Last time, as you might recall, we visited the spectacular Kitekite Falls in the Waitakeres. Just a short jaunt West from the falls is Piha Beach, my next destination.
Piha Beach is recognizable by, among other things, Lion Rock (so named because, if you turn your head just right and forgot your glasses, it looks like a lion). Let’s Zoom and Enhance to see it better:
You can actually climb up part of Lion Rock, which is definitely a fun little climb. I did it the last time I was here, so I gave it a miss this time.
Driving to Piha Beach involves some pretty exciting mountain roads, including the last few kms in which you shed a rather precipitous amount of elevation in a remarkably short time. I recommend using engine braking where possible to keep your discs from overheating! Last time I came here I was with my friend Brendon, and by the time we got to the carpark we could smell his brakes.
Parking is fairly plentiful even in summertime, and if you have to park a bit further away than you’d like then no harm done since you’ll be walking along the sand with the sun shining down anyway.
I managed to score a spot right behind Lion Rock (which from this angle looks even less like a lion than usual).
Piha’s natural beauty, black sands, and clear blue waters make it an incredibly beautiful destination. But it’s also known for strong rip tides and treacherous waves, so not brilliant for swimming.
I climbed up the wall to this bit here hoping to get across to the other side. I did so with ease the last time I was here, but then the tide was out. I hadn’t come with a change of clothes for swimming, so I decided to not try my luck. Which is fine, because I knew another way around.
Yep, there’s a mountain path leading up and over. I had intended to take the low route over and the high route back, but I took the high route both ways due to the tides. No worries at all, really; I’m not going to complain about getting this view twice!
The track itself is a tad overgrown in places, but it’s otherwise well maintained. And there are a couple of lookout stations with benches for resting or staring out over the lovely waves. If you make it to Piha, don’t miss this trail!
From here I suppose Lion Rock looks slightly lionish.
(Yes, the sky really was that blue in one direction and that gray in the other!)
When compared to Muriwai and Whatipu, Piha Beach is practically a bustling metropolis. There’s even a shop that will sell you some lunch. The prices may be akin to highway robbery, but you can get an entirely acceptable chicken sandwich or a basket of fish and chips.
You can also see in this shot that the total distance walked between where I parked and where I was standing when I took the photo is only about a kilometer, all told. Some of it is very much uphill, but overall there’s not really much physical exertion required to experience this scenic beauty.
If you click to embiggen and then Zoom and Enhance the bottom left corner, you will see some surfers enjoying the choppy Tasman Sea.
Moving along brings us to my favorite shot of the trip, this bit here. This beach is sort of connected to the other bit of beach, though as we saw earlier it becomes impassible by foot at high tide. At low tide, you can walk out to those rocks at the mouth of the inlet and even climb up the rock (which I did do last time; kind of scary but also fun).
Moving right along, this is the same inlet but from ground level. I left out the bits of climb in between as they’re mostly uninteresting :)
There’s also this cool little keyhole all the way through the rock to the other side! The water flows through here a little bit even at low tide.
This is the view back up the hill where we came from. As you can see, it’s steep but not very high at all. Even an American like me can pass over without difficulty :)
So that’s Piha Beach. I consider this to be one of the most fantastic spots to spend a day — or even just an afternoon! — in the Auckland Region. And, like so many fantastic things, it’s only about an hour’s drive from the city center. If you do make the trip (and I recommend it highly, in case that’s not abundantly clear), make sure you take the hour or so and stop by Kitekite Falls on your way too. You will not regret it.
And that’s all for Piha! Next time we’ll be going North. No, not up to the Northlands…straight North. To Rangitoto! Expect some great pictures of Auckland. Oh, and maybe some shots of Rangitoto itself as well :)
(Also, Merry Christmas! I’m posting this one a day earlier than I otherwise would because tomorrow is Christmas Day in New Zealand and Christmas Eve in the US.)