The Ultimate Guide to Mount Maunganui Surf

by Oliver Sander

There’s no doubt that Mount Maunganui surf is some of the best in NZ. We’ll show you why in this expert ultimate guide.

Mount Maunganui surf

Mount Maunganui surf at a glance

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!

The good

  • Mellow beach breaks for all levels
  • Stunning beaches
  • Reliable waves in the summer

The bad

  • Swimmers can be a hazard in the winter
  • Doesn’t have that wild and raw feeling that NZ surf often brings to the table

This guide is just one part of our complete guide to surfing in New Zealand

What’s in this guide to Mount Maunganui?

An introduction to Mount Maunganui surf

Spilling down the side of the Bay of Plenty region right into the face of the Pacific Ocean, Mount Maunganui is a continual contender for the title of New Zealand’s surfing capital. It manages some pretty enticing consistency thanks to the SE pulses that seem to continually roll off the big ocean. Most of the months have at least 50% surfable days, with two thirds of that coming from groundswells.

Waiting to greet the sets are long lengths of powdery white sand, only occasionally interrupted by the rugged rocks of Moturiki Island and a few other sandbanks that poke out to the north. It’s the shapely coastline and the mix of straight strands and headlands that helps to create a mix of peaky beach breaks, easy-going secondary swell for beginners, and harder right-hand points for the pros. There’s something for all surfers in these parts.

If we had to pick out a downside, it’s that Mount Maunganui is undeniably urban. For us, one of the joys in surfing in New Zealand is in seeking out off-radar breaks where it’s just you, the salt spray, and the soaring mountains in the distance. In these parts, it’s more likely to be condos and cool beach bars and sun-seeking Aucklanders.

Where is Mount Maunganui?

The town of Mount Maunganui lies on a large sand spit on the north-eastern tip of the Bay of Plenty region. That puts it to the south-east of Auckland, which is around three hours’ drive away and directly north of Napier and Hastings (those are at least 3.5 hours away). Other surfers will drive in from Wellington. That’s also on North Island, but at least seven hours in the car. Be sure to break up the drive at least twice if you’re planning it!

A guide to the Mount Maunganui surf spots

Mount Maunganui has access to a whole medley of surf spots. They line up along the barrier islands of the Bay of Plenty and stretch south all the way to Papamoa Beach. Some are within walking distance of the town center. Others need a car. Some even need a boat. Let’s take a look at the whole lot…

Mount Maunganui Main Beach

Puni’s Farm

We thought we’d kick-start this guide to the Mount Maunganui surf with one of the best breaks in the whole of the Bay of Plenty region: Puni’s Farm. Sadly, it lies across the straight from the town of Mount Maunganui itself. Don’t be tempted to paddle – the coastguards will hate you for it. Instead, hop a boat to the point on Matakana Island. That’s the meeting spot for a series of waves, all of them tubey barrels that are A-frame and fast. It’s an experienced surfer’s wave only and needs some decent NE swells to get going.

Main Beach

Main Beach is where most people will go to surf in Mount Maunganui. Located right in front of the town, it’s really easy to get to from virtually all the hotels. The waves are classic peaky beach breaks that can get dumpy and close out on bigger Pacific swells. Thankfully, you also have the option of a more shapely right point close to the south-east end of the bay. Main Beach is suited to beginners and intermediates. Main hazards are rips near the island and swimmers (it’s super busy in the summer months!)

Tay Street Beach

Tay Street Beach is another of the quality Bay of Plenty breaks that’s good for all levels. It’s a long beachfront with waves that lump up up over the sandbars. They can be quite sucky and strong, offering fast drop-ins to the left and the right. Still, they all break on sand and are quite forgiving, so they’re the tailor-made option for improving intermediates if you ask us.

Arataki

For all intents and purposes Arataki is just a continuation of Tay Street Beach as the shoreline edges south-east. The waves might be a little stronger though, and the crowds certainly thin out. There are some nice Airbnbs in the areas behind the beach and it’s a great spot to be if you want to surf every morning without the hassle of too mant swimmers.

Papamoa Beach

When the Papamoa surf report is reading anything over 2 foot on a NE swell, you can bet there’ll be a crowd out. That’s not usually an issue, though. Localism isn’t a thing here and there’s a friendly local surf club. The wave is a high-quality beach break over sand that gets pretty punchy on a good day. Bring the shorty when it’s 4foot+ for sure as the shoulders can be rippable and super fun.

