Bay of Plenty region or the volcanic areas of Taupo, mainly because Auckland Airport is the main gateway to the country as a whole. Lots also stopover to see sights like the Sky Tower and the Auckland Harbor, with its bustling beer bars and coffee shops. We have to admit, it’s a really cool city and we could easily live here.

That’s before you’ve even factored in the surf, too. With the Northland above it, Piha to the west and the Coromandel to the east, Auckland surf isn’t to be sniffed at. We won’t pretend Auckland itself is a doozy of a surf destinations. It’s not. It’s a big city with sprawling suburbs. But, if you’re willing to get in the car and drive just an hour or so, you will find some true gems of North Island surf.

This guide runs through the lot. It’s got info on the top breaks on the line up of Auckland surfing with details on how long it will take you to reach them. We also dip into the downtown to check out some of the local Auckland surf shops and bars.

Where is Auckland?

Auckland is the largest city on North Island, New Zealand. You can’t really miss it because it’s where the main airport for the country revives lots of the international long hauls from Asia and beyond. The town sits in a big bay on the Hauraki Gulf, with the wild Waitakere Ranges looming to the west with their forests and lush farms. To the north is the Northland Peninsula, where you’ll find some of the very best surf spots close to the town.

A guide to Auckland surf spots

Auckland surf has one thing going for it – variety. The city isn’t really on any breaks itself. However, drive for an hour or so and you can find all sorts. You can hit the Tasman Swells to the west. You can catch the Pacific waves on the Coromandel a little further away. Or, you can experience the joys of the Northland, which many consider to have the best breaks in the country. Let’s take a closer look…

Surf spots to the north of Auckland

Orewa beach

Takapuna

There are two separate breaks here: The Takapuna North Reef and Takapuna Beach. The first is really an intermediate break over a rocky section close to the headland on the north end of the bay. It’s a quality wave when its at 5-7 foot swell, with an A-frame take off giving a longer left.

Takapuna Beach is more of a practice spot and needs some extra easterly swell to get working. Swimmers are often the main hazard, especially after spring.

O’Neills

A very quick reef over jagged rocks that only works on a good NE swell, O’Neills is one of the more advanced spots when it comes to Auckland surfing. Watch before you paddle out because the end zone is full of geological hazards. It’s a left hander that gets real busy.

Fishermans Reef

Very fickle and inconsistent but worth having on the radar for huge swell days, Fishermans Reef is a north Auckland wave that’s great for advanced surfers. Gets hollow and offers very quick right-hand rides. Tends to be less busy than O’Neills because it’s a little further out of town and a bit more hidden.

Long Bay/Torbay

A long beach break that’s quite protected by the natural shape of the headlands on the Auckland Peninsula, this spot only gets working when there’s a pretty strong swell on the east coast. Most of the time its a fun, super fat wave with big periods. Can get real crowded because it’s basically in the city so thing about dawnies to have it (relatively) to yourself.

Red Beach and Orewa

We’ve coupled Red Beach and Orewa together because we think they’re pretty similar waves. They’re among the best beginner surf beaches Auckland, with good onward wind protection from the high cliffs and tempered sets that come on NE swells. Waves are best at chest-high and are peaky beach breaks from norht to south. Red Beach is a little more powerful, with the sets stretches out on Orewa to loosen the power a little. Good campsites and surf camps on both.

Waiwera

A rivermouth break that’s a bit of an intermediate’s dream, Waiwera gets going on 2ft+ from NE swells. A fast take off at the estuary means short rides with some room for manoeuvre on the shoulder. Rips are the main issue, and a touch of localism.

Te Arai Point

It’s about 40 minutes to an hour from Auckland to reach Te Arai Point. However, we’d say the drive is worth it to avoid the bigger line ups. What’s more, you get a real taste of nature here, surfing in a straight off the Haruki Gulf that’s often filled with dolphins. It’s a beach break on a long, powdery run of white sand backed by dunes. There’s a small reef with a right hander close to the car park but walk up to find individual peaks. Closes out when it gets heavy but offers cruisy longboard wave aplenty when it’s on 2-6 foot.

Western surf spots Auckland has to offer

West coast Auckland surf

Muriwai

Muriwai gets the full hit of the Tasman Sea W swell. That makes it a truly reliable spot especially good if you’re struggling to find anything working in the Auckland surf closer to Northland up the peninsular. A beach break, but with sucky and punchy waves, it’s best for good and experienced surfers. Check out Maori Bay to the south for more surf spots and better defined lefts and right, although there are rocks in the water.

