Tag Archives: Piha

West coast beaches on New Years Eve

On New Years Eve I had the opportunity to act as a tour guide.  I usually try to go someplace I’ve never seen, but as tour guide I opted for the safe and familiar and sure to please – a pair of Auckland’s famous west coast beaches.

Any good tour guide will treat the uninitiated to a view from above Piha Beach on the way in.  Search “Piha” to see several posts about this great icon among Auckland’s west coast beaches.

Piha Beach - west coast beaches
Piha Beach

It has become normal for summer to start late in New Zealand, especially perhaps in Auckland.  December didn’t offer any consistent summer weather, but there were some hot sunny days, and we even managed to string a few together toward the end of the month.  The last day of 2016 was one of the beautiful ones.

We went directly, if leisurely, to Lion Rock for a walk to the top and another overview of Piha Beach.

Lion Rock
Lion Rock

Aucklanders abandon the city between the middle of December and the middle of January as much of the country goes on holiday.  Last year was my first Christmas in Auckland, but I joined the exodus just after Christmas.  2107 would be my first New Year in Auckland.

Piha Beach south of Lion Rock
Piha Beach south of Lion Rock

Depending on where you are, the changes can be subtle. The crowd doesn’t look like much in the pictures above and below.  And I’m sure these beaches get much more crowded.  But it was very easily the most people I’ve ever seen at Piha Beach, or any of the west coast beaches.

At the top of Lion Rock I snapped my 40,000th picture with the digital camera I’m currently using.

Piha Beach north of Lion Rock - west coast beaches
Piha Beach north of Lion Rock

There’s much more to do at Piha, but it was a hot day and I had a shady spot in mind for lunch.  We walked along the beach to return to my car, and set out for the second of the day’s west coast beaches.

The carpark at Karekare Beach suggested even bigger crowds than at Piha.  Search “Karekare” for my posts about another of Auckland’s great west coast beaches.

Karekare Stream - west coast beaches
Karekare Stream

We didn’t head immediately toward the beach, but inland, across the bridge on Lone Kauri Road, to Karekare Falls.

Karekare Falls - west coast beaches
Karekare Falls

This picture from 2015 shows what I had in mind.  The picnic table wasn’t there on New Year’s Eve, so we made do with the low branches.

Karekare Falls picnic area in 2015 - west coast beaches
Karekare Falls picnic area in 2015
Karekare Falls picnic area in 2016 - west coast beaaches
Karekare Falls picnic area in 2016

After we arrived the area quickly filled with people.  Some took the opportunity to go for a swim.  The pool offers a calm alternative to the hazards of the Tasman Sea found at Auckland’s west coast beaches.

Karekare Falls- west coast beaches
Karekare Falls

After lunch we took the Pohutukawa Glade Walk to Karekare Beach.

Pohutukawa Glade Walk - west coast beaches
Pohutukawa Glade Walk

A walk in the waves in bare feet was highly refreshing.  But the black sand, where it wasn’t wet, was extremely hot.

Karekare Beach - west coast beaches
Karekare Beach

Walking in Karekare Stream back to the carpark was an outstanding solution to the hot sand problem.

Karekare Stream, Karekare Beach - west coast beaches
Karekare Stream, Karekare Beach

I concluded the tour with a visit to the Arataki Visitor Centre.  See my post on the visitor center for many more of the fantastic views of Auckland available there.

Auckland CBD and Sky Tower from the Waitakere Ranges Visitor Centre
Auckland CBD and Sky Tower, and Rangitoto Island,  from the Arataki Visitor Centre

For anyone who hasn’t seen Auckland’s west coast beaches, a tour like this can’t miss.  Home-cooked Mexican food with kiwi beer followed by brief and uninspired fireworks from the Sky Tower, viewed from a crowded to capacity Sulphur Beach, brought us to the end of 2016.

You can view the full gallery of 13 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

The Big Smoke

I haven’t personally ever heard Auckland referred to as “The Big Smoke”.  But over the course of last summer, traveling around the South Island, I got to hear a lot of what kiwis outside of Auckland think about New Zealand‘s largest city.

