Muriwai Gannet Colony day trip, what to do: travel guide
Muriwai Beach and the cliff top gannet colony day exploration. A day exploring Muriwai beach village, a relaxed walk on the beach and the highlight is the gannet colony. Consider the Te Henga beach to Muriwai walk as an introduction to Muriwai. 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 can be a hazard.
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.
Muriwai Beach and the gannets.
Soaring cliffs, rugged coast and hues of black and grey provide the backdrop for the gannets annual breeding season. Between August and March witnesses hundreds of gannets raise chicks within a few metres of tourists gawping at the sheer density of birds. The place stinks of bird poop and it is magical at the same time. As the birds don’t mind the stench, and it is their home I am not going to complain.
To access the gannets you will be walking along the headland between Maukatia / Maori Bay and Muriwai beach. The track leads through a short section of regenerating bush towards two lookout points. It is worthwhile to visit both lookout points as your view of the gannets and coast has differing angles. This is especially important for our instagram photo moments.
The regenerating pohutukawa made for a brilliant Christmas splash of red colour in late spring. You will observe volcanic pillow lava and where the ocean has eroded the lava to form sea geysers which are spectacular in an incoming tide.
Gannet colony access is either from main beach or Waitea Rd where there is a large car park. Waitea Rd access is not the steep staircase climb of the main beach. It is on the tourist bus route and large numbers of people can make the viewing platforms feel crowded. Reversing your day with an early viewing between 8.00 to 9.00am of the gannets while greatly lessening the tourist hot spot feel.Numerous gannets pivoting, preening and diving makes for a bird watch highlight. Of course there is the odour of bird poop, just ignore nature’s calling card and enjoy the views.
Numerous gannets pivoting, preening and diving makes for a bird watch highlight. Of course there is the odour of bird poop, just ignore nature’s calling card and enjoy the views.
Look out for white fronted terns, blue penguins and the occasional fur seal. Oaia Island 1.5km off the coast is a known resting spot for seals. Binoculars recommended.
From Waitea Rd car park access is an easy ten minute walk. Public toilets are located in car parks. Access is recommended from the upper car park on Waitea Rd. Access via Muriwai beach crosses slippery rocks where high tide comes perilously close to being dangerous due to surging wave action.
What is the best time to visit the gannets?
Spring August – October mating ritual display with outstretched wings, tender cheek rubs.
December observe parents feeding chicks. March observe adults swoop and dive into the ocean for fish. Witness bonding and greeting of returning parent laden with food.
Autumn / Winter Wild roaring, swelling surf beaches looking untamed. Landscapes gleaming with water shine and lush green foliage. Gannets have departed. Check out the cafes in Titirangi as well as the gallery. Enjoy the solitude of being one of few people on the beach.
After the gannets explore the beach and the regional park. There are a number of walking tracks behind Ōtakamiro Point. Muriwai Beach is a surfing beach with hang gliders, surf lifeguards, cafes and toilet facilities.
Return to Auckland via Coatesville-Riverhead Hwy, Dairy Flat Hwy and State Highway 1 to Auckland. Perhaps a leisurely late lunch / early dinner at the historic Riverhead Tavern is a great way to finish your road trip.