Piha

In which Miles visits Kitekite Falls and spends the weekend in Piha.

There is a gallery of 41 images below.  To view them on imgur, click here.

Kitekite Falls

I decided to visit Kitekite Falls on Sunday, a short hike near Piha, on the west coast of Auckland.  It is a short walk through dense bush, but the walking paths themselves are well maintained.

En route to Kitekite Falls
En route to Kitekite Falls

As with many walkways in New Zealand, there is a bench strategically located at a nice viewing point above the falls.  From here you can see the full height of Kitekite Falls, and the five or more different levels they descend.

Kitekite Falls
Kitekite Falls

From the bottom of the falls you can only see the lower three levels.  There is a nice pool at the bottom, but it was cold for a swim.  If I’m not mistaken, you can sometimes see eels here.

Kitekite Falls
Kitekite Falls

I had some time after returning from Kitekite Falls, so I decided to drive a few minutes to Phia Beach.  Piha Beach is just north of Karekare Beach, which I posted about recently, and shares characteristics will most of the west coast beaches.  I ended up staying at a nearby campgrounds, and continuing to explore the next day.

Piha Beach

The Tasman Sea is rough, wet, and dangerous, and so are all of the west coast beaches that I’m aware of.  Signs warn of rip tides and strong waves and other dangers, but people still venture into the water to surf or just to swim.  Too often they don’t come out of the Tasman Sea alive.  The waves come crashing in, rather than rolling in gently as they do on the Pacific Coast.

The landscape is just as rugged, if less deadly.  Piha, Karekare and other beaches on Auckland’s west coast are suddenly visible from the road, before the visitor begins a descent of some steepness to reach them.  In places cliffs line the coast, in others large rocks or bluffs provide distinctive landmarks to black sand beaches.

The light contributes to the mood of the west coast beaches as well.  After mid-day the sun begins to light the Tasman side of features like Lion Rock, leaving them dark, even silhouettes, to viewers on shore.

Piha Beach, Lion Rock in silhouette
Piha Beach, Lion Rock in silhouette

This visit to Piha Beach I explored some of the area immediately surrounding Piha Beach, and was well rewarded for the effort.

Lion Rock

Lion Rock is the identifying feature of Piha Beach.  It divides North Piha Beach from South Piha Beach.  Lion Rock is an eroded 16-million-year-old volcanic neck.  Part of Taitomo Island at the south end of South Piha Beach can at first look similar, but one quickly comes to recognize it as a smaller and lesser landmark.

South Piha Beach, Lion Rock on the right, Taitomo Island on the left
South Piha Beach, Lion Rock on the right, Taitomo Island on the left

“To Te Kawerau (a Māori tribe – Miles), Lion Rock was known as Te Piha, the name now given to the beach. Te Piha referred to the patterns of waves separating and breaking on the front of the rock, as on the prow of a canoe.

The important defensive pa, Whakaari, was on Lion Rock, and middens and terrace can be found on the buttocks and right shoulder. On the very top are terraces and pits. This was the last bastion of this citadel.”

The top of Lion Rock is closed due to unstable and unsafe conditions, but you can climb pretty high still, and the views are fantastic.

Pou to Ngati Tangiaro Taua looks over North Piha beach
Pou to Ngati Tangiaro Taua looks over North Piha beach

You can enjoy a number of pictures of different view from Lion rock in the gallery below.

Taitomo Island stops being an island at low tide, and visitors can walk through to areas south of South Piha Beach.

Taitomo Island from a track that connects with Tasman Lookout Track
Taitomo Island from a track that connects with Tasman Lookout Track

If you have Google Earth installed, it is worth a look at the geography of this area.

There are openings through the coastal cliffs, including one through Taitomo Island itself.

Hole through Taitomo Island
Hole through Taitomo Island

The Gap offers an interesting view of the Tasman and its interaction with the shore.  The waves look especially powerful crashing in through The Gap.

The Gap and the Blue Pool
The Gap and the Blue Pool

Just south of The Gap I found an opening through the cliffs that lets the Tasman roll in and form a small beach surrounded by cliffs.  I wanted to climb down to this little beach, but it looks like it would be very difficult to get back up.  Escaping via the Tasman is sure to be a very dangerous option!

Panorama of a hole in the cliffs and a small beach
Panorama of a hole in the cliffs and a small beach

I spoke with a man on Lion Rock who was working with a shovel to improve the footpath.  He mentioned an area called the Tennis Courts because it is covered with a native grass that stays very short.  He said that the Tennis Courts offer some great view of the coast.  I tried to find them, but I think I took a left when I should have taken a right.  I ended up ascending to a bluff overlooking Taitomo Island and Lion Rock, and arrived at Tasman Lookout.  These views are not to be missed.  I took Tasman Lookout Track back down to the beach.

Taitomo Island and Lion rock from a track that connects with Tasman Lookout Track
Taitomo Island and Lion rock from a track that connects with Tasman Lookout Track
Lion Rock.  It wasn't until this view, from Tasman Lookout, that I saw the similarity to a resting male lion.
Lion Rock. It wasn’t until this view, from Tasman Lookout, that I saw the similarity to a resting male lion.

After descending from Tasman Lookout I had little daylight left, and decided that further adventures at Piha would have to wait for another day.  I had managed to see more of Piha than I knew existed, and discovered that there is much more to do on my next visit just in the vicinity of Piha Beach.

The Piha website has lots of good information on the Piha area, including walks at Piha.

Enjoy the gallery of 41 images below.  To view them on imgur, click here.

2 thoughts on “Piha”

Comments are closed.