Less than an hour’s drive west of central Auckland is the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, a 16,000 hectare playground for adventure seekers, filled with lush subtropical forest, rivers, dams, waterfalls and stunning beaches, all connected by a network of over 250 kilometres of walking tracks.
Piha is undoubtedly the poster child of Auckland’s west coast beaches and for good reason. For many, it’s their first experience of a black sand beach, and as the winding road heading down to the beach reaches that first lookout corner, you can’t help but be in awe of the view that greets you, with iconic Lion Rock taking center stage. But there’s just one problem with all of this beauty… everyone one wants a piece of it. Anawhata on the other hand, has all of the beauty of Piha but without the crowds. It even has it’s own mini-me version of Lion Rock.
Believe it or not, but a few minutes before the photo above was taken, the rain had been bucketing down. We’d driven the 10km from the turnoff on Piha Road along the narrow gravel road wondering if the weather was going to clear and by the time we reached the small parking area at the start of the track things weren’t looking promising. But we’d come prepared and put on our rain gear and almost immediately, the clouds parted and the sun began to shine. That’s New Zealand weather for you.
The walk down to the beach is less than 30 minutes at a good pace, and starts out on the well-formed gravel road that heads down to Keddle House (more on that later). As the road turns sharply to the left, look out for the small path that heads off to the right. This will take you up to a lookout with a bench where you can sit and take in the view.
After taking a few photos at the bench lookout, we headed back to the road and carried on towards the beach until we reached a sign pointing off to the right. From here the track leaves the gravel road and winds its way fairly steeply down through the forest until you reach the sand. As you can see from the photos below, ours were the only footprints on the beach that day.
It just so happened that we arrived as the tide was going out which turned out to be a good thing as it meant we were able to head across to Parera Point, the rocky outcrop that divides the beach. It’s well worth exploring the interesting channels, pools and rock formations including this small rock arch.
Of course, no visit to a rock arch would be complete without the obligatory ‘standing in the arch’ shot.
We were so absorbed in exploring that we weren’t paying too much attention to the weather until we noticed that the blue sky had darkened and a few kilometres out to sea, a wall of grey was heading our way. Time to make a hasty retreat we figured. Debs was of course fully prepared in her rain gear, head to toe. I on the other hand, in typical man fashion, figured we could outrun the rain and chose not to put on my rain pants. Oh how wrong was I. We almost made it all the way back to the car unscathed but halfway up the gravel track we were treated to some spectacular horizontal rain. Lesson learned, for me at least.
Despite the wind and rain, we had a great time on Anawhata Beach and will definitely visit again in future. If you’re in Auckland and looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city for a while then Anawhata Beach is the perfect place for some quiet solitude.
Wondering who’s lucky enough to live in the house on the hill in such a remote and beautiful place? Well potentially, that someone could be you, at least for a few days, because this bach (pronounced ‘batch’, a kiwi word for a small holiday house) is actually available for rent. Keddle House is a 1930s bungalow that sleeps 6 and makes a perfect base if you’re planning on exploring more of this amazing coastline. You can find out more by visiting the Auckland Council website.
Looking for more ideas on things to do and places to see when visiting the Auckland region? Have a look at our guide, Top things to do in Auckland.