Along the wild western coast of the North Island just outside Auckland, Muriwai Beach is a famously beautiful and rugged stretch of shore where pounding waves beckon to brave surfers and volcanic rock cliffs give way to jet black sand beaches. Each year from August to March, Muriwai Beach becomes home to massive colonies of nesting gannets. Head to Otakamiro Point, at the southern end of the beach, to witness thousands of these seabirds huddled wing to wing—laying, nesting and hatching in unison along the cliff’s edge.
A boardwalk along the coastline offers an easy route for a stroll to picturesque viewpoints, and if you’re game for adventurous watersports along the wild coast, the local surf school offers two-hour introductory lessons every day. More experienced surfers can rent gear and hit the waves on their own, while golfers can play a round at the Muriwai Golf Glub. The oceanfront links offer spectacular views of the Tasman Sea as visitors play the windswept course among dunes, heather and pines.
To visit Muriwai Beach, head west from Auckland on SH 16. The 25-mile drive takes about 40 minutes. The gannet colonies at Otakamiro Point lie within Muriwai Regional Park, which is open during summer from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and in winter from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.