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Beaches and Coastal Facilities

Image for the Beaches and Coastal Facilities page.
The Whangarei district boasts a variety of beaches and coastal areas. This page contains information about some of the popular beaches and where boat ramps and other facilities are located.
Updated: 8/10/2019 3:39 p.m.
Ruakaka Beach

The east coast scenery in Northland is one of a rocky coastline interspersed with white sandy beaches.

Whangarei has a reputation as the city with 100 beaches, and offers a range of picturesque and safe places to swim, from the grand scale ocean beaches to small sandy bays along both edges of the harbour. 

The district is also well known for the striking sight of pohutukawa trees (New Zealand's Christmas tree) in full bloom through early summer all along the coastline.

Water quality

General advice

  • We advise not to swim during the 48 hours after heavy rain (>10 mm rainfall in 24 hours)
  • Look for posted signs at rivers and beaches, and read these signs carefully.  Do not enter the water if there are warning signs in place that advise against swimming
  • Saltwater is generally safer than freshwater, due to the pathogen-killing effect of salt. As far as bacteria and viruses are concerned, the sea is usually safer than a lake, or a river.
  • Moving water is generally safer than still water. So, as far as bacteria and viruses are concerned a river is usually safer than a lake, and seawater on an open coast will generally be safer than seawater in a harbour.
  • Even if the results shown on the website are fine, still check for warning signs posted at the beach when you arrive.
  • Even if there are no warning signs, there may still be some risk. Use common sense, as a range of environmental factors can affect the quality of recreational water. Consider what might flow into the area you intend to swim in such as; stormwater outfall pipes, stormwater run-off, stock waste, failing septic tanks, and boats emptying their toilets.
  • Look at the water for signs of contamination such stagnant, muddy or cloudy water. If the water is cloudy, there is visible scum, an odd smell or colour, or you cannot see your feet in knee-deep water, it may not be safe to swim.
  • Choose clear water for swimming. If you can’t see your feet when you walk in, you shouldn’t be swimming there.

You can check whether shellfish harvesting is safe in your area on the Ministry of Primary Industries website (link below).

Shellfish Biotoxin Alerts

The Northland Regional Council conducts water quality tests through the summer at some of our popular beaches. Follow the link below to the Northland Regional Council website for further information.  

 Swimming Water Quality   

Whangarei Harbour

The harbour offers good fishing and scallop diving is a popular pastime during the open season.

Two marine reserves have been established in the harbour. One at Motukaroro Island near the harbour entrance at Reotahi is very popular as a snorkelling spot in the summer. The other is further up the harbour at Waikaraka.

Both are well marked and all marine life in them is protected. Please respect the no fishing rule. 

Whangarei Harbour Marine Reserves (Department of Conservation website)

Recreational activities

Swimming and surfing

Surfing beaches at Ocean Beach and Waipu are patrolled by Surf Life Saving New Zealand at weekends during the summer months, generally from the end of October until early April and throughout the week during the summer school holiday in December and January.

Sandy Bay is another popular surfing beach – although not patrolled.

Popular swimming beaches include:

  • Ruakaka - patrolled
  • Matapouri - not patrolled.

Surf Lifesaving NZ website 

Stuart Road Pontoon Closed for repairs.

The Stuart Road Pontoon in McLeods Bay has been closed by WDC for safety reasons, WDC is currently investigating how to repair to pontoon. The Pontoon structure will be repaired and/or replaced over the coming months to ensure the pontoon is safe, and will then be re-opened to the public. WDC will notify of progress of this works on the WDC website.


You can exercise your dog on most beaches in the district, however your dog must be under continuous and effective control at all times.

Rules regarding horses on beaches have recently been introduced in the Public Places Bylaw. While the bylaw generally permits this activity, there are some restrictions. 

There are all year-round ban areas at some coastal locations for conservation purposes plus bans during summer periods. Read more about the restrictions in our Dog Management Policy, Dog Management Bylaw and on the dog exercise areas on our website.

Vehicles on beaches

Remember that all road rules apply to vehicles on beaches and share with care as pedestrians have the right of way.

Look out for:

  • soft sand – keep below the high tide mark
  • other beach users
  • beach fish equipment such as long lines and surf-casting lines
  • changing tides and conditions
  • nesting shorebirds and shellfish beds
  • our fragile dunes – keep off at all times and only use formal accessways.

Vehicles are prohibited from our beaches in two locations at Ruakaka and on the north-western part of Langs Beach. 

Follow the link below to our Control of Vehicles on Beaches Bylaw for further information and maps showing the prohibited areas.

A 30km speed limit applies to some of our more busy beaches, including Ruakaka beaches. 

Follow the link below to our Speed Limits Bylaw for more detailed information.


We recommend you stay at one of our outstanding licensed Holiday Parks or Campsites.

Follow the link below for information on freedom camping in our District


The waters along the coastline are known for good catches of fish, especially snapper and kingfish in season, but also kawhai, trevally, john dory and other species in addition to crayfish and kina.

When James Cook sailed through the area in 1769, the crew caught so many snapper, that they called the area Bream Bay. 

We maintain a number of boat ramps in the district which are suitable for launching recreational fishing boats.

The main beaches and boatramp facilities in the district are shown on the map below.  

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View the map in full screen (Opens in a new window)

Map Legend

BBQ - electric
BBQ - no gas
Local Boat Ramp
Public Boat Ramp


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