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West Coast beaches in Auckland: Black sand bliss

Join us as we share eight different but equally amazing West Coast beaches found on Auckland’s doorstep.

Auckland is fortunate to have a great many beautiful beaches.

Regional Auckland is encircled by three different harbours and has over 3,700 kilometres of coastline – so it’s no wonder that beautiful beaches are plentiful.

From picture-perfect white-sand beaches, with calm, lapping waves, to our iconic wild and rough black-sand beaches, there is something for every beach-goer in the City of Sails.

Whether you’re looking to relax, sunbathe, swim or get active, Auckland beaches have you covered.

None, though, are more impressive than the West Coast beaches Auckland enjoys – rough, wild, rugged and untamed, these beautiful bays and vast stretches of sand are ready and waiting for you to explore.

With stunning black sand underfoot and the Tasman Sea crashing endlessly on the shoreline, these West Coast beaches have to be seen to be believed.

Join us as we share everything you need to know about the best West Coast beaches Auckland has.

To sit in silence at the shore, watch the waves and hear the surf, is to appreciate the very breath and heartbeat of the Earth.

Zoe Zantamata

Pro tip: Though most visitors will drive themselves out west, it’s also possible to join a guided tour. Check out all the options available to you when visiting Auckland without a car.

Waves forming white foams as it approaches the narrow part of the beach before crashing into the sands.
Karioitahi Beach

Black Sand Beaches: FAQ

What is a black sand beach?

Unsurprisingly a black sand beach is a shoreline where you will find black sand (rather than the more typical white or yellow sand).

We have a number of them in New Zealand – they are most commonly found on the North Island’s West Coast.

What causes black sand at Auckland’s west coast beaches?

Volcanic activity causes black sand in New Zealand. This sand is made up of a mixture of volcanic sand, iron oxide and titanomagnetite.

In some parts of the country, it is even mined to produce a range of iron-based products.

Where can you find black sand beaches in Auckland? Are all west coast beaches black sand?

The majority of Auckland’s West Coast beaches have black sand. In fact, all but one do.

Cornwallis is the only West Coast beach with white sand.

Are black sand beaches safe?

From a safety point of view, black sand beaches are inherently no different from any other.

They do, however, get very hot underfoot, so we do suggest being prepared with a pair of shoes if you’re visiting on a sunny day.

Most of Auckland’s west coast beaches have large waves so it is important that visitors swim between the flags where possible and that they’re confident in the water. However, this has no bearing on the colour of the sand.

Your Guide to the Best West Coast Beaches Auckland Has on Offer

Bethells Beach (Te Henga)

Also known as Te Henga Beach, this large, dark, sandy stretch of sand lies approximately 30 km north-west of the centre of Auckland.

This beach is a favourite among surfers and, given the wind conditions, it also attracts its fair share of paragliding and parasailing enthusiasts.

The beach is gorgeous and photogenic too, making it one of the most popular beaches in west Auckland.

Did you know? Bethells Beach has been featured in a lot of television projects including Xena: The Warrior Princess?

Waves crashing through the sands of Te Henga (Bethells Beach) and a low-lying fog hovers above the other side of the waters and shores.
Te Henga (Bethells Beach).

Anawhata Beach

Anawhata is a remote beach, accessible on a 10km gravel road, followed by a steep walk down to the shoreline.

This really is the perfect place to relax if you want some quiet time away from the crowds. Many people avoid visiting this beach because the climb back up can be sweaty work – it’s over in a few minutes though and it’s well worth the effort.

On a peak summer weekend, you might only find 20 or so people in the whole area!

Whilst there, we recommend you take a stroll around the beach and admire the great views of Keyhole Rock.

Anawhata is also a great place to chill on the beach, swim and explore rock pools. It’s also a great place to head out for a surf. The waves there can be good, and with the lack of crowds, it’s hard to believe it’s just a couple of kilometres south of Piha.

Other than the beach Anawhata lies home to an estuary and river which winds up into the hills – you may like to go exploring there too.

This is a beach to add to your West Auckland to-do list.

Pro tip: If you enjoy astrophotography, Anawhata Beach is a fantastic place to head to – as is Muriwai.

Karioitahi Beach

Karioitahi has a raw, tangible beauty that is incomparable to the pretty beaches that try so hard to please visitors.

This beach impresses without even trying.

It is a rugged and windswept black sand beach that is great for surfing, fishing, off-roading and paragliding.

We suggest you take a walk along the beach, up the cliff and along farmland – have fun exploring this beautiful beach. There you’ll find amazing waterfalls, cliffs and astonishing views to be enjoyed above and beach and caves and rock pools to explore below.

