The entire western coastline of New Zealand’s two main islands is known to be wild and windswept, and Muriwai Beach, to the west of Auckland, is no exception. The black sand beach with high cliffs and rugged waves are popular with adventurous surfers as well as bird spotters, who come to see the huge colonies of nesting gannets.
Although quite close to Auckland, Muriwai is a welcome change from the development of the big city. It’s a popular weekend spot for Aucklanders and it offers great surfing for experienced surfers, lessons for beginners, golf with Tasman Sea views, and amazing bird watching in the late winter through to late autumn. In season, head to Otakamiro Point to see the thousands of gannets laying, nesting, and hatching on the cliff.
Visitors tend to come to Muriwai Beach on day trips from Auckland, although it’s also possible to camp nearby or stay in other local accommodation. Some organized day trips from Auckland also include a visit to Muriwai Beach, especially during gannet nesting season, or to visit the vineyards in the surrounding area.
Things to Know Before You Go
- If surfing’s on the agenda, don’t fail to bring or rent a wetsuit. Even in summer, the sea off New Zealand can be quite cold.
- The gannet colonies are within the Muriwai Regional Park, which has picnic areas, a cafe, and walking trails.
- The sea all along the West Coast is notoriously powerful. Only strong swimmers should brave the surf, and always follow any warnings about rip tides or places that should be avoided.
How to Get There
To reach Muriwai Beach, head west from Auckland on State Highway (SH) 16. The journey takes about 45 minutes. Private organized tours can also be taken. Although Muriwai can be reached by bus from some parts of Auckland, this is not recommended as journeys can take more than three hours and require changing to different buses.
When to Get There
Muriwai Beach is accessible all the time, although the weather is best for beach and water sports in the summer (December-February). Weekends can get busy with day-tripping Aucklanders, especially when the weather is fine. The gannets nest at Muriwai between August and March.
Combine with a Trip to Popular Piha
Muriwai Beach isn’t the only West Coast beauty near Auckland. Popular and picturesque Piha Beach was made famous in the film, The Piano. It is to the south of Muriwai and can be visited on the same day, or camp overnight. The black sand, wild surf, and sheer cliffs make Piha a striking place.