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Geography and geologyThe beach lies around 19 miles north-west of Auckland City, where the Waitakere River meets the Tasman Sea. The beach's sand dunes have formed and grown in several phases over the last 4,500 years. The beach's black sand is given its color from black titanomagetite, a substance formed from the volcanic rocks of Mount Taranaki and carried north by coastal currents.
The area surrounding the beach is home to native vegetation, including mighty kauri trees, which escaped or regenerated the milling of early settlers. The Te Henga/Bethells Beachcare Group was established in 1993 to help preserve the native dune system at the beach. Please stay off the dunes at the beach to help prevent their degradation.
HistoryThere is evidence of the indigenous Maori people living in the area for over 1,000 years. The Maori name for the beach is Te Henga, meaning "sand". Early Maori were drawn to the area's rich resources of seafood, berries and birds, and grew vegetables such as gourds, kumara and taro. There are many archeologically significant sites, including food fathering areas, pa (Maori fortresses), walkways, canoe landings and sacred places.
European settlers arrived in the area in the 1850s, and cleared much of the native kauri forest for timber and pastoral farming. The beach was named after the Bethell family that lived in the area. By the 1920s most of the area had been logged and farmed, and in 1924 the Auckland City Council and Crown purchased the land as a reserve to save the forest remnants.
SurfingBethells Beach is one of the most popular spots near Auckland for surfing. It has both left and right handers, and is suitable for intermediate surfers. For up to date conditions of surf at the beach, check out http://www.surf-forecast.com/breaks/Bethells-Beach. Parasailing and hang gliding are also popular activities.
SwimmingBethells Beach is a popular choice for swimming for both tourists and Aucklanders getting away from the city. During the summer months the beach is patrolled by volunteer lifeguards. The beaches on Auckland's west coast can be rough, so an alternative for swimmers is Lake Wainamu behind the sand dunes of Bethells Beach.
Te Henga WalkwayThis walkway takes you across the clifftops from Bethells Beach to south of Muriwai Beach. You will be spoilt for views of Auckland's wild west coast. From Bethells Road, the walkway crosses the Waitakere River by footbridge, before rising along a graded section, to superb views of lagoons, dunes and the west coast surf down to O'Neill's Bay, where you can return along Bethells Beach. To continue along the Te Henga Walkway, the track climbs steeply then follows along the cliff-top where you may be lucky enough to see gannet seabirds diving for fish. The track exits through a farm valley and another steep climb to Constable Road. Take care on this track, as is passes along coastal cliffs and the trail can be uneven and muddy in places. You can begin the track at its southern end from the signpost near a bridge 0.6 miles before the end of Bethells Rad, opposite Lake Wainamu carpark. The northern entrance to the Te Henga Walkway is from Constable Road, off Oaia Road in Muriwai. The northern entrance is 29 miles from downtown Auckland.
The Walkway forms part of the Hillary Trail, which links a network of tracks and campgrounds in the Waitakere Ranges. The Hillary Trail passes through the Waitakere Ranges, past the Arataki Visitor Centre, Huia, Whatipu, Karekare, Piha, Anawhata, and either winds north to Muriwai via the Te Henga Walkway, or through Cascade Kauri Park and onto Swanson.
Goldie Bush WalkwayThis walkway takes you through beautiful coastal forest with regenerating kauri. The trail can be walked from either Constable Road or Horseman Road. From Constable Road, the walkway descends through the Motutara Scenic Reserve to cross Mokoroa Stream. The track then enters the Goldie Bush Scenic Reserve, before exiting at Horseman Road. The trail is 2.8 miles one way, taking around 2 hours.
Mokoroa FallsThe Mokoroa Falls track starts at Horseman Road. The track follows a gentle path along a ridge to a viewing platform where you can view the Mokoroa waterfall. From the viewing platform, steep steps lead down to the Mokoroa Stream where you can view the falls from the bottom. The track is 0.9 miles (around 40 minutes) one way. The Mokoroa Falls Track can be walked as part of a loop track when joined with the Mokoroa Stream Track and Goldie Bush Walkway.
Getting thereFrom Auckland City, take Scenic Drive, then Te Henga Road which takes you to Bethells Road and on to Bethells Beach.
Further informationFor more information on Bethells beach, check out the Tamaki Makaurau / Auckland Visitor Center in Auckland city, at 137 Quay Street on Princes Wharf.
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Author: Amanda. Last updated: Nov 24, 2015