Piha. Lion Rock. Hello old friend. There’s a lot to be said for the glimpse of that rock, the beach and the sea, as you round the corner and reach the coast. That view sure lifts the spirit.
A drive out from Auckland to famous black sand beaches is highly recommended, whatever the season. But for a spring walk on the sand, to blow the cobwebs and clear the head, it’s certainly a tremendous place. And, happily, we can report you’ll find some fantastic real New Zealand food here, and nearby, on the coast. A windswept beach, a walk and delicious food. What a combination.
A drive to the west coast means a first stop, Titirangi village in the Waitākere Ranges.
Wind through west coast roads to Titirangi, and you’ll spy houses built in the native bush. Houses and bush that are home to native birds. Listen for tui, kererū and morepork.
We’ve read that Titirangi means "long streaks of cloud in the sky", sometimes described as "fringe of heaven”. It’s a fringe, the edge from city to coast, and it’s a village of art and food. Delicious places to stop for coffee, and to collect picnic supplies - to take further west to the beach.
Black sands and surf
Then on to the coast, to the beach, to Piha. It might be New Zealand’s best-known black sand beach, thanks to the high iron content. It’s black volcanic sand, with crashing waves and rugged natural beauty.
There’s Lion Rock, Māori name Whakaari. It’s the large formation dividing north and south Piha beaches, actually an eroded volcanic neck, apparently more than 16 million years old. It stands watch over those big surf waves, and rests majestically. And its English name is pretty obvious, see the similarity to a lying male lion.
Watch the surfers, or take a lesson yourself. This dramatic spot is a popular surf location, with a reputation for awesome surf. New Zealand board riding began here, and it hosts both national and international surf competitions. There’s always surf experts to watch.
The water’s notorious for strong, often dangerous, currents. (How many beaches have a TV beach rescue show set there….) But, in summer, surf lifesavers patrol an area clearly flagged for swimmers. That’s the place to be.
Beach walk and dine
Take a walk, along the beach. Or up the rock. From the beach near the lion’s tail, a track takes you up his back to a grassy lookout on his shoulders. And, if you’ve a bit more time, there are other trails to follow around the hills above Piha. Those hills include the famous Hillary trail, named after our even more famous Hillary mountaineer. Not his Everest, but it could very well be yours…
And then you’ll be hungry, hungry as a lion perhaps.
Bring out your picnic, from Piha, Titirangi or elsewhere. Or visit a nearby cafe, to eat in and recharge before the return journey. A cup of tea and scone sounds about right. Of course, a beachside ice cream is always recommended. And then there’s the New Zealand favourite, fish and chips to be found, at the beach or back at the village….
A West coast idea
And, if you head back towards the city, you might spot, at the Titrangi round-about, the Kohu Road road sign. Clearly a good omen… a reminder to call in to the home of the famous west ice-cream maker, as you wind your way back, and pick up a tub for later. For a delicious reminder of a good day out west, click here.
And for more…
For more on what to find and enjoy on west coast Auckland travels, explore food treasures on our North Island Food Travel Guide app - click here. You’ll find delightful coffee stops and eateries, artisan producers, and a whole lot more….