With its pristine native bush, coastal rainforest and rugged black sand beaches, Auckland's west coast is a natural playground for visitors to explore. With hundreds of walking tracks and some of New Zealand's best surf beaches, it's easy to get active and discover the natural beauty - and it's all within a 40 minute drive from downtown Auckland.
Safety note: Beaches in Auckland can be dangerous. Here are some guidelines for your safety in the surf.
Karekare is one of Auckland's most spectacular beaches, its isolation adding to its stunning natural beauty. Part of the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, Karekare was made famous by the Oscar winning movie 'The Piano'.
A windswept rugged coastline stretching 60 kilometres makes Muriwai one of New Zealand's most spectacular black sand surf beaches. At its southern end, Otakamiro Point is the site of one of this country's few mainland gannet (takapu) breeding colonies.
Piha is one of Auckland's most famous west coast black sand beaches. Part of the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, Piha is a popular spot for swimmers and surfers, surrounded by rugged cliffs and with the majestic Lion Rock standing guard over the beach, the scenery is awe inspiring.
Te Henga - Bethells
Te Henga or Bethells Beach is another beach in the Waitakere Ranges well worth a visit. Here you will also find behind the sand dunes, Lake Wainamu - a popular swimming alternative to the rough west coast surf.
South of Karekare on the shore of the Manukau Harbour, Whatipu is a spectacular area of black sand beach, coastal dunes and wetlands. The beach is not as busy as the other west coast beaches, and is a scientific reserve owned by DOC and managed by ARC - no dogs permitted.
Maori Bay is to the south of Muriwai, separated by steep cliffs and the rock nesting area home to the gannet colony. The exposed beach break has reliable surf year round, and is also great for parasailing and hang gliding when the westerly wind provides favourable conditions.
Located to the north of Piha, Anawhata is reached by a long narrow unsealed road and then a a very steep track down to the beach, making it one of the least used beaches in the area.
White's Beach is situated at the northern end of North Piha, accessible only by foot over Te Waha Point. Following the steep Laird Thompson Track over the headland, you can look out over Fisherman's Rock.
A stunning stretch of west coast with a broad black sand beach with tall cliffs overhead, perfect for a range of activities including hang gliding, surf fishing, wind sailing or climbing the giant sand hills. Be aware of vehicles as it is possible to drive on the beach and is classed as a highway.
Located near Kariotahi, Hamilton's Gap is not so well known so it is usually relatively empty. Surrounded by massive sand dunes, with the Manukau Heads in the distance, a creek must be crossed to reach the ocean - which can easily be done in your 4x4. It is quite often windy on this stretch of sand so will usually have decent waves for surfing.
Immediately to the south of Piha, Mercer Bay is only accessible by foot on the Mercer Bay Loop track near Te Ahua Point.
Stroll over Erangi Point headland at the norhern end of Bethells Beach to O'Neill Bay. The Bay is only accessible by foot, and is a 2km (45 minute) walk from Bethells Road. The track is mostly well looked after, however some sections may be steep, rough and/or muddy.
Wigmore Bay and Whakatu Bay
Located around Raeakiaki Point, at the southern end of Bethells Beach, is Wigmore Bay. Carry on further around Momori Point and you will reach Whakatu Bay. There are no walking tracks or roads to either Bay - accessible by sea only.
Part of the Waitakere Ranges, Cornwallis is a popular, safe spot for family picnics and swimming. Be sure to visit the 200m long restored Cornwallis wharf, the last of the Manukau's 16 ferry wharves. The wharf is a very popular fishing spot.
A short distance down a winding, unsealed road bordered by lush tree ferns to this hidden treasure. A secluded, sandy beach and grassy picnic area surrounded only by sub-tropical trees and pristine water