Can you really swim nude in New Zealand?

Summer is here, and if you’d rather not run into nude bathers on the beach (or, perhaps, would like to join them), it pays to know just where to head for a dip in the sea.

For many, it comes as a surprise to realise that, actually, nude bathing isn’t generally forbidden in our country (although you would be wise to check that out with your local council before you pack your sun umbrella and deck chair). What the law does mention is that being naked on a beach is permissible providing it is an activity that is known to happen there.  To help you figure out just where those ‘happening’ beaches are, Free Beaches New Zealand offers a helpful website which gives a sizeable list of nude-bathing beaches in both islands. And if you want to be extra careful to avoid nude bathing, or be sure not to miss out on the opportunity, the website also lists various clothes-free events. Fortunately, Free Beaches New Zealand tends to follow the very sensible practise of erecting ‘Bare on the Beach’ flags to alert other beach users of its activities. And it encourages beach-goers to report any unseemly or suspicious behaviour they may encounter.

Nude bathing isn’t exactly new to New Zealand, either, with one of our more well known nude-bathing beaches (Ladies Bay in St Hellier’s, Auckland) having been on the clothes-free radar for decades. In recent times it has been made more accessible to bathers via a wide timber staircase which leads down from Cliff Road.

Nude bathing is also not a New Zealand-only activity. In fact, Kiwis are less likely than many others around the world to want to go without togs. In Japan, nude bathing is an accepted form of recreation that can still be found at natural hot spring sites (called ‘onsen’) around the country. Traditionally, men and women took these deliciously hot soaks together, but nowadays, the bathing times are arranged so that the different genders bathes separately. For those who are feeling a little uncomfortable with naked bathing, a small ‘modesty towel’ is provided, and can be used discreetly while moving from one hot pool to another. When not in use, it’s politic to place it on your head!

In Germany, anything to do with health is revered, so we shouldn’t be surprised to find that nude bathing is an accepted custom on many beaches there. Having said that, there is usually a designated area where bathers can go togs-free – and when you find it, you’ll be surprised to discover that body image goes out the window – all ages and body shapes feel equally at home.

Koreans enjoy their jimjilbang (bathhouses) so much that entering them in the nude is the last thing on their minds. A vigorous scrub down is mandatory but after that, the heated rooms and hot and cold pools are there to be enjoyed. Some guests even stay overnight!

Whether or not you want to bare it all, we hope you find a beach to suit your tastes this summer!