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Travel guide

Auckland West Coast Beaches attractions, places to go

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Guide to where wild meets west

Discover the wild side of Auckland. West coast beaches are a mere 1 hour drive from Auckland and a must-go road trip. For visitors meet where the Tasman Sea surges and roars onto boundless deep black-sand beaches. It is mind-numbing with its rugged glory. Beyond the Waitakere Ranges volcanic rock has weathered and washed into the ocean. Consistent regular pounding, over millions of years, has created iron black dunes. The sand composition is a super conductor of heat with your feet sizzling on a warm summer’s day.

Waitakere Ranges near Karekare Beach, New Zealand
Waitakere Ranges near Karekare Beach

Weather

Auckland west coast is characterised by changeable weather. A rugged coastline exposed to the westlies sweeping across the Tasman ocean means clothing layers and wet weather in the backpack. TIP: Protection for your lens as the wind can whip sand in the air.

Best time to visit

Spring for bird watching, being fascinated by gannets mothering their chicks and the constant cycle of feeding ravenous open mouths.

Summer try a picnic on the beach and ignore the fact that your sandwich might end up with fine gritty ironsand.

Winter, wild west time when you are rugged up in water proof layers watching the dedicated wet suited surfer in winter battle mode riding the biting cold mountainous curled waves. Perhaps a favourite time as nature is in charge of the look, the atmosphere and its all about the landscape.

Getting there

Auckland to West Coast Beaches: Follow the road to Titirangi then continue following the signs West Coast Beaches.

Highlights:

  • memorising symphony of surging ocean tides against the iron sands
  • colour palette of greys, blues and white
  • intrepid surfers
  • grandeur of cliffs, the sea and coastal vegetation
  • brisk walks bringing you closer to the landscape
Fluffy Bunny Tails at Piha, West Auckland, New Zealand
Fluffy Bunny Tails at Piha

Auckland West Coast Beaches

The beaches are characterised by iron black sands, and elemental ocean currents. The ocean is not placid, nor is it calm or inviting.  The Auckland west coast ocean is a daunting challenge to the senses.  The ocean is hypnotic, rhythmic fury with foaming salty suds. The ocean seems unwilling to leave, a stray surge can swirl up to your knees unexpectedly taking you off guard.  It is a place where the average swimmer should be wary and definitely only swim between the lifeguard flags.  No flags, no swimming.

Except for the intrepid local surfers who daily challenge nature to throw its best at their surfboard and the wet suited clad surfer.  Your heart is in your mouth hoping the surfer knows the elements and will make it safely to shore.

The well known beaches are Piha beach, Muriwai Beach, Te Henga or Bethells beach, Karekare Beach, Whatipu Beach, Anawhata and Karioitahi beaches. The beaches support a thread of small communities living on the rugged wild west coast. Explore the West Coast settlements of Piha, Muriwai, Bethells beaches and the Waitakere Ranges hillside community, Titirangi.

The beaches are not the gold standard of the Coromandel or white powdery beaches of Sydney’s coastline. You are in for nature at its most raw. High drama, spectacle and the sheer power of water as it meets the challenge of the land. You feel as though the ocean is winning the battle of land versus the sea. There are regular summer lifeguards at Piha Beach, for the other beaches check local conditions before entering the water.

Towns of the Auckland West Coast Beaches

WAITAKERE RANGES WALKS – AUCKLAND

Due to track closures a detailed summary of the tracks in the Waitakere Ranges is not supplied. Contact the Regional Information Centre either by phone or email or in person for accurate up to date data.  See our travel pack information for contact details.

Te Henga beach to Muriwai walk is a cliff top introduction to the Waitakere Ranges and the west coast beaches. The Te Henga walk to Muriwai – 10km, parts of the walk are steep.  Bonus views of iron sands gives you tantalizing views of the majesty of Muriwai.  This walk is a glorious exercise with spectacular coastal views around every corner.  Remember to bring protection for your camera with wind blown particles a hazard at times.

Te Henga Lifeguard dogs, West Auckland, New Zealand Te Henga Lifeguard dogs
Te Henga iron sand dunes, West Auckland, New Zealand Te Henga iron sand dunes

Te Henga Walkway: Muriwai and Te Henga area, Auckland region.

Time and distance:

  • Bethells Road to O’Neill’s Bay: 2.1 km / 40 min one way
  • Bethells Road to Raetahinga Point: 4.1 km / 1 hr 20 min one way
  • Bethells Road to Constable Road: 10.3 km / 3 hr 20 min one way

Track categories:

The Bethells Road to Raetahinga Point section is categorised as Easy: Walking track.

From Raetahinga Point to Constable Road the track is Intermediate: Easier tramping track.

Track description:

The track follows coastal cliffs and is rutted and steep in sections. It becomes slippery after periods of rain. Take care around old slip sites.

Black sand dunes above lake Wainamu, West Auckland, New Zealand
Black sand dunes above lake Wainamu

From Bethells Road the Te Henga Walkway crosses the Waitakere River by footbridge, rising along a graded section, to superb views of lagoons, dunes and the west coast surf down to O’Neill’s Bay, where you can return along Bethells Beach.

To continue along Te Henga Walkway, the track climbs steeply then follows along the cliff-top where you may see gannets diving for fish. The track exits through a farm valley and another steep climb to Constable Road. Care is needed on this track, which traverses coastal cliffs and is uneven and muddy in places.

TIP: For walkers who only want to walk one way is to get a companion to drive to Muriwai for your pickup.

TIP: Check out the weather conditions before commencing the walk

Information and a recommended initial stop

Arataki (Waitakere) Information Centre (toilet facilities) location 300 Scenic Drive, Oratia

Spectacular views. Large windows, outdoor balconies and helpful staff make for an ideal ‘where are we going’ stop. Maps, guides are free together with the usual NZ souvenirs available in our Information Centres. There is a framed view of the Waitakere Ranges for instagrammers. The Centre has extensive toilet facilities as it is a conference favourite for local meetings.  There is no cafe on site.

Remember to check Information Centre opening hours on their website.

Waitakere's information centre, West Auckland, New Zealand
Waitakere's information centre
@castawaysresort
@castawaysresort

Accommodation ranges from luxury

Castaways Resort – Weddings, Conferences, Accommodation, Dining, Day Spa, Adventures, Glam Camping Karioitahi Beach cliff top to camping sites to remote regional park houses for rent (complete with a hike to get to them).

TRAVEL PACK INFORMATION

Waitakere Information Centre instagram frame, West Auckland, New Zealand
Waitakere Information Centre instagram frame

The journey is worth it.

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