Unpopulated stretches of rural countryside, spectacular mountainous backdrops and relaxed surf communities; New Zealand surf spots are the stuff dreams are made of. From the tip of the North Island, all the way down to the centre of the South Island rugged coastlines attract hardened surfers, but there is one major stretch known as the Surf Highway that should be every surfers travel list.
New Zealand surf is known to be cold and rugged. This kind of surf breeds the type of surfer who freedom camps in the middle of nowhere ready for a dawnie. The Surf Highway is one such place.
Located in the Taranaki region of the North island, the Surf Highway is a long stretch of coastline on the main road between Auckland and Wellington. Beginning just South of New Plymouth, the area is lit up by a backdrop of Mt Taranaki; a spectacular volcano sitting in the centre of lush green bush, topped with snow during the Winter months. Needless to say, this is a fairly special place.
New Zealand surf spots are easy to find in this part of the region. The roads are just two lanes, the land is unpopulated farm land and the road signs are obvious. All along the surf highway yellow “surf beach” signs direct travellers from the main road to the breaks. Surfing New Zealand doesn’t get much more simple than that.
In addition to the waves, you’ll find relaxed kiwi communities, freedom camping, and a sense of remoteness among the elements. We’ve got all you need to know about 6 New Zealand surf spots along the Surf Highway right here.
15km South of Okato is a popular break known as. You can’t miss this spot because the turn off is mark with a giant grey boulder painted with the road name, on the main road. Drive to the end of the road and follow it right. You’ll arrive at two local surf breaks. The first you’ll come across is directly in front of a small landscaped patch of garden, with a seat in front. This is a left and right rocky reef break and a smart option when the main break (a little further down the same road) is crowded. The second break further along the same road is the main break. You’ll notice ample car parking space on the grass area and a changing shed and toilet. Access to the water is easy, but booties are recommended in winter months; New Zealand waters are known to be cold. The main break is a right hand rocky reef break which can break for 200-300 metres.
Being one of South Taranaki’s favourite spots, respect the locals, have fun, and if it’s too crowded head to one of the many close by breaks.
This is a popular New Zealand surf break for Taranaki locals and Kiwis living further afield. Kumara Patch is located at the end of Kaihihi Road in Okato. The Stony River Hotel is a helpful point of reference, which is located on the corner of the Surf Highway and Kaihihi. Once you get to the end of the road, park at the road edge and walk through the bush to the beach. You’ll need to walk left for 10 -15 minutes to reach the break. Kumara Patch is a left hand boulder point break with a long, ridable wave. This rocky, shallow break is one of the best in the region; it gets hollow and can handle better waves. Better suited to intermediate to advanced riders.
Right and Left Handers is the name of this local break, which is on a sandy beach. This is one of the few New Zealand surf breaks that can become overly crowded. Right and Left Handers is close to a small township which is more attractive to the leisure surfer and family vibe. This is a good option for beginners. if you prefer to be away from the crowds New Zealand has plenty of other surf spots.
Rocky Lefts & Rights
Located at the same point, Lefts is a left hand point break offering hollow barrels and suitable for intermediate to advanced surfers. On the Southern side of the same point, Rights is on a boulder point with a fast, long wave. Best suited for intermediate to expert surfers and there is parking available on site.
Offering both right and left handers this punchy break is suitable for all surfers and conveniently located in the heart of New Plymouth City. A polar beach for swimmers, Back Beach can get busy and loose the appeal of New Zealand surf culture that other parts of the Surf Highway have in spades.
Best in high tide conditions and when offshore creates epic barrels. Best left to advanced riders when swell is big, and being located in the heart of New Plymouth can become overcrowded with swimmers and beach goers in Summer months.
Getting to the Surf Highway
From New Plymouth drive South on highway 43. Each break is clearly sign posted with a yellow road sign that reads “surf beach”. They’re easy to see but Stent Road doesn’t have one. Instead Stent Road has a huge boulder that has been painted on to show the road name. Don’t worry you can’t miss it.
Where to Stay
Tourism isn’t like you might expect in other parts of the world; Here it’s all about freedom camping. You will need a vehicle to enjoy the Surf Highway as there is not a lot of accommodation at all, and each break is in somewhat isolation to townships. While that’s part of the enjoyment, it can also be inconvenient so bring a vehicle and anything you might need. 30km away is the city of New Plymouth where there are plenty of backpackers, motels and supermarkets, but to capture the true essence we recommend staying with your vehicle at the beach.
If car camping isn’t your thing, book a room at The Stony River Hotel which is located around 10 minutes from Opunake, and just a few minutes walk from Kumara Patch.
New Plymouth is the closest city and there’s plenty to do here. Restaurants, bars, motels, backpackers, music; plenty on tap in one of New Zealand’s larger (not largest!) cities. Apart from New Plymouth, between breaks in South Taranaki there isn’t a lot around, and make no mistake; that’s part of the appeal.
Opunake is a good place for a coffee, and there are a few walking tracks from here too. Egmont National Park is a stunning place for outdoor adventurers with numerous day and overnight hikes, and Mt Taranaki as the epicentre. There’s a small club ski field called Mt Manganui open during the winter months.
Have a blast; the Surf Highway will stay in your memory for years to come.