Exploring Auckland's wild west

Insider's guide

If you’re looking for a day out that gives you a taste of Auckland’s wilder side, get a group of friends together and head to Auckland’s rugged west coast. I was lucky enough to be doing just that on a warm summer’s day.

No Auckland morning is complete without a good coffee so our first stop, just 20 minutes’ drive from Auckland’s CBD, is the charming Titirangi Village. Bustling cafés, restaurants and small shops line the main street, which leads towards the striking tree-lined Lopdell House Gallery.

A 30-minute drive through the lush Waitakere Ranges and we arrive at the Piha Beach lookout. The view of the roaring white waves crashing on the black-sand beach is breathtaking, and the flourishing rainforest and cliffs behind us add to the sense that we are somewhere truly wild. From here we can see the huge Lion Rock standing majestically between Big Piha (the main stretch) and Little Piha.

We’re here this morning for a surf lesson at Piha Surf School, run by local surfer Phil Wallis. This beach is famous for its incredible surf but the waves can get rough, so we're given a thorough safety briefing before getting started. Even though most of us have never surfed before, we all manage to stand up on the boards and ride a wave – something most of us never thought we could accomplish – thanks to their hands-on approach to teaching.

After working up an appetite it’s time for lunch at Piha Beach Café. There’s a range of delights for every taste, from pies, sandwiches and salads to fresh woodfired pizzas and full cooked meals. Feeling full and relaxed after refueling, we drive to the carpark at Karekare Beach nearby and take the easy five-minute walk to Karekare Falls. The only word that comes to mind is magical, and it’s no wonder this beautiful waterfall was one of the backdrops for the Oscar-winning film The Piano.

Our next stop is the Arataki Visitor Centre, the gateway to the Waitakere Ranges. The centre is full of information, maps and guides – as well as live geckos and wetas, a mini cinema playing a short film about the area and a number of viewing platforms in all directions. The sweeping views back to the city are nothing short of spectacular, with the Sky Tower lining up exactly in front of Rangitoto Island – emphasising the sheer size of both of them. The park ranger and friendly staff at the centre are there to help out visitors, so as well as finding out more about the rainforest that surrounds us, we get some advice on the walking trails. There are a number of walks around the ranges of varying lengths and difficulties, so you can explore the rainforest whatever your fitness level, even if you’re short on time.

The choice of activities seems endless in and around Auckland’s west coast, and there’s only so much you can fit into a day. But we think we’ve filled in a day pretty well with memories that will no doubt last a lifetime.

By Kate, Marketing Team - Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development