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7 Best Places to Surf in the South Island

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Where to Surf in the South Island

Ride the South Island’s waves! Delving into the waters of New Zealand’s South Island is a chilly yet rewarding experience for surfers. Hire a wetsuit! New Zealand has a huge surf culture that motivates even the locals to travel around New Zealand’s surf beaches in search of the next pumping wave. With that, there are plenty of places to surf in the South Island!

The South Island offers completely contrasting environments to surf in comparison to North Island surfing, for example, surf beaches can be found on the doorstep of major cities to remote beaches a 4-day’s walk away from anywhere! You’re sure to get a unique surf experience. If you’re a beginner, there are plenty of surf school’s around the country eager to share their love for the ocean.

1. St Clair

A popular beach in Dunedin, St Clair Beach has excellent beach breaks and sometimes produces hollow waves. What’s more, it’s all in the convenient location of Dunedin! For more about Dunedin, check out The Complete Travel Guide to Dunedin.

Phillip Capper© Phillip Capper

2. Kahutara

Kahutara is a point break just outside of Kaikoura. Thanks to the Hikurangi Trench, a deep underwater trench not too far offshore from the coast, swells come straight out of the deep water to often create hollow waves. Make sure you have a wetsuit, as Kahutara provides a good surf in all seasons except for summer. For another Kaikoura surf break, try Mangamaunu. For more info, see The Complete Travel Guide to Kaikoura.

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3. Farewell Spit

In the north of the wild West Coast is Farewell Spit. This surf spot, known as Pillar Point, is ideal for those wanting to get away from the crowd without losing the quality of the fast and long rides. Find Pillar Point at the very western end of the spit (access further down the eastern side of the beach is prohibited). For more things to do near Farewell Spit, check out The Complete Travel Guide to Takaka.

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4. Taylor’s Mistake

The Canterbury region is by no means a surfer’s paradise, but hidden in a bay outside of Christchurch is Taylor’s Mistake. Not the most consistent surf conditions but arguably offers the best surf near Christchurch. You might also want to check out the surf at New Brighton! For more info, see 10 Free or Cheap Things To Do in New Brighton and The Complete Travel Guide to Christchurch.

Benjamin Burns© Benjamin Burns

5. Big Bay

It would take you about four days to walk through the Fiordland National Park to get to this exclusive surf location. The route to get there starts from the Hollyford Track. More info at 5 Incredible Multi-day Hikes in the Fiordland National Park.

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6. Westport

Experience some of those famous West Coast waves at the surf beaches of Westport! Carters Beach and North Beach are the closest breaks to the town and are great for beginners and experienced surfers alike. Alternatively, head to Tauranga Bay which best surfed at low tide. Check out The Complete Travel Guide to Westport.

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7. Colac Bay

It’s probably the furthest south you will ever surf! Colac Bay is in the Southland region of the South Island, best surfed with a northeasterly wind. Nevertheless, the exposed beach break mostly has ideal surf conditions all year round. Oh, and don’t forget to get your photo taken with this dude…

Ben Murrin© Ben Murrin


The information in this guide has been compiled from our extensive research, travel and experiences across New Zealand and the South Pacific, accumulated over more than a decade of numerous visits to each destination. Additional sources for this guide include the following:

Our editorial standards: At NZ Pocket Guide, we uphold strict editorial standards to ensure accurate and quality content.

About The Author

Laura S.

This article has been reviewed and published by Laura, the editor-in-chief and co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. Laura is a first-class honours journalism graduate and a travel journalist with expertise in New Zealand and South Pacific tourism for over 10 years. She also runs travel guides for five of the top destinations in the South Pacific and is the co-host of over 250 episodes of the NZ Travel Show on YouTube.

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