Located one hour west of downtown Auckland, Piha Beach is one of the most popular day trips for city-trapped urbanites needing an escape to the beach. This coastal community of 600 residents sits tucked at the base of the Waitakere Ranges, a series of hills which are criss-crossed by some of Auckland’s best hiking and trails.
Along the shore, the beach itself is an expansive theater where land and sea meet in an epic tableau. Towering rocks spring upwards from the sea, and stretches of sand which are so limitless in size make it tough for the shoreline to ever appear crowded. On the stretch of shore along Piha Beach, a towering monolith known as Lion Rock separates the beach into its north and south parts. Since the south side of the beach is closer to town, it’s also the part which is most frequently popular, and as you walk the shore towards the north end of the beach the development gives way to a system of dunes.
Streams spilling down from the forested hills create a tranquil coastal lagoon, and on both ends of the beach there are smaller coves which can only be accessed by foot. Along the way, local wildlife such as oystercatchers and penguins punctuate a shoreline which is stunning in its beauty and obviously very alive.
Above all, there is a wild and mystical allure to Piha where the forces of nature can make you feel small. The rolling surf which stampedes towards shore makes it a popular spot for experienced surfers, although the strong riptides and potent currents create an atmosphere unsafe for casual swimming. Rather, most visitors to Piha enjoy strolling the beach and exploring the empty shoreline and coves.
While the summers can be busy and the winters can be cold, Piha is perfect during any time of year for escaping the city and taking deep breath of air.