Harbor Bridge and Sky Tower
Harbor Bridge and Sky Tower from Birkenhead Warf

A while back I was having drinks with a native Aucklander who was having endless fun with all of the many easily ridiculed aspects of the USA – easier than usual after the 2016 elections.  Eventually I reminded him that the term “JAFA” is used in the rest of New Zealand to mean both “Just Another F*cking American” and “Just Another F*cking Aucklander” …that for the rest of New Zealand, Aucklanders and Americans are kind of in the same category.  His response was a surprised “You get that!”

Guide books more or less advise tourists to sleep off the jet lag, buy any needed supplies, and head out of Auckland.  But Auckland is part of New Zealand, and it is highly underrated.

Central Auckland at night
Central Auckland at night from Bayswater Marina

In Defense of Auckland

I don’t really want to get into the list of negatives attributed to Auckland, or even to defend Auckland from those claims.  Fortunately, I’m able to link to a blog post that does that beautifully.  It is better in many ways than anything I could have written.  It offers a native’s perspective* on the debate, and offers insight on how taboo it is to say anything positive about Auckland, among kiwis outside of Auckland.  Consensus is enforced by browbeating on a number of topics in New Zealand, and this article offers some insight into this aspect of kiwi culture.

Most importantly, the link above tells us in detail what non-Aucklanders think of Auckland, and does a good job of setting the record straight.

I couldn’t have said it better.  But maybe I can add something to it.

* (Correction!  StoriesThatAreTrue is a travel blog written by Gemma Tarlach, an author (and much more) from the USA.)

Rangitoto Island from Narrow Neck Beach
Rangitoto Island from Narrow Neck Beach

More Than Just a City

It is important to point out that Auckland is the name for both a city with a population of 1,454,300, which constitutes 32 percent of New Zealand’s population, and one of the sixteen regions of New Zealand, with by far the biggest population and economy of any region of New Zealand, but the second-smallest land area.

I have never heard anyone mention this distinction though.  For Aucklanders, other kiwis, tourists… for everyone I’ve ever met… Auckland is Auckland.

Both city and region are governed by the Auckland Council, which began operating on 1 November 2010, combining the functions of the previous regional council and the region’s seven city and district councils into one “super council” governing a “super city”.  This is probably the most important blurring of any remaining distinctions between city and region.

Auckland is about the size of The Greater Los Angeles Area, with fewer than 2 million people.

Rangitoto Island and the Sky Tower from the Waitakere Ranges
Rangitoto Island and the Sky Tower from the Waitakere Ranges

What Else Is Auckland?

Auckland is New Zealand – a place of awesome natural beauty.

Auckland is Piha.

Lion Rock, Piha Beach, Te Waha Point in the distance
Lion Rock, Piha Beach, Te Waha Point in the distance

Auckland is also Whatipu.

Whatipu Beach
Whatipu Beach

Auckland is all of the other great west coast Tasman Sea beaches well.

O'Neill Beach and Bethell's Beach
O’Neill Beach and Bethell’s Beach

Auckland is Tawharanui.

Tawharanui Open Sanctuary
Tawharanui Open Sanctuary

Auckland is all of the east coast, Pacific Ocean and Hauraki Gulf beaches, like Pakiri Beach in the north.

Pakiri Beach
Pakiri Beach

Auckland is Tawhitokino Beach on the southeast coast.

Tawhitokino Beach
Tawhitokino Beach

Auckland is the forests and mountains of the Waitakere Ranges in the west.

Waitakere Dam
Waitakere Dam

Auckland is the mountains and bush of the Hunua Ranges in the east.

Cosseys Reservoir in the Hunua Ranges
Cosseys Reservoir in the Hunua Ranges

In the past 2 years I’ve taken you to almost all of Auckland’s 34 Regional Parks, and I’ve recently created a page to help you navigate my many posts about those parks.  Follow the link above for 34 beautiful things that Auckland is.