Where to stay when surfing in Mount Maunganui

Mount Maunganui is riddled from beach to beach in coastal properties. It’s got an eclectic range of laces to stay near the surf breaks mainly because it’s such a popular North Island holiday spot.

Tuscan Retreat Bed & Breakfast – Adults Only

Surf-hotel-top-pick

This adult’s only hotel has some serious style to it. Situated to the south of Mount Maunganui in the area of Papamoa Beach (a cracking and less-busy surf spot), it draws on the character of rustic Italy. There’s a pool in the garden, too, and the Tuscan Retreat Bed & Breakfast is about 10 minutes by foot from the waves.

Eleven Heaven 3

Best for: Family surf trips to NZ

Eleven Heaven 3 is a stunning luxury condo with all the mod cons and plenty of space for families or groups of traveling surfers. It’s right on the Main Beach of Mount Maunganui, so just a few steps to the surf. The best thing? How about a post-wave chill sesh at the HUGE on-site swimming pool?

Pacific Coast Lodge and Backpackers

Best for: Budget

Pacific Coast Lodge and Backpackers is an award-winning hostel in the adventure travel sector that really only makes this list because a) it’s cheap and b) guests get free use of the on-site surfboards.

When to surf in Mount Maunganui

The seasons have an impact on the surfing in Mount Maunganui probably more than anything else. The good news is that there are waves whatever the month may be. That’s the Pacific Ocean for ya!

Surfers on the Mount Maunganui beach

Summer (November-Feb)

The SE swells needed to breathe life into spots like the Tay Street Beach and Main Beach are at their most consistent from early December. Put simply: It’s the best time to hit the Mount Maunganui surf. Sets are typically clean and glassy with nice wide periods. Sadly, this also coincides with the vacationing months, so lineups will be busy and there will be lots more swimmers in the water to dodge.

Wear: 3/2 or 2mm or even rash vests are doable but you gotta’ be a bit brave

Autumn (March-May)

The summer swells and the drop in crowds dovetail nicely in North Island’s surf capital (sorry Raglan!) in autumn. There are some excellent surf days of mellowed out Pacific NEerlies that can oscillate between punchy and chilled for all levels. It’s also a cheaper time to visit.

Wear: 3/2

It’s super duper important to have a good sunscreen if you’re planning on surfing in Mount Maunganui. New Zealand suffers from some hefty breaks in the ozone layer that can make that UV all the more powerful. Check out our guide to the five best products on the market right now to get what you’re after – AKA a block with zinc oxide that’s okay for both your skin and the ocean!

Winter (June-August)

Winter is probably the worst season of all on the Mount Maunganui surf. There’s way less reliability and you don’t get the same summer surf vibe in the town. However, the Pacific swell channels see to it that there’s rarely a month without at least 10 or 15 days where the waves are good. Offshores won’t be about and that’s the main issue, as the sucky shorebreaks turn full closeout. Still fun if you don’t want to make the hefty drive over to Piha or Raglan.

Wear: 4/3

Spring (September-October)

The Pacific cyclone season can send this quadrant of ocean into overdrive. There are some days that bring whopping big swells to bear on the north coast. Thankfully, the sandbanks and points of Mount Maunganui handle them well and there’s often something rideable at the tail end of the storms. Generally, spring is a consistent season that lends itself to intermediate surfers in Mount Maunganui.

Wear: 4/3 or 3/2

Surf shops in Mount Maunganui

Mount Maunganui isn’t hailed as the surf capital of the North Island for nothing. You’ll find lots of surf shops selling everything you need for all sorts of wavecraft. Our favs are…

Mount Surf Shop

Mount Surf Shop is a Kiwi-owned establishment that’s got two locations Down Under. They’re one of our go-to spots in Mount Maunganui thanks to a cracking range of soft tops and fins. They also stock nice local surf fashion with a bit of a twist to it.

Backdoor

There’s an undeniably impressive surfboard rack at the Backdoor shop. It’s got everything from sub-five shorties to fat longboards for those mellower days on the Mount Maunganui surf.


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 article is just one part of our complete guide to New Zealand surf

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