Despite being a little out of the way, or perhaps because of this, Te Ārai Point is one of our favourite Auckland Beaches. And by ‘out of the way’ we mean it’s 100 km north of Auckland itself, and getting there involves some gravel road driving. But don’t let that put you off, this beach is well worth the drive. It’s usually a lot less crowded than its neighbouring beaches, Mangawhai and Pakiri, and it really does offer something for everyone, whether it’s a chilled family day out or something a little more adventurous.
Te Ārai Beach is located in Te Ārai Regional Park which is on the east coast of the North Island. While close to the border with the Northland region, it falls within Auckland’s Rodney district and so the park is managed by Auckland Council.
The most direct route to Te Ārai is via State Highway 1 and while there are a number of options from SH1, you’ll want to try and avoid going through Wellsford on busy weekends as the town can be a bit of a traffic bottleneck. Fortunately, Google Maps does a pretty good job of diverting you around Wellsford, via Wayby Valley Road if you’re coming up from Auckland or via Baldrock Road if you’re coming south from Whangarei. As mentioned previously, the last 8km to the beach is along gravel roads but the roads are usually pretty well maintained and fine for all vehicles.
There are no gates to access the park or the main public car park so the park is open to the public 24/7.
Note that dogs are not allowed on the beach with the exception of the disused quarry at Eyres Point where they are allowed off-leash as well as the eastern car park where they must be on-leash at all times. Dogs are also not allowed in the nearby campground without permission.
Facilities for day visitors at Te Ārai Beach are limited with a basic but well maintained toilet block and not much else. You’re also required to take all rubbish and recycling with you when you leave.
When there’s a swell running from the north east, Te Ārai has a great beach break for surfing although, being an east coast beach, it tends to be fairly calm more often than not, so perfect for swimming. Not a surfer and keen to learn? The team from Aotearoa Surf School usually setup there in the busier months and will have you up on your feet and having fun in no time.
If surfing or standup paddle boarding is not your thing but you’d like to stretch your legs, there’s a well formed path that makes its way south, up and along the headland. From here you’ll get excellent views of Pakiri beach as it stretches south for almost 14 km. Looking north, you’ll see the unmistakable outline of Taranga Island, part of the Hen and Chicken Islands as well as Bream Head. Then of course there’s Te Ārai beach itself and the Te Ārai Regional Park, with its important dune lake ecosystem. From Eyres Point, Te Ārai Beach stretches north for almost 10 km to the mouth of the Mangawhai Estuary so if you enjoy long walks along near deserted beaches, Te Ārai is the place for you. Along the way you’ll almost certainly see pairs of black Oystercatchers (Torea) with their distinctive orange bills along with the ever-frantic Northern New Zealand Dotterel (Tuturiwhatu). And if you’re really lucky, you may even spot one of New Zealand’s critically endangered Fairy Terns near the mouth of the Te Ārai stream.
Te Ārai is also popular all year round for fishing, particularly when the swell is low and the winds light, with Snapper and Kahawai being the usual catch. There are also rocks around 300m offshore which are popular for spearfishing, and if you’re lucky, you may even spot a kingfish.
Of course our favourite part of Te Ārai Beach is the bit that’s often overlooked. Most visitors to the point will simply walk to the small bay and possibly climb to the top of the rocky mound before returning to their cars or back to the main beach. But if you’re up for a little adventure, and don’t mind some gentle coasteering, walking south you can in fact make it all the way around the point to the northern end of Pakiri Beach. Along the way you’ll be rewarded with interesting rock formations, secluded little coves and some excellent swimming spots. Do it and you’ll see what we mean. The photos below are a little taster.
There is a small campground, just north of the public car park. Access is via a locked gate with a combination that you’ll receive when you book. It’s a basic site just behind the dunes and there is no power or facilities which means you must stay in a self-contained certified (SCC) vehicle. You can find out more and book here. Freedom camping is not permitted at Te Ārai.
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.