There are few things I’ve enjoyed more than the North Shore Coastal Walk, with its rock shelves and tree-lined cliffs and constant changing views of Rangitoto Island.

Browns Bay, Auckland
Browns Bay, Auckland

Rangitoto Island is not just a nice bit of scenery visible from Auckland, Rangitoto Island is Auckland!  Rangitoto is a beautiful place to visit, and returns the favor by offering fantastic views of the city.

Devonport, CBD and Harbor Bridge from Rangitoto Island
Devonport, CBD and Harbor Bridge from Rangitoto Island

Auckland is Waiheke Island.

Matiatia Bay on Waiheke Island
Matiatia Bay on Waiheke Island

Because Auckland is also a large city you get interesting cultural events in beautiful natural settings, like Sculpture on the Gulf on Waiheke Island.

Sculpture on the Gulf, Waiheke Island
Sculpture on the Gulf, Waiheke Island

Because Auckland is a very diverse city it offers events like the Lantern Festival, one of many opportunities to enjoy Chinese culture in New Zealand.

Auckland Lantern Festival
Auckland Lantern Festival

Many ethnic groups from all corners of the world have a presence in Auckland, making it by far the country’s most cosmopolitan city. Europeans make up the majority of Auckland’s population, however substantial numbers of Māori, Pacific Islander and Asian peoples exist as well. Auckland has the largest Polynesian population of any city in the world.
Wikipedia

I haven’t been to Auckland’s Pasifika Festival.  I’ll try to remedy that in 2017.

Cook Island dancers at Auckland's Pasifica Festival
Cook Island dancers at Auckland’s Pasifica Festival – from Wikimedia Commons

Auckland has the spectacular Auckland Civic Theatre.  I’ll have to remember to post about this awesome place.

The Civic
The Civic

Auckland may not have the wildlife that the South Island has.  But it does have a great array of New Zealand’s native birds.

Tui
Tui

And naturalized birds as well.

Eastern rosella
Eastern rosella

I did meet a young seal on the coast below JFK Park.

Seal
Seal

There is a lone leopard seal that has moved into Auckland’s harbor.  She’s been here since at least June of 2015.

Leopard seal - from Wikimedia Commons
Leopard seal – from Wikimedia Commons

I’ve been trying to get a look at this seal, but haven’t had any luck so far.

DOC notice about Auckland's leopard seal
DOC notice about Auckland’s leopard seal

It Gets Better

I can’t really finish what I set out to do with this post, at this time – because it is possible, even likely, that I haven’t yet seen the best that Auckland has to offer.  I plan to remedy that in 2017.

I’ve booked 2 nights on Tiritiri Matangi Island, with its abundance of threatened and endangered birds and reptiles.  I look forward to the dawn chorus of native birds, and with a little luck I might get to meet little spotted kiwi, little blue penguins, tuatara, and other rare wildlife.

Little blue penguin - from tiritirimatangi.org.nz
Little blue penguins – from tiritirimatangi.org.nz

I hope to visit Kawau Island, with its four species of wallaby.

Dama wallaby - from Wikimedia Commons
Dama wallaby – from Wikimedia Commons

And kookaburra!

Kookaburra - from kawauisland.org.nz
Kookaburra – from kawauisland.org.nz

Wallaby are tenacious pests that do extensive damage to Kawau Island, but before they are eradicated, I want to see kangaroos in Auckland.  Of course Kawau Island offers a lot of native, less destructive reasons to visit as well.

I’ll post soon about my recent visit to Rangitoto Island.  Rangitoto is one huge pohutukawa forest, so I may decide to go back very soon to see them all in bloom.

Rangitoto Island
Rangitoto Island

I want to make it out to Great Barrier Island and ideally spend a couple of weeks there.

