Discovering Piha and Karekare, New Zealand

Piha and Karekare

For Estralians, a weekend wouldn’t be a successful weekend without a road trip. So, when our newly made friend Renar called us and invited us for a road trip to the west coast we didn’t think twice. I mean the area where he wanted to go had been on our list for a while anyway so let’s do it! Wait, where are we going? This time we are discovering Piha and Karekare. These two towns are about an hour drive west from Auckland CBD. They are both small beach side towns, with great surf beaches and magnificent views.

The road trip to the west coast will take you through the Waitakere Ranges that has narrow and windy roads. The most difficult part will be the ~2km long windy road from the beginning of Karekare Rd toward Karekare Beach (when coming from Piha Rd).

Total travel time for this trip, with stops was 4h. That said we did not take the walking trail to Kitekite Falls and did not go for a swim.

Piha Beach

Piha Beach has fine black iron sand and lots of rock formations. Its’s a great beach for those who would like to fly a kite, surf or do other wind requiring activities. The beach itself sits in a small bay surrounded by large volcanic rocky islands (Taitomo Island and Lion Rock). Beside surfing it’s also popular with beach lovers, who during summer months are guarded by the Piha Surf Club lifeguards.

Piha Beach

There are public toilets and changing sheds as well as plenty of parking places. For those who plan to stay all day, there is a food truck, serving simple takeaways, coffee, ice-cream and soft drinks. If you are looking for a bigger meal, there is also a restaurant at the Piha Surf Club.

Oh and btw, Piha is also the location for the filming of Piha Rescue reality series.

Lion Rock

Lion Rock is one of the most well-known and climbed rock islands in the North Island of New Zealand. A steep but short climb to the top of the Lion Rock will offer it’s conquers spectacular views and photo opportunities over the area.

View over Piha Beach from Lion Rock

If you are not sure whether you manage to climb this seemingly difficult rock or not, then listen this. When we were there, we saw an 87-year-old Englishman do it as well as a teen with a robotic leg. If they can do it, then you can do it.

As you start climbing the rock, you are greeted with better and better views within each step. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to climb to the very top as few years ago there was a rockfall that’s made access to the top too dangerous. That said, the view from the cut-off point, is still magnificent and 100% worth the steep climb.

View over North Piha Beach from Lion Rock

While up there we also tried to fly the drone that our friend had, but unfortunately the local albatross did not like our drone at all and started attacking it right away. As we were heaps smaller and this is their territory we agreed to surrender and brought the drone down for landing 

Kitekite Falls in Piha

Near Piha Beach (about 2 km) is a scenic 3-tiered waterfall called, Kitekite Falls. This spectacular waterfall has a total height of close to 80 metres and is one of the most known falls in the Waitakere Ranges.

To get to the falls, it’s about 1,5-hour return hike. Pluss of course whatever time you spend admiring it, swimming in it or taking photos of it. Altogether you should spare at least 2 hours for this hike.

Because we were not prepared for longer hikes, we skipped this fall and headed straight to Karekare Falls instead.

Karekare Falls

Not far from Kitekite Falls (7,8 km), is another powerful waterfall called Karekare Falls. To get there you are going to drive through a very narrow and windy downhill road (luckily now sealed). The worst bit is quite short so don’t sweat, just take it nice and easy 

Once you get to the falls, you’ll see that there are some parking options on the road, next to the beginning of the walking trail. We would recommend not to park there and instead take couple of extra steps by parking to the nearby Karekare beach carpark. It’s much safer and there is plenty of room there. Plus in the carpark there are well maintained toilets as well as a picnic area.

When we arrived there, we saw a Subaru Legacy getting stuck, by trying to park next to the road. Now luckily, we were there to help them out, but what if you get stuck and we are not nearby???? :D:D

Anyways, let’s get back to the falls now ay 

To get to the lookout, you literally don’t even have to come out from the car as you can see it from the Lone Kauri Rd. From the lookout you can also see a cool “Ghosthouse” that looks abandened.

Karekare falls and the “Ghosthouse” from the lookout

We recommend not to settle with the views from the lookout and take the short hike down to the falls.

The walking trail is rather easy and short, about 10 minutes return. (We saw a person with a wheelchair at the falls so I guess that with some help from friends/fam it’s possible). Half way there you will also see a small cascade, don’t be fooled…this beautiful fall is not it.

A cascade before the Karekare Falls

Once you reach the bottom of Karekare Falls, you’ll see that the drive, through the narrow and windy roads of Karekare Road, was well worth it.

Karekare Beach

Our final destination was the Karekare Beach. From the parking lot, it takes about 15 minutes to reach the beach. The walking trail takes you through a valley of flowers and small sand dunes.

Valley leading to Karekare Beach

Once you have walked through the valley you reach a seemingly endless sand pit. This beach is good for those who like surfing but don’t like to share the waves with others. That said there is no lifeguard on the beach (at least not during our visit) so make sure to go with some company rather than alone.

Karekare Beach sand pit

Beside the great waves there is also a ~9-meter-high sand dune there witch is awesome for sand/body-boarding should you have your board with you.

Ou and btw, Karekare Beach also had a starring role at the movie The Piano

If you have more time to spare make sure to also read our post about West Coast Beaches and Waitakere Ranges 😉

Adventure more. #Adventure starts where plans end

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