Bethells Beach

Fun beach peaks abound at Bethells Beach whenever there’s a swell of anything over 2 feet. Summertime makes this one a popular choice for beginners, because the Tasman Sea ain’t firing as hard. In winter, you can get really wally breaks that sometimes hollow out. Very busy. Very popular. Some rips.

Piha

It’s about 40 minutes to an hour from Auckland to reach Te Arai Point. However, we’d say the drive is worth it to avoid the bigger line ups. What’s more, you get a real taste of nature here, surfing in a straight off the Haruki Gulf that’s often filled with dolphins. It’s a beach break on a long, powdery run of white sand backed by dunes. There’s a small reef with a right hander close to the car park but walk up to find individual peaks. Closes out when it gets heavy but offers cruisy longboard wave aplenty when it’s on 2-6 foot.

Te Arai Point

Like the Muriwai surf to the north, Piha reigns as one of the best surf spots on the west coast of North Island. It’s about an hour’s drive from downtown Auckland and is simply stunning – just check out that craggy Lion Rock at the centre of the bay! Good lefts and rights come off the rock stack but the waves are mainly sucky beach breaks. Good for all levels.

We actually have a complete guide to surfing Piha Beach, because it’s one of the best breaks in all of New Zealand!

Surf spots east of Auckland

Hot water beach

Coromandel

The Coromandel is a jaw-dropping peninsula filled with ancient kauri forests and jagged peaks. It’s a must-see even if you’re not searching for Auckland surfing spots. However, it also has its fair share of sick waves. The cruisy waves of Hot Water Beach and the sheltered sets that come into Whangamata Beach are two of the places you should seriously consider. Generally speaking, it’s a haven for feeling the chilled coast life of North Island and discovering intermediate-level beach breaks.

Check out our full guide to surfing in the Coromandel Peninsula

Where to stay when surfing in Auckland

If you want to surf and nothing else, we would recommend considering the accommodation options below. They’re perfect for a few days away from the CBD, close to the breaks.

Aotearoa Surf Eco Pods ($$-$$$)

Okay, so the Aotearoa Surf Eco Pods take you well out of Auckland itself, to the lush green coast of the peninsular to the north. But it’s cracking surf country, with the reefs of Mangawhai Heads and Te Arai right there for the taking. It’s also way less busy, and you can stay in these uber-cool glamping pods and yurts, complete with sun terraces and a kitchen.

Peggie’s Cottage ($$)

Feel like a real local by staying at this charming little bolthole on the North Shore. The waves of Torbay and the reefs are close by and you get two bedrooms with enough space for a small family, a couple or a group of mates. Peggie’s Cottage also boasts a leafy, green garden and bijou lounge.

Orewa Kiwi Cabins ($$)

The Orewa Kiwi Cabins have a prime position just above the turquoise waters of Orewa Bay, which is up there with the best beginner surf beaches Auckland. They’re cosy and compact, with big double beds, flat-screen TVs, and kettles in the room.

When to surf in Auckland

New Zealand is a swell magnet. What’s more the Auckland surf spreads between the west, east and north of the country. Basically, if you’re willing to drive, you’ll find something. That’s mainly because you’ll enjoy the oncoming systems from the Tasman Sea, the Pacific and the Southern Ocean, and different breaks in the region of the City of Sails will pick em’ up. Seasons can change a few things…

Surfboard in Piha

Summer (November-March)

Swells drop off in the NZ summer and Aucklanders make for the beach. The upshot? You’ll not only have to wait longer for surfable days but you will almost certainly have to deal with busy lineup when the finally come (although the crowds are nothing like they are in Oz!). The most reliable sets tend to be on Piha and with the Muriwai surf, which magnetise any of that westerly or south-westerly current on the Tasman Sea.

Wear: 2mm or 3/2

Winter (May-August)

Winter is undoubtedly the most consistent of seasons for Auckland surfing. However, things aren’t always ideal. Southern Ocean storm systems can wreak havoc on the Tasman side of the country. Beginners should steer clear of the rippy Muriwai surf and leave it to the pros. Places on the north peninsula might be more protected but they have their own issues in the typhon systems that cross the Pacific. Ideal winter days are light winds with 3-7 foot swells.