A view over the eastern coast of Great Barrier Island, from a ridge line in the center of the island
A view over the eastern coast of Great Barrier Island, from a ridge line in the center of the island – from Wikimedia Commons

Whakanewha is the only regional park I haven’t posted about, and it is located on Waiheke IslandSculpture on the Gulf is coming up, from January 26 through February 19.  There are many other places I need to visit on Waiheke as well.

The Hauraki Gulf has over 50 islands, and I plan to visit a number of others that I haven’t mentioned above.

By the middle of 2017 I hope to be a much greater authority on Auckland, and in a greatly improved position to show you what is really great about The Big Smoke!

Anawhata

Anawhata is one of those regional parks that is really mostly just a beach.  But as the Auckland Council page says “Anawhata is a spectacular beach that can only be reached by foot. Because it is less accessible, it is much quieter than other beaches in the Waitakere Ranges“.  But on the map it looks like Anawhata Road will get you very close to the beach.

Have a look at Anawhata Beach on Google Maps.

Anawhata Beach
Anawhata Beach

You can view the full gallery of 21 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

The Arataki Visitor Centre is on the way to Anawhata, so I stopped in to see what advice they could offer.  The lady told me that Anawhata Road is an 11km long narrow gravel road, that the locals drive it very fast, and to leave no valuables in my car.  These are all common to rural roads in New Zealand.  She also told me that the walk from Anawhata Road is very short.  She offered me another option – walking to Anawhata Beach from North Piha.  I wanted a walk, and avoiding Anawhata Road sounded good, so I chose the latter approach.  This involved walking in reverse part of the Marawhara – White – Rose – Laird Thomson Track Circuit in North Piha that I walked earlier this winter.

I started by parking in the carpark at the end of North Piha Road and walking north along the beach.

Piha Beach, Lion Rock and Taitomo Island in the distance
Piha Beach, Lion Rock and Taitomo Island in the distance

I was able to get a better shot of some interesting sea caves at the north end of Piha Beach.

Sea caves at the north end of Piha Beach
Sea caves at the north end of Piha Beach

At the north end of the beach a track leads up the steep coastal hills, with an option to walk out to Te Whaha Point.

Te Whaha Point
Te Whaha Point

I walked as far as the saddle before Te Whaha Point, and had lunch while enjoying the view of Whites Beach.

Whites Beach
Whites Beach

A look at these hills from near Te Whaha point gives no indication as to how steep the climb to Anawhata Road actually is.  Most of that climb is a paved driveway, and the rest is gravel and not at all muddy, but it is a monster climb.

Inland from Te Whaha Point
Inland from near Te Whaha Point

It was easy to find the trail at the end of Anawhata Road that leads down to the beach.  You get some nice views of the beach as you approach, and the surrounding landscape is impressive as well.

Approaching Anawhata Beach
Approaching Anawhata Beach
Anawhata Beach
Anawhata Beach

A rock and pool at the entrance to the beach has a lot more character than they first reveal.

Rock and pool at the entrance to the Anawhata Beach
Rock and pool at the entrance to the Anawhata Beach
Rock and pool at the entrance to the Anawhata Beach
Rock and pool at the entrance to the Anawhata Beach
Rock and pool at the entrance to the Anawhata Beach
Rock and pool at the entrance to the Anawhata Beach

Other interesting features are likewise not immediately visible.

View from the entrance to the Anawhata Beach
View from the entrance to the Anawhata Beach
View from the middle of Anawhata Beach
View from the middle of Anawhata Beach

It was an overcast and chilly day.  There was one person at the beach when I arrived, but she soon left.  It took me some time to walk there, and I didn’t want to do the walk back in the dark, so I didn’t stay too long.  The tide was in, and the stream was deep enough that I didn’t make it to the other part of the beach beyond the ridge!

Anawhata Beach
Anawhata Beach

The part of Anawhata Road I saw was well-packed gravel.  That doesn’t tell me anything about the other 10km, but I might consider driving back at some point, depending on the kind of outing I’m looking for.  Anawhata Beach has a lot of character, and I’d like to see the rest of it!

You can view the full gallery of 21 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.