Discover the beaches and walks that await you out west!

Muriwai Beach is a very well-known west coast beach located about 15 minutes from Kumeu and sits at the southern end of an unbroken 50km stretch of coastline. Its stunning rugged landscape provides a great backdrop for a leisurely (or brisk!) walk and makes you feel you are a long way away from New Zealand’s biggest city. The distinctive black sand of Muriwai leaves its mark on your bare feet, or all over your clothes if you follow the kids rolling down the sand dunes! 

A little way along the beach and you will see Muriwai Golf Course and just past this is the Okiritoto Stream, which provides a parking area for horse floats and trucks, and also 4WD access to the beach. This area north of the stream is known as Five Mile Beach and provides great recreational trails for walkers, horse riders, cyclists and dog walkers with a wide range of leash-off walking opportunities. Of course, the beach is also very popular with surfers or for those wanting to learn, Muriwai Surf School offers lessons and sand yachts are also for hire. 

Maukatia or Maori Bay, just slightly to the south, is separated from Muriwai Beach by Otakamiro Point. The rocky nesting area on the point is home to the region’s only colony of Australasian gannets, which can be found nesting between August to March. There are a multitude of caves to discover, as well as the smaller but equally stunning beach to explore or go for a swim surrounded by rugged cliffs. 

Once you have thoroughly explored all that Muriwai has to offer, head slightly south and explore Bethells Beach. You can either drive to Bethells Beach which is well signposted from Kumeu – or if you are feeling keen and want to walk from Muriwai, you can follow the Te Henga Walkway, which makes up part of the Hillary Trail. The Department of Conservation rate it as one of New Zealand’s top twelve walking tracks! 

You can join the Te Henga Walkway off Constable Road, which is a few kilometres inland from Muriwai. The walkway provides cliff top views where you might see gannets diving for fish back towards Muriwai, or if looking towards Bethells Beach, views of lagoons, dunes and the west coast surf down at O’Neills Bay. One way is 10.3km (or approximately 4 hours walk), so maybe arrange with friends to start at the other end to you so you have a car at each end, just don’t forget to exchange keys when you pass each other on the track! 

Exploring Bethells Beach is a day excursion in itself. Start your day off with a delicious coffee and some morning tea from The Bethells Café – an open air café that allows you to enjoy your natural surroundings while you plan your day. If you didn’t walk from Muriwai, you can walk a loop track which takes you down into O’Neills Bay which is popular with swimmers and surfers alike. It also provides shady spots for a picnic under ancient pohutukawa trees. 

The Wainamu Lake rock pools are another place to explore and is an easy 3 hour round trip that follows the river to the lake and then further on to the rock pools – again another beautiful place to picnic or go for a swim (on a hot summer day). Bethells Beach is also an excellent place to chill out and take some time to recharge. The scenery is stunning, and you can spend considerable time just enjoying the views from the comfort of your beach chair!  

With all this just on the doorstep of the North West, it is not surprising that the locals want to keep these hidden gems to themselves! Maybe you need to consider becoming a local yourself! 

Sally Mitchell