16 March 2010

Auckland's West Coast Beaches

All you can do is follow the lines on the twisting road while you’re surrounded by walls of native ferns and the occasional house of some lucky soul who has dropped out of city life. But, you know you are getting close when you start to get those rewarding glimpses of the big space you are looking for, the open sea.

A nice little bonus of staying in Auckland is that you can get to a number of beaches within a short drive. The pick of the bunch are less than an hour’s drive to the west. Piha, Karekare, Bethells/ Te Henga and Muriwai are four beaches, each with their own character, that are well worth the drive over the Waitakere Ranges. It’s easiest to think of the beaches in two pairs.

Piha and Karekare

The dramatic thing about arriving at these two beaches is that you drop down from above. At Piha, there is even a popular place to pull over check out the view before descending. Make your own postcards here. And, you may recognise Karekare as the beach that The Piano was filmed on.Although the West Coast beaches are known for their volcanic sand, here it is a mix of black and the more usual brown sand that provides a tiger-stripe effect in some places and is very soft underfoot. The pounding waves that produce this fine sand are also the reason that these beaches are a perfect venue for the surf competitions that happen throughout the year. Surf comp or no surf comp, it’s great to soak up the atmosphere and have a picnic. If you aren’t keen on loading up the chilly bin with your own eats, at Piha there is a small takeaway place where you can get burgers, chips and ice cream.

To get to Piha and Karekare, you point your car in the direction of Titirangi village, which is nice place to stop for breakfast, lunch or a coffee en route. There is also a small supermarket where you can pick up picnicking supplies. Immediately after Titirangi you will come to a roundabout where you veer on to the second left known as Scenic Drive. After a short drive you will see the Arataki Visitor Centre on the left which is the gateway to the Waitakeres and provides good information on local flora and fauna as well as directions to the various walks and tramps in the area. From there, keep driving until you see the turnoff on your left for Karekare, or continue on to Piha.

Muriwai and Bethell’s/ Te Henga

Muriwai is characterised by the gannet colony that exists here. You can climb up to the outcrop and look down on the migratory birds from a viewing platform. Depending on the time of year, the birds may be sitting on what seem like impossibly large eggs or flying off and back to feed the fluffy chicks, which is always fun to watch. Fishing off the rocks is fairly popular, but it is not recommended as people regularly get washed off. Instead, take a walk along the dark black, sparkly, and very hot volcanic sand. Or simply just relax and watch (or join in with!) the kite surfers.Te Henga looks and feels very wild. You emerge between two large dunes to come out to a wide, and often windswept, beach. It’s great for surfing or a dip in the briny, but do have a look at the surf lifesaver’s board before venturing in as the conditions can be a bit rough sometimes. If in doubt, there is a great lagoon that is especially fun for children. Just bear in mind that if you choose the beach on the far side of the lagoon at low tide, you may find yourself on a bit of a hike to get back at high tide. You generally need to bring your own food here, but at some times of the year there is a little caravan café that serves up good coffee and snacks.
Muriwai and Te Henga are the northernmost of the four beaches and can be accessed by going up Scenic Drive as you would for Piha, and then taking Waitakere Road to Te Henga Road for Te Henga. For Muriwai, continue on to Kumeu and travel west until you run out of road.

As with all beaches in New Zealand, on the west coast beaches what you see is not always what you get in terms of calm waters. There are a lot of dangerous rips and undertows. Be safe and swim between the flags. And if there aren’t any flags or lifeguards, it means the beach is closed so don’t risk a swim. But with a bit of common sense and a slathering of sun block, New Zealand’s clean, beautiful beaches are an experience not to be missed.

Note: While writing a recent article on Matador.com about What NOT to Do in Auckland, I realised that I really wanted to expand upon the information I gave regarding the west coast beaches. Since I'm now a student at the virtual campus of Matador U, I thought it'd make a great assignment topic. So, here it is. Fire away with feedback!


Heather said...

Interesting to learn about Auckland! I really enjoyed how you used the photos to accentuate the text.

Some suggestions:

- Maybe considering putting the info in your first paragraph at the end instead. Talking about something else you've written doesn't necessarily draw the reader in, but once they've been drawn in and have enjoyed one of your pieces, they may be ready to read another. Also, having links in your first sentence may drive your readers to click on the links and navigate away from reading the rest of your post.
- I think you could tighten up on the writing. At one point you slip into "command" mode with "Make a postcard here." It doesn't necessarily flow with the rest of the paragraph.

All the best! Looking forward to reading more of your work!

shantiwallah said...

Thanks Heather. Wow, you're quick! I think you're right about the first part being distracting. I really put that there so my usual readers weren't wondering what they heck I was on about (ie. It's not part of the article). But they can figure that out later, right?

And with regards to tightening up the writing, yup, next time I'll definitely sleep on it first.

Ann said...

I agree about rearranging the last paragraph. Putting the safety information more towards the beginning. I thoroughly enjoyed your article. I want to see and experience those beaches after reading it. The beauty is just breathtaking.

Sarah said...

That's definitely a super informative piece! I agree with Heather --the photos were a really nice touch. They helped illustrate what you were talking about, and also helped to break up a very information-heavy article.

Some suggestions from me (and take them with a grain of salt, always):

You started off very descriptive and flowy, especially in that opening paragraph about the twisting roads, but at some point, the tone switched into something a bit more "guidebook-y." There's nothing wrong with either style per se, but I thought what you started off with had a bit more personality. I like personality!

Nonetheless, I enjoyed reading about what you had to say... it definitely makes me want to go there!

shantiwallah said...

Thanks for the feedback. I'm definitely going to shift that info stuff out of the way! Sarah, it's funny you say that about me starting off "very descriptive and flowy" before getting all guidebooky. The beginning is more how I think, but I was trying to push myself to write something a bit more practical. In fact, I'd written the whole things and then went back and changed the beginning to be what it is now because it didn't feel enough like me. I might experiment in future with writing full-on "guide-booky" or not at all and see what the difference is.

CherylK said...

What great pictures!! And I really loved reading about all of it, too.

By the way, I'm passing on a blogging award to you. It's the "Over the Top" badge that I got from another blogger. I wrote about it in my latest post so I hope this is okay with you. I love your blog so I hope you'll copy and paste the badge that is in the sidebar of my blog to both of yours.

Keep writing...and keep taking photos. I am traveling vicariously through you, you know!

Rebecca said...

the extra details including directions, where to eat & walking tracks are a nice touch. great pics too!

shantiwallah said...

Thanks Cheryl and Rebecca.
Cheryl, I've left a note on your blog but thank you for the award:)

Rebecca, I'm about to get on a plane, but I'll be checking out your blog later. Looks good!