Auckland has dozens and dozens of clean, picturesque beaches – from the dramatic black sand in the west to the pristine white east coast bays. Here are the best ones less than half an hour from the CBD.
Herne Bay Beach
There are three little beaches in Herne Bay that not many tourists venture to. Herne Bay Beach has a grass area and plenty of good shade under the pohutukawa trees, and there are toilets and shower on the way to the beach.
Herne Bay Rd
Take the 005 from Customs St West near Queen St, CBD, and get off at the last stop along Jervois Rd
Home Bay is small and intimate. It doesn't have much beach at high tide but you can swim off the concrete steps.
Wallace St, Herne Bay
Take the 005 from Customs St West near Queen St, CBD, and get off at the stop after Wanganui Ave along Jervois Rd
Sentinel Beach Reserve
Home Bay in the suburb of Herne Bay
This is a favourite because it's a little longer, there's shade, a rope swing and there are toilets and a shower right on the beachfront. There are also four permanent concrete loungers for the earlybirds. From Sentinel Beach you have a lovely view of the Auckland Harbour Bridge.
Sentinel Rd, Herne Bay
Take the 005 from Customs St West near Queen St, CBD, and get off at the stop after John St along Jervois Rd
Sentinel Beach Reserve in the suburb of Herne Bay
This 600m long beach is a safe and often calm beach very popular with families. The south end has a grass and barbecue area and Coyle Park at the north end (where the road stops) has a large playground that includes a flying fox, a train track and tall climbing net. Pohutukawa trees fringe the coastline. Toilets are located at Coyle Park and halfway down the beach. Pt Chev is ideal at high tide but swimming is good up to three hours either side.
Harbour View Rd and Pt Chevalier Rd
Take the 005 from Customs St West near Queen St, CBD, and get off just after Edith St along Pt Chev Rd for the south end or Coyle Park for the north end
Thorne Bay, Takapuna
Pt Chev Beach
Takapuna Beach is an impressive long stretch with plenty of sand just behind the Takapuna shops. But only a kilometre north is tiny Thorne Bay, reachable from Minnehaha Ave. Go to the end of Minnehaha Ave where it looks like a private driveway but it leads to a path down to the sea. Turn left onto the coastline path and you'll see a mass of rock pools. The beach is a minute away and the path continues past the big fancy houses. The beauty of this beach is that it's swimmable at low and high tide. There's not much shade but you have a wonderful view of Rangitoto Island in the harbour. Parking is limited along Minnehaha Ave but at least it's free. Parking at Takapuna Beach is $1 per hour.
Take the 839 from Wellesley St outside the Civic Theatre, CBD, and get off at 270 Hurstmere Rd, Takapuna, then walk to Minnehaha Ave
Thorne Bay, Takapuna, with a view of Rangitoto Island
Thorne Bay, Takapuna - a local hideaway
Not on my list: Mission Bay
Most tourist guides will recommend Mission Bay as it's along the scenic Tamaki Drive with views of the Waitemata Harbour and the city skyline just round the corner from Kelly Tarlton's Aquarium. It's less than 20 minutes from the CBD but a nightmare during rush hour. Mission Bay is booming with cafes, restaurants and really long queues for ice cream. Kids love the playground and iconic fountain that lights up at night. The beach itself is a bit too shelly for my liking though and just too busy. If you're out that way and want a bit more space, head to the end of Tamaki Dr to St Heliers Beach. But if you really want to get away from it all, go further round the headland to Karaka Bay - follow the winding steps down at the end of Peacock St, off Riddell Rd (where it's best to park). Officially in the suburb of Glendowie, Karaka Bay is a secluded beach with no toilets.
Take the 756 from Tyler St, CBD, and get off at near Patterson Ave, Mission Bay, along Tamaki Dr