Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand and the most heavily populated area in the country, with almost the same number of people as the entire of the South Island combined. Despite the urban environment, Auckland has some of the most majestic beaches in the entire country and countless options for relaxing getaways.
Auckland West Coast Beaches
Piha and Muriwai are the key West Coast surf beaches and are known for their dramatic scenery, wild waves and black sands. They are 40-60 minutes’ drive from the central Auckland through the windy roads of Waitakere ranges. A 10-15 of steep downhill finally leads you the famous beaches. Piha and Muriwai are very popular for their perfect surfing and spectacular hiking. There are caves, hidden pathways and lots of natural secrets to find.
As you descend into the west coast from the highest point of Waitakeres the surreal view of massive rock, surrounded by crashing waves appears. It’s the Lion’s rock of Piha beach, so called because of its resemblance to a lying lion looking at the ocean. There’s a trail leading all the way to the top for the magnificent rock, for those who want to explore it.
Piha is famous for its surfing; sign up for a surf class, if you’re newbie.
For a break, get some famous local Fish’n’chips at the beach eatery and just chill.
And be careful in the water – this beach is notorious for accidents (check out the TV show Piha rescue). Watch out for rip-tides and, if not sure, always consult a lifeguard.
Canyoning at Piha
For some adventurous afternoon, explore the option of canyoning and stream-bashing in Waitakeres. Canyoning usually involves rappelling of steep canyons and waterfalls, while stream-bashing is a popular and fun New Zealand variation of it, where you follow down a stream, jumping of waterfalls and sliding down natural water-slides. Of course, it is important to make sure the route you are choosing is safe to canyon and stream-bash. Always check for hidden obstacles before leaping of a waterfall. The safest spot to aim for, when cliff jumping of a waterfall is where the falling water hits the water pool below, as the falling water forms a deep hole under.
Muriwai is north from Piha and is just breath-taking – miles of black sand shore line engulfed by powerful crashing waves and hazy horizons, probably one of the most surreal beaches in the country. The forests at the Muriwai beach are perfect for running or cross-country cycling. An unusual, but very popular activity in the area – dune jumping, is a must try. Just run and leap of the tall steep dunes and let the sand cushion your fall.
Auckland East Coast Beaches
East coast North Shores beaches are more peaceful than the West Coast ones. They are perfect for swimming, as the waves are small and the waters are usually warmer. There are a number of beaches on the East Coast of Auckland that are a short driving distance away from the city, which makes these places – popular destinations for picnics and chill afternoons out.
Narrow Neck beach – is a golden beach with a view of the Rangitoto Island. Enjoy kayaking, fishing or sipping smoothies at a cosy beach café. Visit Devonport for lunch or coffee or just a walk, while you are in the area.
Long Beach – further out, but worth the drive. It’s a very popular locals’ destination for summer outings with friends.
Waiheke is a beautiful wine and beach island just a 30-40 min ferry ride from Auckland. Waiheke is best known for its vineyards and wineries and many people go there for vineyard and fine dining tours. Waiheke’s unique island climate and soil has produced a number of interesting wines, which in combination with the culture of excellence makes a very special destination. In addition to wine, Waiheke is also a prime beach destination, with rich birdlife and native forests.
New Zealand is relatively young land with a number of still active volcanoes in its territory. Rangitoto – a prominent feature visible from Auckland East Coast is a volcanic island only a 30 min ferry ride away. It’s a very unique location, with rugged exposed volcanic rock dominating the slopes, vegetation is resilient, able to survive in the rocky soils of Rangitoto. It has the largest pōhutukawa (a local New Zealand tree) forest in the world and due to recent predator-control efforts; these are now inhabited with increasing numbers of local birds. One of the trails leads you all the way to the top of the island from which incredible scenery of Auckland coast unfolds.
Coromandel Peninsula is a paradise just 2-hours’ drive away from Auckland city. It’s a combination of mountains, beaches and misty forests, full of opportunities to hike and relax. A very unique activity not to miss is the Coromandel Pinnacles hike. It’s a short two day hike that can also be done in one. The reason why most people choose to do it overnight is the majestic views that unfold during the sunrise on the highest point of the hike – the pinnacles. Most people stay at the hut, located just below the pinnacles and climb to the top just before the sunrise. Take a cooking stove and make some coffee to greet the morning in the proper way.
Coromandel’s beach culture is truly chill; people come here to leave their phones and watches behind and just rise and sleep with the sun. A very unique feature about Coromandel’s beaches is the phosphorescence in water, making the water appear silvery in motion. Just imagine soaking in silvery glitter-like water under bright stars. Finally there are some natural hot pools at the beach, so if you don’t find the ocean waves warm enough, just go on a personal pool to soak in.
In conclusion, Auckland and the surrounding areas are incredibly diverse and truly unique. Everyone will find their favourite spot (or a few), and as long as you will be searching, you will always find something new and hidden.