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Matai Bay / Waikato Bay: Exploring the Karikari Peninsula, New Zealand

Travellers researching their trips to Northland, New Zealand must be overwhelmed by the beach options available. There are heaps of beautiful beaches in Northland and most people won’t have the time to see them all. One of the best, and most famous, is Matai Bay. It always seems to feature highly on “best beaches in New Zealand” lists, so I went there to see if it deserved the hype. I’ll also talk a little about nearby Waikato Bay and the Karikari Peninsula in general!

Getting to the Karikari Peninsula

If you’re on the typical Northland tourist trail, you’ll likely visit the Karikari Peninsula after exploring the Bay of Islands. It should take around 75 minutes to drive between Kerikeri (the biggest town near the Bay of Islands) and Matai Bay and there is a bit to see along the way. Coopers Beach is a great place to stop, but don’t forget to explore Kerikeri as there’s a decent amount to see there, including a waterfall and nice river area.

Coopers Beach, Northland, New Zealand

Coopers Beach

Matai Bay

Matai Bay is a pristine crescent shaped beach with white sand and calm water. It’s a beautiful place and you can see why it’s so highly rated. We walked the entire length of the beach and it was fairly quiet (on a late afternoon in March). It’s a great place for a stroll but there aren’t many (or any?) places along the way where you can get above the beach and appreciate the views. You can see it from above close to the car park though, so that will have to do!

Matai Bay, Northland, New ZealandMatai Bay -- exploring the Karikari Peninsula, New Zealand

There’s not too much more to say about Matai Bay. It’s obviously a stunning beach and it’s not too much of a detour from the main road. You could leave the Bay of Islands en route to Kaitaia / Cape Reinga and stop for an hour or two at Matai Bay, or you could spend the night there if you have a van / tent / car with some legroom. It’ll set you back $15 per person ($7.50 for kids) to camp there which would be well worth it.

Matai Bay, Northland, New Zealand

Waikato Bay

I’ve probably already convinced you to visit Matai Bay, but I’ll throw in another beach to sweeten the deal just in case. Waikato Bay is right next door to Matai Bay and is (almost) just as nice. It’s a bit quieter than Matai Bay and is another awesome place for a long beach stroll.

Waikato Bay, Northland, New ZealandWaikato Bay, Karikari Peninsula, New Zealand

Other Things to Do on the Karikari Peninsula

There are plenty of other beaches on the Karikari Peninsula and it’d be worth exploring more of them if you have the time. Rangiputa Beach and Puheke Beach look nice and the Coca Cola Lakes sound interesting. The Karikari Peninsula would be a good place to spend a day or two, but don’t stress too much if you just do the quick detour to Matai Bay – I’m assuming it’s the nicest beach on the peninsula (I’m happy to be proved wrong though!) and it’s easy to get to. Let me know if you’ve explored everything the Karikari Peninsula has to offer and if there are any other places you’d urge my readers to visit!

Are you planning a trip to New Zealand? Check out my road-trip itinerary!

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Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who hates talking about himself in the third person and has no imagination when it comes to naming websites.
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