Auckland, Destinations, New Zealand, North Island, Oceania 21

Auckland’s black sand beaches and lush rainforests – visiting Waitakere Ranges Regional Park

We had heard that West Auckland’s beaches are very different from all the eastern ones we have been enjoying the past one month. In addition, as much as we loved all the sea activities we did- kayaking, fishing and swimming – we felt it was time to explore some of the other natural wonders, particularly the coastal rainforests that New Zealand is also famous for.



I had seen plenty of ‘bush and beach’ day tours advertised in all the Auckland guide books, but we prefered exploring on our own and it was just great knowing we had rainforests within an hours drive from central Auckland. There were two main options for a local one hour day trip from Auckland – Hunua Ranges and Waitakere Ranges regional park. We chose the latter for this trip as we also wanted to catch a glimpse of one of the famous black sand beaches popular with surfers at the end of our day hiking through the rainforest.

Waitakere Ranges Regional Park covers more than 16,000 hectares of native forest and coastline. The park includes 250km of walking and tramping tracks, beaches, stunning views, waterfalls and cliffs. This was our first time so we went to the Arataki Visitor Centre which is the gateway to Auckland’s coastal rainforest. As soon as you arrive, the first thing you notice is th stunning panoramic views from the wooden decks, of the Tasman Sea all the way out to the Pacific Ocean.



At the visitor centre you can see the magnificent traditional Maori carvings that stand guard there. The centre was rich in information about the area and supplied helpful details on tramps and trails one can go on. The Hillary Trail begins here which consists of a self-guided four day tramp through 77km of native forest and along the wild coast. Would love to do parts of this another day! On this day, we just did the short (1.6 km) nature trail and learnt all about the different flora and fauna of this native coastal rainforest area through different stages of regenerating rainforest. We had done several long hikes through forests in different parts of Europe and some in North America. The kids did their first proper hike (7k) when they were 3 and 5 in Black Forest, Germany. Longer ones when we could carry them on our backs as babies! But it was a very different experience here with new plants that we had never encountered before. It was more of a fun learning experience than real ‘hiking’ – walking through giant tree ferns growing alongside the mighty Kauri trees; learning all the native names, learning about the ecology of the forest. I am glad we didn’t come across the native Weta.







After our short hike we drove to Piha Beach, which is New Zealand’s most famous surf beach and also impressive for its soft black volcanic sand. We were blown away by the sheer power of the scenery when we got here! It was just so dramatic, the waves crashing onto the beach, the surfers riding the waves, the rocks nearby and of course the powdery soft black sand. We had never seen anything like it and after the lovely calm sea on the eastern side, it’s hard to imagine how just one hour west, the coast can be so very different. The surfers were amazing to watch, made me want to take up surfing!


Majestic lion rock






The waves were too powerful to swim in the water, atleast we didn’t feel it was safe with the kids. So to deter them from swimming out to sea, we told Shama to try her other outdoor passions – rock climbing. She was quite impressive and got really far using bare hands and feet. Maybe it’s time to invest in a safety helmet!



I feel we just had a lovely glimpse of this region and we look forward to being back to do some proper hiking along some of the routes we saw at the Waitakere ranges national park visitor centre.  We didn’t even see any of the waterfalls this time and hardly any of the birdlife. But it was a wonderful experience nonetheless, was a refreshing change from the beach bums that we have become! Piha beach was really impressive though and we definitely plan to be back here over the next one year we are travelling around New Zealand. Who knows, maybe surfing will be the next water sport we take up now that we are starting to get comfortable with our new sea kayaks 🙂

This post is linked to Our World Tuesday,  Weekly Photo Challenge – Motion Nature’s Notes #weeklypostcard hosted by Travel Notes and Beyond #wkendtravelinspiration hosted by Reflections Enroute and Forces of Nature


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  • ladyfi says: April 28, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    Wow – what fabulous scenery and nature! Great shots.

  • Freda Mans says: April 28, 2015 at 5:04 pm

    Beautiful collection. I especially love the family photo!

  • Eileen says: April 28, 2015 at 6:39 pm

    Lovely images from your trip! I love the beach scenes.. Your children look like they enjoyed this place.. Have a happy day!

  • dunelight says: April 28, 2015 at 9:08 pm

    It looks like you had a marvelous time. Thanks for sharing.

  • Tim says: April 28, 2015 at 10:39 pm

    As a teenager we would head out to Piha for the weekend and go surfing. It is a beautiful spot but it also has a very treacherous side to it with a very strong undertow and powerful rips that whip you out to sea pretty quickly.

  • theworldonmynecklace says: April 28, 2015 at 11:37 pm

    I love that part of Auckland and glad to hear you guys enjoyed it!

  • Rambling Woods says: April 29, 2015 at 3:49 am

    I don’t know much about New Zealand, so I am happy to learn. I love the volcanic rocks. We were….Antigua… I think where there was a black lava rock beach. That had sand and you had to stay away from the rocks but the color was amazing..Michelle

  • Constance - Foreign Sanctuary says: April 29, 2015 at 6:18 am

    Your beautiful photos and posts are making me fall in love with NZ. So much natural beauty there – you are so lucky to be there exploring so much of the place!

    • samselim says: April 29, 2015 at 8:52 pm

      Thank you 🙂 We feel the same way too!

  • Sarah says: April 29, 2015 at 2:09 pm

    I know I’ve told you before, but New Zealand is one place I’ve always wanted to visit and your posts are making me increasingly desperate!! Gorgeous pics and look forward to more

    • samselim says: April 29, 2015 at 8:53 pm

      Thanks Sarah, I really hope you and the family get a chance to visit, am sure you all will really love it!

  • galanda23 says: May 3, 2015 at 1:12 pm

    Wow, gorgeous photographs Samiya. Whenever I read your post I can’t help thinking how lucky you are to be able to spend some time in New Zealand and visit it al your leisure, without feeling the pressure to accomplish something in a short time. These beaches look very rough.

    • samselim says: May 3, 2015 at 10:14 pm

      That’s exactly how we feel Anda 🙂 Love that we are able to enjoy all the travels here with no pressure and in no hurry. I really like this idea of slow travel, need to convince the family to do more one year travels in different places 🙂

  • eileen @ FamiliesGo! says: May 3, 2015 at 10:07 pm

    I saw a show on PBS about hiking in New Zealand and have wanted to visit every since. It looks really wonderful — a good vacay for kids and parents.

    Visiting you from #WeekendTravelInspiration.

    • samselim says: May 3, 2015 at 10:11 pm

      We are indeed loving our year long travel vacation in New Zealand!

  • Lyn aka TheTravellingLindfields says: May 4, 2015 at 9:59 am

    There are some great hikes in New Zealand but if you want to blend in you are going to have to start calling them ‘tramps’.

  • connier316 says: May 5, 2015 at 2:05 am

    You captured some beautiful photos. Looks like a great time.

  • cvail says: May 8, 2015 at 10:23 am

    Samiya, I love those photos! Stunning landscapes. My favorite is the first one of the beach…but they are all gorgeous..! Thanks for linking up with Weekend Travel Inspiration!

  • quarksire says: May 11, 2015 at 7:36 pm

    way CooL! 😎

  • McCool Travel says: May 12, 2015 at 11:23 pm

    I love the black sand beaches of Hawaii. Perhaps I will see NZ’s version one day.

  • Rob Taylor says: March 14, 2016 at 4:36 am

    Rock climbing is a great alternative to getting swept away by strong waves. What a cool place with a beautiful beach.

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