The Waitakere Ranges
As you will see in the list below, the majority of Auckland’s black sand beaches are in the west Auckland district of the Waitakere Ranges. While the beaches listed below are well connected with scenic roads through the ranges, other black sand beaches can only be accessed by foot along the coast, more commonly on the Hillary Trail (3-4 days one way). The black sand beaches are hidden behind lush native forest. A good place to learn more about the area is Arataki Visitor Centre which has a free mini-museum on the flora and fauna of the area.To learn more about the area, take a look at our Waitakere Ranges Guide for Backpackers.
The most popular and well-known black sand beach in Auckland is Piha. Just 40 minutes drive from Auckland city centre, Piha is the ultimate escape from the city.There are several reasons why Piha is so popular, but number one has to be the surf. There are several surf schools operating in the area, making it a great place to learn how to surf. However, if you are going out on your own, be aware of the strong rip currents.Other reasons to love the black sand beauty of Piha are the geological features such as Lion Rock which stands proudly in the middle of Piha Beach. You can even follow the track up the rock for some awesome views. Nearby, don’t miss Kitekite Falls which is only a 3-minute drive from the beach. The 45-minute walk into the forest reveals a stunning multi-tiered waterfall is a fresh pool to swim in.Feeling more adventurous? Piha is also home to many walks, one of which is to Te Waha Point taking about 20-30 minutes one way. Follow the track well-hidden at the northern end of Piha Beach for awesome coastal views on this walk.For more details on things to do in Piha, take a look at 5 Auckland Road Trips You Can’t Miss.
Piha’s lesser-known neighbour is Karekare Beach. If you want an easily-accessible black sand beach in Auckland that is away from the crowds than Karekare Beach is well worth considering.Karekare is surrounded by rugged coastal scenery that has been featured as the backdrop in films such as The Piano. The firm black sand makes it the ideal place for a run. To get there, take the Piha Road for 10 minutes from Piha then turn onto and follow Karekare Road.While at Karekare Beach, be sure to check out Karekare Falls on the Karekare Road. You only need to walk 5 minutes until you are faced with the cascading Karekare Falls.
Not only is Muriwai Beach a favourite local surf spot, but it is also home to one of New Zealand’s mainland gannet colonies.Follow a short walking track onto the headlands of Muriwai Beach to see a colony of nesting gannets. These agile seabirds are impressive to watch and Muriwai Beach gives visitors a unique opportunity to have a close encounter without disturbing the gannets.Muriwai Beach is the northernmost beach of the Waitakere Ranges. Getting there is a 40-minute drive from Auckland city.
Te Henga (Bethells Beach)
Surfing, hiking, swimming… it can all be done at Te Henga a.k.a. Bethells Beach, which is a locals’ favourite out of the black sand beaches in Auckland.There’s a lot to explore at Te Henga with multi bays that can be accessed depending on the tide. There are many rocky headlands and rock pools to look at low tide. Plus, as the bays are more sheltered, it tends to be safer to swim at Bethells Beach than some of the nearby beaches. Experienced surfers can also enjoy some great surf conditions here.Bethells Beach also have plenty of opportunities to stretch your legs, including a portion of the Hillary Trail called the Te Henga Walkway taking you over the coastal cliffs and through the beach’s back forest for a number of viewpoints. Alternatively, park at the car park on Tasman View Road and walk over the black sand dunes to Lake Wainamu for some swimming and Wainamu Falls toward the east side of the lake.Te Henga/Bethells Beach is a 40-minute drive from Auckland city.
At the southern end of the Waitakere Ranges, Whatipu Beach is a breath-taking black sand beach.Walking is the most popular activity here thanks to the Omanawanui Track taking around 2 hours to complete. Walk through native forest and onto the beach with its high sand dunes. Additionally, explore sea caves on the Whatipu Caves Track to see a cave that was once used as a ballroom. This track takes about 45 minutes for the return hike.Whatipu Beach is a one-hour drive from Auckland city centre.
Moving away from the black sand beaches of the Waitakere Ranges, Kariotahi Beach is a long-stretching black sand beach an hour’s drive south of Auckland city in the Franklin district.Thanks to the length of the beach, visitors can enjoy many activities here from blo karting to horse riding. Surfing, paragliding, 4 wheel driving, fishing and hang gliding are also popular things to do on Kariotahi Beach.If you are into walking or mountain biking then check out the Waiuku Forest about 30-minutes away for a number of trails.