Beach and coastal facilities

Photo of a man and woman with surfboards at Ocean Beach.

Whangārei has a reputation as a city of beaches. It offers a range of picturesque and safe places to swim, from the grand scale ocean beaches to small sandy bays on both sides of the city.

The locations of beaches and coastal facilities in the district can be found in our GIS Maps online tool.

Beaches and Coastal Facilities GIS map

Water quality

General advice

  • We advise not to swim during the 48 hours after heavy rain (>10 mm rainfall in 24 hours), due to possibility of pollution run-off in to waterways. 
  • 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.
  • Salt water is generally safer than fresh water, due to the pathogen-killing effect of salt. The sea is usually safer than a lake, or a river, as far as bacteria and viruses are concerned. 
  • 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 there are no warnings shown on this website, 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.

Shellfish biotoxin alerts (Ministry of Primary Industries website)

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

Whangārei harbour

The harbour offers good fishing. 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. It 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. 

Whangārei Harbour Marine Reserves (Department of Conservation website)

Recreational activities

Swimming and surfing

Surfing beaches at Ocean Beach and Waipū 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

Animals

You can exercise your dog on most beaches in the district, as long as your dog is under 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.

Public Places Bylaw

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:

Dog Management Policy

Dog Management Bylaw

Dog Exercise Areas

Cars on beaches

Pedestrians have the right of way. Share the beach with other visitors carefully, and remember that all road rules apply.

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 access ways.

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:

Vehicles on Beaches Bylaw 

A 30km per hour speed limit applies to some of our busy beaches, including those in Ruakaka. 

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

Speed Limits Bylaw

Camping

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:

Camping

Fishing

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.