If you only have time to visit one of Auckland’s many West Coast beaches while you’re in town, Piha is it. From the black sand to the dunes to the wild waves, Piha Beach is a quintessential Kiwi oasis. First things first: you will need a car to get there. Piha is situated off the beaten track, roughly a 45-minute drive from the city. It’s pretty clearly sign-posted once you get past Titirangi Village, but be careful on the roads—there are a few tight corners on your way out there. It’s worth noting that Titirangi Village is home to the last petrol station before you get to the coast, so make sure you’re all gassed up on the way through. Head out on a sunny morning and spend the whole day swimming, surfing and sunbathing; there is no lack of things to see and do. Turning left at the bottom of Piha Road, you’ll find yourself in the carpark at the gateway to South Piha. There is a small store here that sells all your picnicking essentials, from hot chips and burgers to milkshakes and ice creams.
The beach is breathtaking. Wild water from the Tasman Sea crashing onto sprawling black sand that goes further that your eyes can see. The predominant feature of this ethereal landscape is Lion Rock – named for its unique shape – forming the natural halfway point between North and South Piha. Climb to the top of this weathered old king (about a 15-minute uphill trek) and see even more of this beautiful slice of New Zealand. If you are in the mood for walking, hike over the Hikurangi hill at the South end of the beach and down to secluded Mercer Bay, or take the easy 40-minute stroll from the east end of Glen Esk Road to the stunning Kitekite Falls and enjoy a fresh-water dip in the pool to cool off.
Piha is also home to a camp ground and a couple of lodge accommodations if you’re looking to stay for a few days. Keep in mind that Piha is not a very populous town—there is only one store, a couple of eateries and the historic Piha RSA, which is open for dinner seven days a week.
Top Tip Always, always, always, always, ALWAYS swim between the flags. Piha can be very unsafe at times, and if you aren’t a confident swimmer, it’s best not to go in past your waist. Don’t ever underestimate the power of the ocean. And don’t forget your sunblock and flip flops—black sand gets very hot in the sun.