One of the most popular beaches within an hours drive of the centre of Auckland is at Piha, on the west coast of the Waitkere Ranges. This view is taken from half way up Lion Rock. The beach is very popular with surfers and hosts many national and international surfing competitions. You can see quite a few surfers out in the bay, though there just tiny dots from here.
Black sand on the beach is caused by the volcanic rock in this area. The rocky island to the right of the frame is called Taitomo Island and is separated from the mainland, much like Lion Rock where I am stood to capture this photograph. In the very hot summer the heat of the sun heats the black sand and I’ve been here a few times where it has been quite painful to walk on barefoot, people have been known to burn their feet on the sand.
Piha is a very popular beach around 40 kilometres west of Auckland city and so it’s a great place to go for a day out. On sunny summer weekends it gets very busy so we drove just past the beach to park and decided to have a picnic on the north side of the rock. Lion Rock is about 60 metres high and having never climbed up it, it seemed like the perfect weather to try. Believe it or not there is a path up the side of the rock to about half way. If you look very closely on the photograph you might be able to make out a small red dot on near the top of the grassy area of the rock, about half way up. That is as far as the path takes you. The very top of the rock is closed as a rock fall made the path too dangerous.
This is an area of New Zealand that I knew nothing about. It’s a very remote place at the southern tip of the North Island. As you can see from this early evening photograph of the lighthouse it’s a very dramatic coastline. When I was there it was July (so mid winter) and it was extremely windy. I live in Wellington which is known as the windy city (much like San Francisco in the US) but this area was the wildest place I’ve ever visited. At one point my heavy 3kg+ tripod was picked up by the wind and thrown about 5 metres! Whilst this was being taken I was holding onto my gear very tightly. Cape Palliser is also known as a large seal colony. You can see the unsealed road just behind the beach and if you look very closely at the area of brownish green grass on the left third of the frame the black dots are all fur seals. There are hundreds in this area, it’s New Zealand’s largest colony.
Bethells is one of my favourite beaches within a short drive of Auckland, a fantastic place to go and watch the sunset. It’s Moari name is Te Hunga meaning sand. The black sand tells us its on the west coast. It’s about a kilometre long. I included a lot of the sand as I really liked the wind sweep look of the grasses and patterns within the sand, almost contor like lines. You can see in the distance just how rocky the Waitakere coast line is. If you look closely you might be able to see on the left, there is a small cave entrance which is great for exploring at low tide. The beach is popular for surfing. It gets very busy in the summer months and has been used as a filming location for a number of productions include Xena Warrior Princess that were filmed here.