Being based just outside Auckland is ideal for exploring the North Island.
We have access to the main highways of each compass point and in our first few weeks we made good use of this getting to know the area around us. One such adventure took us west, to the wild and wonderful landscapes of the coastline here, home to some of the best and also most dangerous surf beaches in the whole of New Zealand.
Along winding highways through the coastal forest of the Waitakere Ranges regional park we made our way to the small coastal town of Piha. Piha is renowned for its strong rip currents, big wave surfing and strong under currents. So much so it has been made star of its own series Piha rescue! On a day that showcased these worrying attributes we decided a shallow paddle was all the sea we needed, even then a freak wave made us run back in shore to avoid a drenching. At the Southern end of the beach sits the towering Lion Rock, the eroded neck of a volcano that erupted 16 million years ago it is an iconic sight of the North Island.
Most of the west coast is also famous for its volcanic black sand beaches, Piha is no exception to this bordered by black sand dunes. We were unprepared for how hot the black sand gets in the sun, hot footing it across like a pair of desert lizards! The sea was a welcome relief for our feet and we wandered along the water’s edge taking in the beautiful landscape and surrounding forest.
A short drive from Piha is the famous Karekare beach which featured in the Oscar winning film from 1993; The Piano, accessible by heading back through the ranges down a seemingly endless winding road, we even passed a ‘chickens crossing’ road sign! With just a small car park in the forest the beach remains unseen until the big reveal as you follow a stream out on to the sand. A real stunner of a beach the black sand stretches as far as the eye can see and is surrounded by rugged cliffs at either end, and rising forest at its back. Had you washed up from the sea there would be little to indicate you hadn’t just been stranded on a desert island, natural beauty at its best. The dramatic scenery includes another stand alone rock formation but this time at the end of the stream leading to the beach and away from the water’s edge. It seemed as though we almost had the place to ourselves and we enjoyed a peaceful bit of sunbathing before wandering along the beach. Looking back along the quiet beach, as the tide went out, the wet black sand was like a mirror with the dramatic landscape replicating in reflection.
A beautiful day on the west coast we feel very lucky to experience this wonderful landscape as locals and will hopefully get back to enjoy the scenery many times during our time here.
A slightly off the beaten track visit for any tourists so a real kiwi treasure, saying that if you are headed over this way we would definitely recommend you make the drive to add it to your itinerary.