How To Find A Safe Family Beach

Rocky or sandy, tidal or wild, isolated or accessible – we are so lucky in New Zealand to have a seemingly endless number of beautiful beaches to spend holidays and leisure time at. Find out how you can best find a beach that is safe for your family to enjoy.

REMEMBER: No beach is 100% safe. Swim between the flags and within your own limitations, and closely supervise children.

Whether you’re planning to head away over the school holidays or just want to get out and about during the weekend, we’ve put together some tips for things to consider when choosing a safe beach destination for your next family trip.

Planning your trip

Turning up to a beach all ready for a day in the sun only to find it’s rocky, rough or has a strong rip would be so disappointing so before you go, do some research to find out which beaches are the best for families.

Ask around family and friends for their recommendations and also check local tourism websites for some insight in to the safe, and unsafe, swimming beaches in their region.

You might also like to check local council websites for information around water quality, especially after heavy rain. If you are planning a trip to a beach in an area covered by Auckland Council, check for beach conditions, patrol hours, hazards, and facilities.

Learn how to identify and stay safe in a rip

A rip current or rip is a strong current that moves away from shore and is strong enough to sweep a person along and out to sea. Some beaches are more prone to them than others. Rips are usually visible from the beach – look for a noticeable break in the wave pattern along the beach. The rip may have a smooth surface, or the water may be muddy or sandy and you might see foam or debris moving away from the beach.

A rip can sweep a swimmer quite quickly away from the beach. If you or a family member are caught in a rip, raise your arm and call for help. Don’t try and swim against the current – just try to relax and let it take you to its natural conclusion.

Rules and tips for a safer beach trip

  • If possible, choose a beach with lifeguards on duty and then only swim between the flags
  • Check the local council website for any safety messages
  • If the conditions don’t look ideal, stay out of the water
  • Keep an eye on changes to conditions, currents and water depth
  • Keep within an arm’s length of younger children in the water. If your children are a bit older they still require constant observation
  • Be aware that inflatable beach toys can easily be blown out to sea with a child on them
  • Teach your children to raise one arm and call for help if they are in trouble
  • Teach your children that if they are caught in a rip not to panic, but to raise one arm and call for help while waiting for the current to subside
  • Wear a life jacket while rock fishing
  • If you see someone in trouble don’t hesitate to call 111 and ask for Police

Favourite family beaches

A day in the sun at the beach is one of New Zealand’s favourite past times so we’ve picked the top beaches for family fun.

REMEMBER: No beach is 100% safe. Swim between the flags and within your own limitations, and closely supervise children.

Regions and venues may have travel and access restrictions due to the Covid-19 Protection Framework.

Whale Bay

Whale Bay, Tutukaka Coast, Northland

This white sandy beach is accessible via a short walk through the native bush. Trees at the top of the beach provide shade while rocks at the end of the beach are great for exploring. (Photo credit:

Tahunanui Beach

Tahunanui Beach, Nelson

This popular, long, sandy, safe beach has plenty of space for everyone. Nearby are lots of family friendly places including a playground, childrens’ zoo, hydroslide, go-karts, and a shady park, making this a fun family destination. (Photo credit:

Sumner Beach

Sumner Beach, Christchurch

A long, tidal, sandy beach with a playground and paddling pool at one end and Cave Rock at the other. A wide promenade runs the length of the beach. Sumner beach is a popular place to learn to surf.

Kaiteriteri Beach

Kaiteriteri Beach

This beautiful golden beach is a popular family destination. At one end is the inlet for a lagoon and as the tide comes out it forms a fun, warm river.


Porpoise Bay (Curio Bay), Catlins, Otago

A beautiful sandy beach where wildlife is abundant. Keep an eye out for Blue Penguins, Hectors Dolphins/papakanua, yellow eye penguin/hoihoi, and New Zealand fur seals and sea lions.

Become a Kiwi Guardian! Print off the Curio Bay adventure map before you head out, then find the Kiwi Guardian post and submit the special code word on it to receive a Kiwi Guardians certificate and medal.

Main photo credit:

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Written by Kidspot New Zealand in partnership with Tourism New Zealand.

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