New Zealand is part of a continent call Zealandia, most of which lies under the ocean. It straddles the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates with its plate movements causing volcanic activity in the North Island and earthquakes throughout the country. Most of the South Island consists of rock known as greywacke that under heat and pressure was transformed into schist in the west and south. The North Island consists mostly of greywacke that has been covered by layers of volcanic rock. New Zealand has a well-documented ongoing history of geological activity, tsunamis, hydrothermal eruption, and landslides.
North Island Beaches
South Island Beaches
Hot Water Beach
Hot water beach gets its name from its underground hot water that with a little digging can become a natural hot tub or spa. Within two hours either side of low tide, it is possible to dig into the sand allowing hot water to escape to the surface forming hot water pools.
Hot Water Beach sand is a mixture of biogenic and geological sand grains with larger pink and tan off white grains of mollusk shells. There is one shell fragment on the left with parallel brown bands, a green sea urchin spine with parallel lines near the bottom center, and a generalized distribution of small sharped edged clear quartz grains along with tan, brown and black fragments of volcanic origin.
Mission Bay Beach
Mission Bay is a picturesque seaside suburb of Auckland city with breathtaking views of Hauraki Gulf.
Mission Bay sand is a mixture of variably sized smoothly worn white, opaque, and reddish-brown marine shell fragments along with clear and yellow tinted quartz, and mottled brown and dark geological sand grains. Dark inclusions are present in some of the clear quartz grains.
Rotorua, a popular tourist destination, is a site of geothermal activity featuring mud pools, geysers and hot springs.This area is noted for its Maori culture.
Rotorua beach sand is a mixture of geological sand grains including clear quartz, tan sharp-edge igneous rock grains, and prominent red-black grains of ferruginous chert (jasper).
Tairua lies on the northern bank of the mouth of the Tairua River and boasts of scenic and stunning views including the peak of the volcanic Mount Paku.
Sand from this beach includes grains of clear quartz along with tan, reddish-brown grains (iron-stained feldspar), and a mixture of metamorphic and small black basalt sand grains.
Te Karo Bay
Te Karo Bay is a popular surf and picnic spot in the Tairua area, home of an historic sailors grave memorial, and one of the best surf spots in this area.
Te Karo Bay sand grains are a mixture of small, smooth, round-edged pink and off-white grains of mollusk shell fragments along with sharper edged clear and tan translucent quartz sand grains, some brown feldspar grains, plus a mixture of smaller dark basalt volcanic grains.
Wellington beaches have dark pebbly black sand that is typically high in iron content.
Large sand grains with variegated light and dark textures are metamorphic rock fragments with contours worn smooth by wave action. The glistening red grains are jasper. One small white sand grain near the center is a mollusk shell fragment that is partly covered by a large, mottled tan, gray and black metamorphic sand grain.
Whitianga is located on the eastern side of the north island on the coast of Mercury Bay and is popular for fishing, diving, water sports, and coastal activities.
Fine sand from Whitianga includes primarily sharp-edged geological grains of tan, brown and blacks along with numerous clear quartz grains. A large circular off white biogenic foram (Foraminifera sp) with barely visible chambers is present in the upper center of the image.
Abel Tasman National Park
Named for a Dutch seafarer and explorer, Abel Tasman is a popular national park known for stunning coastal scenery, clear waters, golden sand beaches, and abundant bird and sea life.
Sand at Abel Tasman National Park is a mixture of clear, opaque and colored quartz grains. Black inclusions are present in some of the quartz grains.
Bruce Bay Beach
Bruce Bay provides stunning seas vistas and windswept beaches and looks directly at the Tasman Sea and where Maui first landed in New Zealand from Hawaii. It is a nesting site of Antarctic penguins.
Bruce Bay sand grains are small consisting of predominately sharp edged clear and rose colored quartz and black sand grains.
Hokitika is a site of shipwrecks and historical gold mining in the 1860’s as well as a traditional source of the greenstone, pounamu.
Hokitika Beach sand consists of predominately dark sharp-edged grains along with pink and orange and occasional clear quartz grains.
Kaikoura is a coastal town rich in marine ecosystems, wildlife and natural beauty. It is one of the world’s best places for whale watching and dolphin encounters.
Kaikoura Beach sand grains are uniformly small and primarily geologic with a predominance of clear and partly opaque quartz with black inclusions along with occasional red and black sand grains.
The Pelorus River boasts of crystal clear water with deep pools for swimming, with waterfalls and stunning natural scenery plus scenic reserve walking tracks.
Pelorus River sand consists of relatively large dark and light colored metamorphic sand grains with some rounding of edges of most grains.
Picton is in an area of marine and bird life including five species of dolphin, fur seals, and Little Blue Penguins.This is also an area to observe New Zealand’s endangered Saddle Back Bird.
Picton Beach sand is predominately of geological origin with metamorphic grains, opaque quartz in dark inclusions and occasional large mollusk shell fragments.
Punakaiki is noted for its Pancake Rock, a unique geological formation of compressed layers of heavily eroded limestone resembling stacks of pancakes. The compressed layers of limestone contain calcified marine shellfish and corals. This unique natural site also boasts of “blow-holes” at high tide.
Punakaiki sand is primarily of geological origin. This sample obtained in 2023 includes larger relatively smoothed edged and coarse grained igneous and metamorphic rock along with smaller white opaque and small clear quarts sand grains.
A 2011 sample from the same area is similar but has a higher proportion of small rough edged quartz sand grains.