Located only 40km outside of Auckland City there is no excuse not to escape to the fresh air and relaxation Piha Beach has to offer, because let's be honest there's nothing quite like leaving the city in order to head directly to a beach.
Famous for being the surf spot of New Zealand, the unforgiving currents of the pacific ocean ensure that swimming and surfing can often be a little dangerous, so the lifeguards at the beach are serious when they ask you to swim between the flags! However, Piha Beach can offer much more than surf alone.
KiteKite Falls & Waitakere Ranges
When arriving in the area, instead of heading directly to the beach take some time to head inland slightly for a leisurely walk into the Waitakere ranges, notably the Kitekite track. This walk takes around twenty minutes through a vibrant range of native plants and trees until you reach the Kitekite falls, an impressive, hidden away three tier waterfall. The trees shelter you from the wind and even though the water is freezing it is worth forcing yourself in as the sun warms you the moment you get out and you are then ready to hit the black sand beach.
Lion Rock at Piha Beach
The black sand beach is impressive in itself and regardless of the wind will most definitely warm your feet and is perfect for soaking up some vitamin D overlooked by the spectacular Lion Rock. Walking up the rock is not as daunting as it looks from down on the beach. The steps will take you roughly 15 minutes and depending upon the time of year you can either go straight to the top or to a level near to the top. Either way you get spectacular views of Piha beach, but don't be stupid, people have been seriously injured by not adhering to the rules in place.
After all of this activity you can treat yourself to a bite to eat at one of the reasonably priced eateries in Piha itself. Fish and chips, burgers and usual seaside food can be found, or you could just pop to the local shop.
After a very good feed you can either park your van and watch the afternoon fly by into the sunset and then into the following sunrise, or head back to the city feeling fresh and relaxed. Either way a visit to Piha Beach to escape the usual city life is not to be missed.
Black Sand Beaches NZ
The black sand is due to New Zealand being a fairly volcanic place, the sand is a mixture of volcanic sand and iron oxide. Being black, the sand gets hot quickly so always take footwear because you will burn the soles of your feet if you're not careful!
The are other black sand beaches to be found in NZ and many are close to Piha Beach. Check out Karekare beach, the famous setting for the film The Piano, it's smaller and quieter than Piha Beach and you can find it by following the signposted turnoff on Piha Road. Bethells Beach is just north, also a smaller beach than Piha but with a lagoon and some (often challenging) sand dunes. Bethells Rd, which takes you here, is located off Scenic Drive. Muriwai is a bit further north again but well worth a visit for it's absolutely stunning coastline.
If you enjoy Piha, and the black sand, then explore more of the Waitakere Ranges, like maybe going hiking in Whatipu, where you'll experience fabulous views and more black sand beaches!
Main image: Kiwi Flickr