For those that are keen, water tumbles from the top of one of the cliffs – a great massage if you are keen for a bit of rock climbing to get to it.

Finally, if you’re still there at the end of the day, be sure to hang about to watch the setting sun put on a show.

Karioitahi Road, Lake Puketi 2683

Pro tip: The beach is patrolled by lifeguards during summer weekends. Make sure you swim between the flags as the beach is known to have dangerous rips.

A paraglider soars above a stunning landscape of mountains and a beach below on a sunny day, captured from a grassy field.
Paragliding at Karioitahi Beach.

Whatipu Beach

Located on the southern end of the Waitakere Ranges, Whatipu Beach is at the mouth of the Manukau Harbour.

It has stunning dunes, caves, turquoise waters (of the Tasman Sea) and a beautiful combination of lush vegetation.

It is a manageable 15-minute walk through soft sand from the car park to the beach and is well worth the effort – we promise.

Water currents and rips are strong here and because of this, swimming is not generally advised in these waters.

Nevertheless, it seems that the beach is still popular with expert surfers.

Top tip: You’ll enjoy magnificent views of the Manukau Harbour if you decide to do the short climb to Burnett Head.

Karekare Beach

Karekare is probably one of the most underrated beaches around West Auckland, but thanks to this, it has a beautifully calm atmosphere.

If you choose to take a short walk around this beach in the evening, you’ll leave it feeling peaceful and centred. 

This hidden gem is located between Whatipu Beach (on the south) and Piha (to the north). It also has views out to Panatahi Island.

If you want to relax, have a lazy beach day or even meditate, this is the perfect choice for you.

Unsurprisingly, it is popular among artists – painters, writers, filmmakers and photographers.

It is also perfect for swimming and surfing. And since it’s secluded from the locals, you have the option to enjoy this beach in the nude, if that’s your preference.

2 Karekare Road, Huia, Karekare 0772

Muriwai Beach

Muriwai is another black sand beach along the West Coast of Auckland. It extends towards the north for approximately 60 km, allowing visitors to experience a seemingly endless horizon.

It has always been a favourite among tourists and locals, as there is just so much to do there.

This beach has everything – surfing, swimming, kiting, fishing, sailing, golf, horse trekking, mountain biking, fishing, beach walks and so much more. There is also a coffee cart and a local shop nearby, so you are covered in all areas.

458 Motutara Road, Muriwai 0881

Your Muriwai must-do: Take a short walk from the south end of the beach and you will come across a huge Australasian gannet colony at Māori bay. There, you’ll be able to experience these awesome birds up close, whilst enjoying the impressive volcanic lava patterns and cliff formations in this area.

Couples barefoot walking along the wet sands of a beach while the waves at a distance slowly crash through the shores.
Muriwai Beach at sunset. Photo: Todd Eyre.

Piha Beach

Perhaps the best-known beach in West Auckland, Piha is a stunning spot.

With Scenic Drive (the beautiful, winding road that gets you to Piha), long stretches of black volcanic sand, the sea on the horizon and lion rock perched in the middle – this is the type of place that leaves everyone breathless.

There is something for everyone here. Choose to swim, surf, take a long walk, enjoy a beautiful sunset or venture off on a nearby hike (like the Mercer Bay Loop or Kitekite Falls).

Piha is a prime surfing hub; in fact, international competitions and championships are frequently held here.

Surf lessons are available too, should you wish to learn or improve your skills on a board.

If you’d prefer to take it easy, evenings at Piha are best spent admiring the dramatic landscape and breathtaking colours in the sky as the sun sets.

Pro tip: Be sure to swim in the designated areas as the sea conditions can change rather quickly here. 

A huge rock structure on a beach facing the wide blue ocean with a river delta behind it and a glimpse of the houses further closer to the woods.
Looking down on Piha. Photo: Scott Venning.

Cornwallis

Cornwallis is a little different from the other West Coast beaches on this list – it is a calm, flatwater beach that has golden sand.

You’ll find a perfect picnic spot by the beach as there are plenty of grassy, shady areas where you can tent up and relax for the day.

It is a busy beach but even on warm sunny weekends, you can find a secluded spot to set up for the day.

It is also great for kids to enjoy as it does not have strong currents nor is the water rough – this makes it ideal for paddle boarding, kayaking and other water sports activities.

The beach also has BBQs for hire or you can take your own gas BBQ should you prefer.


Each of these west coast beaches provides a unique experience and vibe.

If you are a beach lover, you will want to see them all and come to appreciate first-hand what makes each of them amazing.

Where will you head on your next beach day?


Guest post by Rajiv Shirodkar.

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