Rumour has it that New Zealand has freezing ocean temperatures with sharky waters. This is further from the truth. The South Island of New Zealand is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, with unique waves and glacier blue water. From local spots like Sumner to hidden gems like Magnet Bay you don’t have to travel far for the perfect wave. And more often than not, the perfect waves are served with an extra side of beautiful scenery and hospitality, far more unique than a typical Southern California beach.
Sumner is one of the most popular places to surf on the South Island. Only 30 minutes outside the most populated city on the island, this is where working Kiwi’s come to get their surf fix. This beach break offers lefts and rights, and is heavily populated with surfers of all ages, sizes and experience. While this might deter some, it’s a great way to meet locals and hear about even better spots. Sumner’s surf community makes a friendly and comfortable environment for beginners and families to paddle out together. Local surf shops rent out boards for great prices. A local favourite, The Rock, offers hot coffee and local artwork after a long day of surf. And the best part about Sumner? The snow capped Kaikoura mountains are visible from the lineup.
Taylors Mistake is just over the hill from Sumner. This intermediate break has more local surfers than families. Taylors, as locals call it, is a bay tucked away from the crowds of Sumner. The beach break offers thicker sections with shorter waves. For non-surfers the waves are perfect for flopping around or bodyboarding. The beach is beautiful as it is tucked back into a secluded cove, surrounded by abandoned beach houses. Taylors Mistake got its name when Captain Taylor mistakenly landed in the bay thinking it was Sumner, hence Taylor’s Mistake. The best part about Taylors Mistake is the sheep scattered on the hill surrounding the beach. Hikers also scatter the hills overlooking Taylors Mistake. If you’re lucky enough, sunset surfs provide an amazing moon rising over the horizon. Secret campers are even spotted sleeping under the shelter of the cliffs hoping to get the first morning's wave.
Magnet Bay is located on the Akaroa peninsula surrounded by other secret bays with perfect waves. The windy drive through the hills provides amazing views of sheep packed farms along the coast. This is definitely a “locals only” spot as it is on a private farm. The Magnet Bay farmer is a typical hospitable and friendly Kiwi, allowing surfers to pass through at their pleasure. Cows and seals are the only spectators of the left point break. As tucked away as the spot is, Kiwi’s flock from the city to surf this hidden treasure, although the line up rarely gets crowded. The paddle out is challenging, even for locals, as the rocky beach creates ankle traps and easy board nicks. But if you time it perfectly, you’ll never want to paddle in.
A three hour drive up the coast brings you to Mangamanu, a long point break tucked beneath the Kaikoura mountains. Mornings in Mangamaunu are peaceful, with steaming coffee and dawn patrollers. Surfers often drive up to spend a few nights in the free DOC campervan sights. Mangamuanu has a dreamy, left point break. Under perfect conditions waves can last minutes. The rocky beach has few spectators, making it a surfers paradise. Managaumnu serves the best waves in the heart of winter, so make sure to pack your thickest wetsuit and a change of warm clothes. If the waves are flat head into town for whale watching and fish and chips at the local eatery.
This is just the beginning of amazing waves around the south island. Waves for all levels of experience can be found across the Canterbury region. And maybe, if you’re lucky, a local will show you the most local spots with no one else out. It’s not uncommon for Kiwi’s to include you in their surf adventures and show you around their favorite spots. You know where to start, but don’t settle here.
A senior Business Administration Major, Courtney is based out of San Diego California where she attends Point Loma Nazarene University. She often seeks tropical, island countries for a vacation in the sun, surf trips with locals and taking photos.. She also has a passion for Global South (or developing) countries and hopes to pursue a career in economic development after college.