Stand up paddleboarding (SUP) started in ancient Hawaii, had a modern resurgence led by surfers, and since has exploded as the world’s fastest growing water sport. The list of the top stand up paddleboarding destinations is evolving but one thing is certain: New Zealand is on it. For novices, flat water is ideal and New Zealand has countless bays and sheltered waterways with outstanding scenery. Stand up paddleboarding lessons and rentals are burgeoning to keep pace with demand. For those with experience, New Zealand has over 15,000 kilometers of coastline with a wide variety of water conditions and waves to choose from. It’s an exciting time to join New Zealand’s stand up paddleboarding movement. Similar to surfing, the sport meshes well with kiwi culture and it’s hard to find a surf shop that isn’t doubling down on SUP. This time it’s likely here to stay.

Best Places to SUP in New Zealand

Bay of Islands (North Island)
With warm weather throughout the year, hundreds of sheltered bays and inlets, and spectacular views, the Bay of Islands was made for stand up paddleboarding. Russell is great for beginners and it’s easy to cruise the surrounding waters and create your own Bay of Islands SUP itinerary.

Auckland/Bay of Plenty (North Island)
New Zealand’s eastern coastline generally has the calmest waters, and the areas north and south of Auckland have emerged as top-notch stand up paddleboarding destinations. One hour north of the city is Matakana and the Goat Island Marine Reserve. Less than three hours south of Auckland are Tauranga and Mt. Maunganui. All of the above are active in the New Zealand SUP scene.

Rotorua (North Island)
Rotorua offers some of New Zealand’s most unique stand up paddleboarding experiences. Instead of the usual coastal bays, paddling in Rotorua involves a mix of lakes, narrow channels, freshwater springs, and hot springs. Some of the best places to go are Lake Rotoiti, Lake Tikitapu, and Lake Tarawera.

Abel Tasman (South Island)
Bright yellow kayaks traditionally have dominated Abel Tasman, but there’s no reason that stand up paddleboards can’t coexist. The park has terrific weather and some of the most settled conditions in New Zealand. All told, there may be no better way than a paddleboard to explore Abel Tasman’s translucent waters, rocky outcroppings, and wildlife. 

Christchurch (South Island)
Stand up paddleboarding hasn’t made as big of a splash on the South Island due to the colder conditions, but when the sun is shining Christchurch is a great place to learn. It’s one of the few places on the South Island outside of Abel Tasman to offer SUP lessons, and once you become confident on flat water, paddleboard surfing is available too.

Paddleboard Lessons and Rentals

North Island

SUP Centre (Auckland)

  • Located near the Auckland city center
  • 4 different types of paddleboards to choose from
  • Soft roof racks available for easy transportation

Northland Paddleboarding (Bay of Islands)

  • Based in the scenic Kerikeri Inlet
  • Offers a range of lessons from beginner to multi-day courses
  • Also organizes guided trips and custom tours

Blue Adventures (Matakana)

  • 1 hour north of Auckland near the Goat Island Marine Reserve
  • Focuses on beaches with flat water for learning the basic techniques
  • Flexibility depending on wind directions and tides for the day

Elements Watersports (Tauranga)

  • Lessons in the calm waters of the Inner Tauranga Harbour
  • From beginner to SUP surfing
  • “Twilight Paddleboarding” on Thursday evenings

East Coast Paddler (Mt. Maunganui)

  • Mobile instruction throughout the Bay of Plenty region
  • Lessons from learner to advanced
  • “Cross SUP” classes combining paddleboarding, swimming, running and bodyweight calisthenics

Rotorua Paddle Tours (Rotorua)

  • Explores New Zealand’s interior waterways
  • Unique selection of lake tours, freshwater spring tours, and hot pool tours
  • SUP options for all abilities

Raglan SUPBoarding (Raglan)

  • SUP instruction in the Raglan Harbour and inner bay
  • From beginner lessons to 3-hour guided tours
  • “Down Winder” one-way trips including drop-off and pick-up

South Island

Abel Tasman Paddleboarding (Abel Tasman)

  • Based at Little Kaiteriteri Beach with trips throughout Abel Tasman
  • A number of guided trips including Split Apple Rock
  • Family and custom tours available as well

Golden Bay Kayaks (Abel Tasman)

  • Located at the quieter northern end of Abel Tasman
  • Guided trips on Tata Beach with the Tata Islands as a backdrop
  • Hourly hire includes safety instruction and advice on technique

Christchurch Paddleboarding (Christchurch)

  • One of the few places on the South Island to offer SUP instruction
  • Lessons from beginner to advanced at Lyttelton Harbour, the Estuary, and Pegasus Lake
  • Great place to learn paddleboard surfing in the summer

Watercooled Sports (Dunedin)

  • Located in the Dunedin Harbour
  • Lessons include 1 hour of instruction and a 1 hour freedom rental
  • SUP fitness classes every Tuesday morning

Catlins Surf (Curio Bay)

  • Located at the Curio Bay campground near the beach
  • Rentals include instruction and all SUP equipment including wetsuits, lifejackets, and accessories

Seasons/When to go

Stand up paddleboarding, like other water sports, is most enjoyable in good weather. The summer months from December through March bring the warmest conditions; air and water temperatures in New Zealand decrease from north to south. The majority of New Zealand’s stand up paddleboarding activity is on the North Island, although there are plenty of places to explore on the South Island with less people in the water. 

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