Wear: 4/3 and bring boots and a hood

Autumn (March & May)

We think autumn is the top season for Auckland surf. There tends to be plenty of warm weather at this tip of NZ and there are regular currents (but not wild storm swells) coming off both the Pacific and the Tasman Sea. Places like Piha and Te Arai often work beautifully and the Coromandel has some of the best wave days of the year.

Wear: 3/2

Spring (September & October)

Spring is a transition period from the wilder but more consistent winter to the flatter summer. More than haf the days are surfable on the west coast of Auckland and more than half on the east shores of the peninsula. You can only hope that they don’t match up so you’ve got something every day. Towards October might be the best time to hit the beginner surf beaches Auckland. There’s nice, cruisy waves then and the surf camps aren’t as busy.

Wear: 4/3 or 3/2

Surf shops in Auckland

Auckland has no shortage of board shops and surf shops. The bulk of them are located on the North Shore area, close to spots like O’Neills reef and Torbay. Thankfully, they’re easy to reach on the main State Highway 1, but are a bit of a detour if you’re aiming for Piha. Also, don’t make the drive over and expect to come back in a hurry – traffic on the Auckland Harbour Bridge is a nightmare city-bound in the morning!

Ultimate Surf & Skate

Set in the blocks behind the main north beaches and reefs on the lineup of Auckland surf, Ultimate Surf & Skate is a really well-stocked emporium for all things wave craft. There are racks upon racks of boards, along with major wetsuit brands, rash vest, and loads of surf wear.

Factory Surf Co Ltd

Factory Surf Co Ltd is a little, locally-owned surf shop with an owner who’s considered to be one of the most capable ding repair guys around. They also shape some absolute stunners of boards, so check it out if you’re looking for a new ride to have in New Zealand.

Best places to eat in Auckland surf towns

One of the best things about basing your NZ surf trip in the city of Auckland is the abundance of pubs, bars and eateries there are to get stuck into after your stint on the waves…

Long Bay Surf Club ($$)

The Long Bay Surf Club is a charming gastropub with both indoor and outdoor areas close to the mellow waves of Torbay on the north side of Auckland. We love dropping in here for a lunch of surf-and-turf pizza and smoked brisket after a sesh.

Beach Bistro ($$)

Set in lovely Brown’s Bay (again, on the Auckland north-west coast), Beach Bistro has all the usual pub-grub favs, from chippies to ribs and salads. It’s well located for surf trips to the reefs south of Torbay.

Cafe Cezwe ($)

Cafe Cezwe ain’t close to the beach but we’ve added it here because it has big breakfasts and brunches close to the main road leading north out of Auckland. Stop for eggs benedict and big ass coffee on your way up to Te Arai and the Northland. You won’t be dissapointed.

Things to do when you’re not enjoying the Auckland surf

We love Auckland – thought we’d just get that out of the way first. Yep, we love it for the buzzy CBD area and the salt-washed harbour, it’s cool neighbourhoods and fantastic cafes. This is what we’d say you should see when the surf’s not running…

Devonport

Devonport

Devonport will make you fall in love with the North Shore. Get the ferry across from Auckland Harbour and you’ll hop off into a vibrant, artsy community that’s replete with cafes and bars. Yes, the average house price is well over a million, but it doesn’t cost a penny to climb the extinct volcano and enjoy the view of the Haruki Gulf.

Sky Tower

Sky Tower

Okay, so it’s a little cliche, but the Sky Tower is a must in Auckland. Just head to see it from below if you don’t want to spend any dosh (there’s a good brewery-bar nearby). Or, pay for the trip to the top where there’s a sweeping, 360-degree view of the whole metropolis.

Travel insurance for trips to Auckland and New Zealand

If you’ve been tempted by the promise of Auckland surf on the Haruki Gulf and Tasman Sea, it’s good idea to have travel insurance in case something goes wrong on your surf trip. We’ve often used World Nomads. Their policies cover a range of adventure sports and activities. You can read more about their cover for surf right here.

All of the information provided about travel insurance is a brief summary only. It does not include all terms, conditions, limitations, exclusions and termination provisions of the travel insurance plans described. Coverage may not be available for residents of all countries, states or provinces. Please carefully read your policy wording for a full description of coverage.


We might use affiliate links in this post. Basically, you click em’ and we get a little something from your booking or purchase. They help us keep offering more and more in-depth surf guides to awesome places all around the globe. So, thanks for that!

This is just one guide of many in our series on the New Zealand surf

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