BEST DAY TRIPS FROM AUCKLAND
MURIWAI BEACH AND GANNET COLONY
We take all of our overseas visitors to Muriwai Beach and Gannet Colony!
Muriwai Beach is one of the most underrated tourist destinations in Auckland. It has one of the most stunning west coast beaches with its crashing surf, black iron sand, dramatic 50-km coastline, and unique, easily accessible gannet colony. It should be a must-see on every visitor's list of places-to-go and things-to- see around Auckland.
HOW TO GET THERE?
SHEEP, FARMLAND, VINEYARDS, RURAL VILLAGES & STRAWBERRY ORCHARDS
Muriwai Beach is less than an hour's very pleasant drive from Auckland City. Take the Northwestern Motorway to the end of the motorway following the Helensville signposts. At the end of the motorway continue straight ahead through the very picturesque rural landscape to Kumeu and Huapai.
There are fresh fruit and vegetable stalls along the way and several excellent vineyards. (More about these later!) In summer you may pass some strawberry orchards where you can buy and in-season pick your own tasty fresh strawberries or enjoy a natural, freshly made strawberry ice cream.
At Waimauku Village you will see the signpost to turn left on Muriwai Road to Muriwai Beach. The last 15 minutes or so of the drive is completely different from the landscape you have just traveled. The road narrows and winds its way down through the very green, New Zealand rainforest or ‘native bush’ as we call it here, to the main beach car park.
There is no public transport to Muriwai Beach so you will need to hire a car or book a tour. Auckland I-site information center can help you with this.
-The Gorgeous Gannets
One of the top attractions at Muriwai has to be the gannet colony on the southern headland at Otakamiro Point. There are only three places on mainland New Zealand where gannets nest and Muriwai is by far the most accessible.
Gannets are white and yellow native sea birds in New Zealand. They are large birds and weigh about two and a half kilos with a wingspan of around two meters.
From August to March each year about 1200 pairs of gannets mate, nest, and have their chicks on these windswept clifftops. The nests are very close together and there is always lots of noise and action and from the easily accessed viewing platforms, you can observe them at close range going about their daily business. They will be sitting on their eggs, or once they are hatched, flying back and forth to get food. And you will probably be able to smell them too!
The chicks are usually on view in December and January and are very cute and entertaining to watch. There are usually still some gannets hanging around in June and July so you will always see some birds at any time of the year.
HOW TO GET TO THE GANNET COLONY FROM THE BEACH
At the end of the beach road, opposite the local cafe is a road to the left that takes you up to the car park for Otakamiro Point where the gannet colony is located. You can either walk (15 minutes) or drive up to the top. From the car park on Otakamiro Point are signposted walking tracks that lead to the viewing platforms.
The paths to the viewing decks are well signposted with information placards along the way and they are easy and quick walks.
For a Map of Muriwai Area (Muriwai Regional Park) Click here-
-THE rugged, windswept BEACHes
From the viewing decks for the gannet colony, you will also get a good look at the rugged, windswept, black iron sand surf beach with its high cliffs, sand dunes, and dramatic coastline. It stretches for 50 to 60 km along the Tasman Sea coast and with its huge ocean swells and rolling breakers is well-loved by the local surfers so bring your surfboard if surfing is your thing.
It’s not for beginners though! It is considered by Surf Life Saving NZ as a "very hazardous" beach, and on average more than 100 people require rescuing each year. There is a Surf School at Muriwai if you would like to give surfing a try.
WORD OF WARNING: In summer bring sandals or jandals (flip-flops) to wear on the beach as the black sand gets scorching hot!
On the south side of the viewing deck, you will see Maukatia. (Māori Bay) You can go down the track from the car park and either go surfing if you’re an experienced surfer or explore the caves at low tide but take care. When the southwesterly winds blow paragliding and hang gliding are popular at Maori Bay. The pillow lava formations high on the cliffs behind the beach are worth checking out.
DRIVE for miles along THE BEACH
There is 4 wheel drive access to the beach at the northern end of the beach past the Muriwai Golf Club.
You must apply online for a permit to be able to drive on the beach. This ensures that you are aware of the rules and regulations which are based mainly on safety issues.
Driving on the beach in a 4 wheel drive vehicle with a permit is allowed three hours either side of low tide! What a great thrill and opportunity, as there are not too many beaches in New Zealand open for driving!
WHAT IS THERE TO DO IN THE AREA?
