With summer in New Zealand just a few weeks away, our thoughts turn to outdoor activities and beaches are often the first places we consider visiting. I have written about New Zealand beaches in previous blogs but in this one, I will focus on the two I have a particular liking for. One is in the South Island, the other in the North Island.


I grew up in Dunedin within walking distance of St. Kilda and St. Clair beaches. I have many fond memories of warm summers on this beautiful stretch of sand curving from the cliffs at St. Clair to the cliffs at Lawyers Head. This sandy sweep of coastline is regarded as one of the finest inner-city beaches in New Zealand.  The St. Clair end is favoured by surfers who flock from all over the South Island to ride the wild surf that frequently rolls onto the sand at this end of the beach. It is known for the most consistent surf break in New Zealand. 

The promenade that faces the beach at St. Clair is one of Dunedin’s most popular destinations for food and drink. There are a number of cafes and restaurants that draw the crowds all year round. When I was last in Dunedin, I visited a number of these cafes and can remember sitting in one and feeling the ground shake from the force of the waves that bashed against the concrete wall that protected the waterfront from the ocean outside. The sea can be extremely wild here and it is quite an experience to be up close and experience nature’s force while sipping a glass of wine.

Looking towards St.Kilda from St.Clair (Ceidrik Heward)

Middle Beach is the name given to the area between St. Clair and St. Kilda. There is no marker to indicate which beach is which as the broad sweep of all three beaches is continuous. This allows a perfect sandy route for serious joggers. In the summer, the beaches are busy with people strolling along the water’s edge.  On the main body of the beaches the sand is soft and the brilliant whiteness dazzles the eyes on a sunny summer’s day. It was always a treat to amble bare footed on the sand and to let the warm grains filter through my toes. Even on a summer’s day there are not many people in the water. This is because the temperature of the ocean here can only be described as ‘bracing’. I can remember plunging into the surf as a young boy and having my breath taken away by the frigid temperature. This is definitely a beach to enjoy the broad stretch of sand and views rather than the actual water itself.


The sand hills that stretch the broad sweep from St. Clair to Lawyers Head are another feature of the area. The ever-changing mounds offer numerous gullies and hollows which offer protection from the breeze off the sea and are popular with young lovers and sunbathers alike.

This is a dramatically elemental part of New Zealand. Gale force winds can spring up quickly in the winter and the ocean can throw large waves violently onto the sand. Seagulls fly in sweeping circles as they squawk to each other. Nature is very much in control. I guess this is one reason this city beach is so unique. It is also a major part of its appeal and why it is one of my favourite New Zealand beaches. In the winter, the roar of the sea is carried on the still, frosty night air and often woke me up when I lived in St. Kilda. It is a sound I have not heard in any other place I have lived in since then and that includes numerous cities around the world. For a time, I lived in a house facing Jumeirah Beach in Dubai. It was the complete opposite to the Dunedin beaches. There were no waves and the water was warm. It was crowded with people both on and in the water but to me, it didn’t have the elemental magic of the Dunedin beaches. At St. Kilda/St. Clair, the constant, somewhat eerie roar of the ocean is amplified by the chill in the air and to me is a uniquely Dunedin sound that I will always associate with these beautiful beaches.

St. Kilda Beach at Sunset (Ceidrik Heward)


Surprisingly, with the low numbers of swimmers using the water, there are two fully functional surf clubs protecting visitors to these Dunedin beaches. The St. Kilda Surf Life saving Club is over a century old and is still a vibrant club which hosts various events over the summer. The clubhouse overlooks the stretch of beach covering Middle and St. Kilda beaches.

St. Clair Surf Living Club is only a 10 minute amble along the beach and is also fully functional. It tends to be busier than its partner due to the constant number of surfers who ride the waves at St. Clair. This club was established in 1911 making it one of the oldest surf clubs in New Zealand. It currently has 70 dedicated patrollers with over 300 members. This club is also known for its surf canoe activities. It is quite something to see this craft being rushed into the surf from a channel under the clubhouse to make another rescue from the powerful waves.


For the past 18 years I have lived within a 10 minute drive of my other favourite beach at Takapuna. This is also one of Auckland’s most popular beaches. Unlike the Dunedin beaches with the enthusiastic surf, the water at Takapuna gently laps the sand. Instead of wild sandhills, Takapuna Beach is lined with million-dollar houses. There are no surf clubs even though the water is busy year-round with swimmers, kayakers, kite surfers and jet skis. Rather than the sand being loose and white, it is densely packed and a light brown/yellow. Instead of the small groups of amblers seen at St. Kilda and St. Clair, the beach at Takapuna can be very crowded all year round. Like St. Clair, over the past two years, a row of cafes has been established overlooking the northern end of Takapuna Beach. Like the Dunedin shoreline, Takapuna is part of a broad sweep of beach from North Head at Devonport all the way past Cheltenham Beach, Narrow Neck, St. Leonards up to Milford Beach and even further north to Long Bay. In the early days of Auckland’s development Takapuna and Milford beaches were known as ‘Pleasure Gardens’. It was where the more affluent settlers would take their families for rest and recreation beside the seaside.

Takapuna Beach (Ceidrik Heward)


One of New Zealand’s most interesting coastal walks connects Long Bay all the way to Cheltenham Beach at Devonport. The part connecting Takapuna to Milford is particularly interesting with a petrified forest amongst the attractions. It is also noted for numerous seaside mansions that form Takapuna’s ‘golden mile’. Beautiful pohutukawa trees and lava flow rock formations are other features of this popular summertime walk. The gently lapping water of Auckland Harbour makes it a wonderful experience. There are 64 beaches in Auckland with 12 located in a 23km (14mile) stretch along its eastern flank facing the Hauraki Gulf. Takapuna Beach has been tamed by the people of Auckland but it is still a wonderful place to visit and remains my favourite North Island beach.

Ceidrik Heward

Speak Your Mind