Where the mighty Tasman Sea comes battering onto Auckland's shores, this is nature at its wild and untamed best. Contrasting sharply with the calm, tranquil east coast, Auckland West delights in its reputation as one of the city's most unspoilt areas.
Explore the many cliff top walking trails around Piha and Anawhata, go mountain biking in Woodhill Forest, tramping in the Waitakere Ranges, or enjoy a leisurely lunch in one of the vineyards of Kumeu.
West Coast Beaches
There are four main beaches on the west coast that are well worth a visit. Descending the road out of the Waitakere Ranges, you'll find Piha. Wild and unforgiving at times, the climate in this coastal village is the very reason why the more adventurous surfers choose to come here, to challenge the waves coming in from the mighty Tasman Sea (the TV show, "Piha Rescue", was filmed here).
The black sands of the two main beaches add to the tempestuous atmosphere of unpredictability, and the iconic Lion Rock stands sentinel in the bay, almost daring you to enter the waters. You can swim here safely, as long as you stay between the flags set out by the Piha Surf Club. Walk to the pretty Kitekite Falls for some shady relief, and swim in the magical pool in the rocks above.
To the north, Muriwai is an impressive, large flat beach that's also popular with surfers. Close to the beach is the Muriwai Gannet Colony which is home to over a thousand pair of gannets who return to the area each year from Australia, between September and April.
Te Henga Beach (also known as Bethells Beach) is a large, dark sandy stretch of sand that meets the mouth of the Waitakere River as it flows into the wild surf of the Tasman Sea. Karekare Beach is part of the Karekare Regional Park and gained wider attention due to its starring role in the 1993 film The Piano.
At just over 40 minutes from the heart of the CBD, the Waitakere Ranges showcase 40,000 acres of rugged coastline and rainforest, 250km of walking tracks, and some majestic waterfalls. It's a magical place, packed with mystical glades, fairytale waterfalls, pretty rock pools and devastating terrain.
An adventurer's paradise, Woodhill Forest is nature's playground with 31,000 acres of native pine forest stretching from Muriwai to South Head, just 45mins from Auckland central. Any fans of the outdoors will find something to keep them entertained, with each activity 'zoned' into specific areas, from mountain biking, horse riding, quad biking and 4WD parks, to beach buggying at Woodhill and tree-climbing at Tree Adventures - a tree canopy park offering manual ascents of anything between 3 and 14 metres.
Fancy throwing yourself off one of the tallest trees in the forest? No problem, just strap yourself into the flying fox, and away you go. Even if you're not into that full heart-in-your-mouth thing, there are miles and miles of walking tracks, popular with both novice and experienced hikers, plus dog-friendly trails, ideal for blowing away those Sunday morning cobwebs.
This tranquil town on the Kaipara River sits at the south of the southern hemisphere's largest harbour, and is the ideal place to kick back and just enjoy the beautiful surroundings and friendly welcome. Kauri milling was an important industry in the early days of Helensville, and many of the town's buildings date from this era. The hot springs at Parakai, 3km to the north, is a popular attraction, the natural geothermal waters considered both healing and revitalising.
Just 25km northwest of the city, Kumeu is a town surrounded by lush vineyards and orchards, and is considered Auckland's heritage wine region. It's where many winegrowing Dalmatian and Croatian families settled during the 1940s, and it's this ethnic diversity that has greatly contributed to the variety of speciality shops, wineries and restaurants that characterise the area. It's a fabulous place to come and sample some of the more unusual of New Zealand's wines, beers and cheeses.