White sand, crystal clear waters, and a warm dry microclimate attract visitors and locals to the Waiheke Island beaches. Located just a 40-minute ferry ride from Auckland, Waiheke beaches are the perfect escape from city life. Both Lonely Planet and Conde Naste have recognised this island paradise.
While the vast majority of popular Waiheke beaches are on the island’s west end, there are interesting options all the way around the island. The many inlets create protected spaces regardless of the winds. From family-friendly safe waters to surfing beaches, there is something for everyone.
Kayaking, standup paddleboards, family barbeques, fishing, surfing, or just soaking in the rays, check out our list of the best Waiheke beaches.
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Our favourite Waiheke Island beaches
Each of the Waiheke Island beaches has its own characteristics. These are our favourite Waiheke beaches, listed here in no particular order:
- Onetangi Beach
- Palm Beach
- Little Palm Beach
- Sandy Bay
- Little Oneroa
- Man O’War Bay
- Owhiti Beach
- Rocky Bay
- Matiatia Wharf
Where are the best Waiheke Island beaches?
Why we love these Waiheke Island beaches
Oneroa and Little Oneroa Beach
Oneroa Beach is one of the most frequently visited of the Waiheke beaches. Sunny and north-facing, it is also a well-protected inlet from the prevailing southwesterly winds. As a result, it provides safe anchorage for yachties, as well as being a family-friendly destination.
Pohutakawa trees stand tall alongside the white sandy beach, offering plenty of shade for those who seek it. The gentle waves attract families, kayakers, and standup paddle-boarders. Barbeques, picnic benches, and a playground contribute to the fun.
Similar calm waters are found at Little Oneroa at the east end of the beach just beyond a small rocky headland. It is accessible at low tide.
Contributing to their popularity is the close proximity to Oneroa Village, making it walking distance to many of the island’s accommodations.
Onetangi Beach boasts nearly 2km of white sand, making it the longest beach on Waiheke Island. Calm waters in the prevailing winds, it becomes a great surf beach in a northerly. It claims the island’s whitest sand and largest Pohutukawa trees.
We took this photo a bit early in the day, so you will have to believe me when I say it is quite popular amongst the Waiheke Island beaches. North facing and sunny, it’s our favourite beach for long walks or swimming.
The annual Onetangi Beach races take place each February and involve horses, boats, kid’s karts, tractors, and even have a fashion component. It is an iconic event that has been taking place for nearly 100 years.
Palm Beach and Little Palm (nudie) Beach
Soft white sand and gentle waves make Palm Beach another family-friendly choice that is often referred to as one of the safest for kids. A great place to hang out with friends, there are also barbeque facilities and a toilet block here.
Just west, separated only by a rocky outcrop, is the beach officially called Little Palm Beach. However, locals refer to it as “Nudie Beach.” I think the name says it all, although the local I spoke with felt the need to elaborate, “You don’t have to be naked, but you can be.”
Sandy Bay is smaller, and not as well-known by tourists, although boaties find it a great place to drop anchor and come ashore. Also north facing, well protected, and with gentle waves. Orcas have been seen in this bay.
Man O’War Bay
Located at the bottom, or east end of the island, we have only visited here once, as part of our visit to Stony Batter Historic Reserve. Unfortunately for us, we arrived at low tide, and swimming at this tidal bay is only possible at high tide. As a result, we spent our time on the Department of Conservation walking tracks.
As we wanted a bit of swim, we stopped off at Owhiti Beach after hiking in Man O’War Bay.
Rocky Bay is just off of the campground at Whakanewha Regional Park. We have stayed here both in tents and on our yacht (in northerly winds). Located on the south side of the island, it often encounters the prevailing winds. However, the campground itself is well protected by the trees.
Not a place for swimming, Matiatia is where the passenger ferry comes into Waiheke island. It’s also a popular day anchorage and permanent mooring location. On occasion, stingrays or dolphins have been spotted here.
More Waiheke beaches
While we love exploring new venues, we also tend to return to our favourite spots. Therefore, we haven’t personally visited all the beaches on Waiheke Island. Here are a few still on our to-do list:
Blackpool Beach: This south-facing tidal beach is reported to be popular for kayaking, SUP, and windsurfing.
Surfdale Beach: Just around a small peninsula from Blackpool beach, Surfdale beach is also south-facing and tidal. It’s a popular dog-walking beach that also attracts kitesurfers.
Enclosure Bay: A well-sheltered tidal beach, it has the warmest waters of the Waiheke beaches. It’s great for swimming at high tide or exploring rock pools at low tide. Fishing off the rocks, kayaking, and snorkelling are popular here. Note that the beach is mostly broken shell, rather than sand.
Cactus Bay: A favourite romantic spot for a picnic, the beach is accessible only via the water.
Final thoughts on the Waiheke Island beaches
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A great day out, or a weekend getaway, Waiheke beaches are relaxing and fun. The island is also well known as a wine-growing region and is home to many award-winning wineries. There are also plenty of other things to do on Waiheke aside from sampling wines or hanging at the beach.
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