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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrA short drive from Auckland city, the relaxed seaside village of Piha is a popular day-trip beach escape for locals and tourists alike. Famous for its wild surf and black sand beaches, Piha’s ruggedness is a mecca for sunbathers, swimmers and surfers. If making a day trip be sure to stay for sunset – nothing can beat the sky turning into a blaze of pink and orange.
GeographyPiha is located 39 kilometers west of the Auckland city center, on the Tasman Sea coast to the north of the Manukau Harbour . To the north of Piha lies Whites Beach, while Mercer Bay is to the south.
GeologyPiha is home to two surf beaches, called North and South Piha Beach. You can also find a lagoon and several sheltered streams along the coastline. The two beaches are divided by Lion Rock, a natural, eroded 16-million-year-old volcanic neck, whose name is derived from its shape reminiscent of a resting lion when viewed from the shore.
Piha is a well-known black sand beach, and owes its coloring to the high iron content in the sand, which was produced by the eruption of the Taupo Volcano thousands of years ago, and has been swept up the coast from the entrance to the Waikato River .
HistoryTe Kawerau a Maki iwi, an indigenous Maori tribe, was the first to settle the West Coast region. The main settlements were on the coast, and large areas were cleared of forest to grow crops and allow for better defenses. A number of pa (fortresses) were built on the headlands in the Piha region, including on Lion Rock and on the headland at the north end of the beach. Pakeha (European settlers) and the Crown began buying and settling land in the area in the mid 1800s. Maori occupation of Piha ended around the beginning of the 20th century, although today Te Kawerau a Maki descendants regard themselves as holding “traditional ownership” of the area.
SurfingPiha is famous for being the origin of board riding in New Zealand, with surfers riding Hawaiian surfboards arriving in the 1930s. Malibu board riding arrived in 1958, and Piha has been a popular surf destination ever since. Surf Lifesaving clubs patrol both the north and south beaches.
Surf lessons are available from Piha Surf School, and include surfboard and wetsuit hire. One on one, group and student lessons are available. Prices begin at NZD 120 for a one on one lesson, and NZD 80 for a group lesson. Surf conditions can change daily, depending on the weather, wind, and movement of sand up the coast. Be sure to check out http://www.surf2surf.com/reports/south-piha before you head out.
SwimmingPiha is highly popular with beachgoers from both near and far. While popular for swimming and surfing, the waters off Piha can be unpredictable and rough. Always be sure to swim between the red and yellow flags, as surf lifeguards patrol this area.
Kitekite FallsThe Kitekite Falls are one of the most famous waterfalls in the Waitakere Ranges, and is found two kilometers inland from Piha Beach. The beautiful falls feature six drops into a large lake-like pool at the bottom. The freshwater pool above the falls is the perfect spot for a swim (in summer!), or bring a picnic to enjoy in the area below the falls.
The falls are reached by walking tracks at the end of Glen Esk Road. The usual route is to take the Kitekite Track by the large kauri stump, which leads up the left side of the Kitekite Stream. The track winds through beautiful rainforest that has recovered from milling. The track reaches a junction with the Knutzen Track: continue on Knutzen Track, which will take you to the base of the falls, with a spectacular view of the falls along the way. At the end of the Knutzen Track you cross the stream onto a rocky platform, which is a great place to view the falls from below. You can swim in the pool where the falls terminate, even swimming under the falls behind the sheet of water.
AccommodationCottages and caravans are available for rent, and a campground and Bed & Breakfast homestay are also accommodation options. It is also possible to rent private beach houses, but be sure to book ahead, especially during summertime, which is high season.
AmenitiesPiha beach has basic amenities, with public toilets and changing sheds in the middle of the beach, next to the Moana Stream. There is one takeaway shop, Blairs, selling ice creams, drinks and simple takeaways.
Getting thereFrom Auckland, take the north-western motorway before exiting at Lincoln Road. At the end of Lincoln Road, turn into Great North Road before turning right into Henderson Valley Road. At the roundabout take Forest Hill Road to its end, where you’ll turn right onto West Coast Road. At the end of this road, turn right into Scenic Drive. Continue for 200 meters, then take Piha Road at the junction, Stay on Piha Road until it ends at Piha Beach.
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Author: Amanda. Last updated: Mar 15, 2016