Oke Bay, Bay of Islands, New Zealand
You know those things that were awesome in childhood but when you revisit them as a grown up it’s a colossal disappointment. Like going back to the house you grew up in and discovering it was actually the size of a Pez dispenser.
So revisiting my all time favourite New Zealand beach, Oke Bay, I went in with a hardened adult reserve. In my memory it was a mythical protected cove, with water so clear you could spot fish from the top of the hill and was known only to yachties, pirates and smugglers.
I’m excited to say people that two and a half of these memories remain to this day remain, TRUE. In fact, I’m officially calling it. Oke Bay remains New Zealand’s most beautiful secret beach.
First up it’s not easy to find, or get to, but there is real pay off.
Located in the far north of New Zealand, in the Bay of Islands, a place just as lovely as the name suggests, the beach is situated near the tip of Rawhiti Point, roughly 45 minutes from the historic town of Russell.
You will need to follow a fairly long windy road taking you past oyster farms, camping grounds, yachting inlets, many paddocks, a section of unsealed road and finally a Marae (Maori meeting grounds) near the tiny settlement of Hauai Bay. Pull over to the side of the road next to a sign for the Oke Bay Scenic Reserve, follow steep steps under a Maori signpost, scale to the top of a hill framed by purple agapanthus and inhale the view below.
I’m raving because this beach ticks almost every box for me. Seclusion, clear water, great depth and gradual incline for swimming, sheltered, no sharks, and the fantastic Pohutukawa trees for shade.
Because this is real life (not a film set) four days of heavy rain did unfortunately mean that water quality wasn’t as clear as normal, and it had left a trail of ocean debris. This wasn’t holding me back, as you swim out through the small waves, towards a couple of yachts moored closeby.
I’ve travelled half way around the world to find world famous beaches less impressive and jostled for space with hoards of sunburnt Europeans. Today it was just us, a couple of yachties and three kids from the Marae down the road. It was New Years Day in New Zealand, so things were more hectic than normal.
High points – the surprise of the vista from the top of the hill. A cloud forest in the craggy hills make you forget which country you are in. It’s basically Thailand’s ‘the beach.’
Low points: This place is fairly remote so don’t expect too many facilities or flat whites near by
Best for: anyone who appreciates a lovely ocean swim, sans sharks, shade included, no crowds.
Attire: Did I mention there are no houses on or near the beach. Whatever you want people
Overall score : 9.8 (deductions only for seaweed)
Footnote – there are no houses (or baches, as they say in NZ) on the beach but if you want to splurge in luxury check out this AMAZING house on the hill nearby, ideal for a large group.
Other note worthy mentions of top secluded beaches in New Zealand
Whale Bay- A total stunner, worth the 20 minute walk, this place is sheltered from both the wind and the sun with stunning calm clear waters. A school holiday favourite.
Cathedral Cove – not so secluded these days, but still worth the walk