The South Island’s most iconic beach
and a popular holiday spot.
With its golden sand, tree-covered headlands and classic crescent shape, Kaiteriteri is a picture perfect beach.
Kaiteriteri, or Kaiteri to the locals, has been a favourite holiday spot for Kiwis from all over the South Island for generations.
Located 15 minutes from Motueka, Kaiteriteri regularly features in national and international top 10 type lists of the best beaches in the world. In the peak of summer it’s jammed with visitors either enjoying a day at the beach or those using water taxis to travel into the Abel Tasman National Park.
It’s is an extremely popular holiday destination for a good reason, the main beach is breathtakingly beautiful, particularly in the early evening.
The Kaiteriteri Recreation Reserve Camping Ground is right across the road from the main beach. Somes families have been spending their summer holidays camping there for generations, spending the first 72 hours setting up tent complexes that include a sleeping wing, dining area and full-function kitchen.
This is a large campground with 400 powered sites, some cabins and new apartments above the store on the waterfront. Getting a site during the peak summer season at Kaiteriteri can be extremely difficult, but the shoulder seasons and winter are a great time to be there as the crowds thin out.
Bethany Park is the other large camping ground, located a short way from the beach in the surrounding hills, backing onto the Kaiteriteri Mountain Bike Park. Although a Christian camp, Bethany Park is not exclusive. Bethany Park has +200 sites located among mature trees and all of the facilities you’d expect from a Kiwi campground.
The Kaiteri Lodge is right in the middle of Kaiteriteri and a 10 second walk from the main beach. The Lodge has a range of beach-style family and backpacker rooms, all of which offer excellent value for money.
The Kaiteriteri Mountain Bike Park is one of New Zealand’s premier mountain biking locations. Keen mountain biking types (you can usually identify them by the scars on their appendages from crashes long since forgotten) flock here every year for organised events, or simply to ride the tracks in the Park.
The Mountain Bike Park is on the Kaiteriteri Recreation Reserve land under management agreements with the Department of Conservation and the Kaiteriteri Recreation Reserve Board.
The tracks have been created by local volunteers. To get a real appreciation for the magnitude of what these locals have achieved, unpaid and in their own time, you only need to ride the track once. The length, variety and quality of the trails is staggering. You can ride in the Park for many, many hours without covering the same track twice. There are wicked downhill sections for adrenaline junkies and long, well formed trails that your grandma could ride. All of the trails are set amongst an attractive mix of pine trees and other bush. The view from the top of the Park, out across Kaiteriteri and Tasman Bay, is absolutely stunning and is well worth the grunt up the hill.
Traditionally, Kaiteriteri’s main attraction has been it’s beach. With a beautiful little estuary at the entrance to the township and a long stretch of golden sand, people flock here to stand-up paddle board, to kayak or just to go for a swim.
There is a wonderful little walk up the small headland at the southern end of the beach that goes over to Little Kaiteri, the bay you can see from the main beach. Even when the main beach is full of people desperately looking for some space to spread their towels out, Little Kaiteri can be more sparsely populated.
At the other end of Little Kaiteriteri is another, longer walk over a hill to Dummy Bay and Stephens Bays. Both of these beaches are magical, and are mainly frequently by locals. (Please don’t tell the locals you encounter on these beaches there where you got this information from. I get enough hate mail as it is!).
Kaiteriteri caters extremely well to family activities. There is a wonderful playground right across the road from the beach, public BBQ areas and a flying fox that will keep kids entertained for hours. Right next to these attractions is also a well maintained mini-golf facility.
As mentioned, the estuary is a favourite swimming spot and particularly good for kids, although the currents do become stronger during certain tidal phases.
If you have younger children, then Kaiteriteri is also a good place for kids kayaking and other water sports. Waka Tours Abel Tasman operates from Kaiteriteri, and have fantastic activities for adults and kids of all ages. Waka are traditional Maori canoes. Waka Tours include a paddle and some excellent insights into local Maori culture and history.
The beach is naturally curved so the water is usually extremely calm. It is also next to other beaches and small coves that can safely explored when launching from the main beach. The Kaiteriteri store, located right on the waterfront, also sells ice creams to round off a great day with the family.
Enjoying fish and chips on the beach, particularly in the early evening after the crowds have thinned out, is a wonderful experience.
Gone Burgers, located beside Kai on the waterfront, sells gourmet burgers and deep-fried take-away goodness. A few meters further along, you’ll find the Beached Whale which also provides take-away food you can eat at one of the many picnic tables along the beach.
The Beached Whale provides sit-down meals and a lively pub that attracts locals and a big backpacker crowd. Kai, which is owned and operated by the Kaiteriteri Domain Board, is right on the waterfront with amazing views across the beach and out to the boats moored in the bay.