-WALKING & HIKING
Apart from the short walk around the viewing platforms there are many hikes and walks to suit all levels of fitness. Just take a stroll along the beach if you’re feeling the need for some exercise and fresh ocean air.
MITCHELSON LOOKOUT is a 40-minute return walk from Motutara Road up Lookout Track and steep stairway to Domain Crescent. 100 meters up the road join up with the track again to a spectacular lookout.
MURIWAI BEACH LOOP is a 4.8 km- one and a half hour return walk. From the car park behind the Surf Tower walk north along the marked track behind the sand dunes then head out onto the beach as far as the 4 wheel drive access where you head inland through the horse park parking area and back along the Coast Road track. It’s a relatively easy flat walk.
The HILLARY TRAIL (named after Sir Edmund Hillary) starts (or ends) at Muriwai.
This is a four day 80 km tramping trip along the west coast and through the native forests through the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park. The tramp is divided into eight sections and goes through regenerating rainforest, stands of kauri, rocky shores, black-sand beaches and historic remains. Good fitness is required. Please check the track is open before you make plans to do this tramp.
GO for a gallop along the beach!
Horse riding is very popular on Muriwai Beach. There are lots of riding and horse trekking options available along the beach and into Woodhill Forest.
plenty of action in the NEARBY WOODHILL FOREST
Woodhill Forest just north of Muriwai covers approx 12,500 hectares and public access is permitted in designated areas of the forest for a wide range of recreational activities including horse-riding, mountain biking, tree climbing, paintball, 4 wheel driving, and off-road motorcycling.
Plenty of boutique wineries to pop into on your way home!
On your way back to Auckland call into one or two of the excellent boutique wineries in the area. There are plenty to choose from!
Just out of Waimauku there's the very impressive Hunting Lodge with its restaurant, Cellar Door and very pleasant outdoor garden area. You'll pass Coopers Creek Vineyards (check out the Sunday jazz concerts) Soljans Estate Wines, and Kumeu River Wines (for some of New Zealand's best Chardonnay).
Maybe you'd prefer a beer so take the Riverhead turnoff off state highway 16 and head for the popular Hallertau Brewery and Biergarten or historic 'The Riverhead' pub believed to be New Zealand's oldest riverside tavern.
WHERE TO EAT?
There is an excellent choice of food options available at all the wineries listed above.
At Muriwai there is the Sand Dunz Beach Café which has an indoor restaurant, coffee bar and takeaway options. Or call into one of the local cafes that you passed by on the drive from the city. Blossoms Cafe and the Boric Foodmarket on an orchard on the main Highway past Kumeu are very popular spots and there are some good cafes in Huapai and Kumeu.
If you are looking for an excellent gourmet meal you might want to book a table at The Tasting Shed in Kumeu. At Waimauku there is the character filled "Settlers Country Manor" with its Gamekeepers Restaurant.
WHERE TO STAY?
You might like to check out Tanglewood Retreat, one of our listings on our "Unique Places To Stay in New Zealand" page. It is a little eco-retreat out near Muriwai Beach. Stacey says "All of our buildings are handcrafted with love out of recycled and natural materials. We run off 100% renewable energy and even have a state of the art composting toilet system.
We offer unique accommodation options for short term stays, host yoga & wellness retreats, as well as exclusive hire for weddings and corporate events. We also offer plant-based catering for weddings and group bookings. Buffet style or woodfired pizza nights.
Stay in a Pirate ship Treehouse, the beautiful Aroha Cob house, or the quaint Potting Shed Cabin overlooking the Waimauku Valley. Wake up to the sound of native birds and spend your evenings soaking in the woodfired hot tub and watching the incredible sunsets over the valley.
We are only 30 minutes from Auckland city but feels like a world away. And we are a short 10min drive to Muriwai Beach for surfing, and to the Te Henga walk, Goldie’s Bush Walk and Mokoroa Stream Track. All gorgeous hikes.
We will also be opening up for exclusive hire for those wanting to self-quarantine in the future, so keep us in mind if you have families or friends coming back from overseas that want a safe space to isolate out of the city, just 45minutes drive from the airport."
There are no hotels or motels in the area, but we found 12 listings on Airbnb 18 on Bookabach.
WHY NOT DO A WEST COAST ROAD TRIP
-Muriwai, Bethells & Piha Beaches
If you felt so inclined you could do a windswept and rugged West Coast Road trip by starting at Muriwai beach and then visiting Bethells Beach (40-minute drive) and finish at Piha Beach with its iconic Lions Rock. (46-min drive from Bethells Beach to Piha.)
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