Piha is possibly New Zealand’s best known beach and for good reason. Not only is the scenery stunning but this is the birthplace of surfing in New Zealand. In addition, Piha is less than an hour’s drive from the centre of Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city.
Despite being so close to the North Island’s main city Piha remains relatively unspoilt. The beach backs onto the rugged and heavily forested coastline of the Waitakere Ranges which is a national park meaning the area hasn’t been over-developed.
The sand along this stretch of coast is quite unusual in that not only is it black but is also magnetic. This is due to the high iron content which in turn relates to its volcanic origins. Piha’s black sand was produced by the eruption of the mighty Taupo volcano many milenia ago and is deposited along this coast by the Waikato River.
There are other hints to New Zealand’s volcanic past at Piha. Set towards the southern end of the beach is the towering, iconic Lion Rock or Whakaari in Maori. It gets its name from the fact it looks a little like a lying lion from some angles although it is actually “volcanic plug” which dates back 16 million years.
As the original and one of New Zealand’s best surfing beaches you can expect the sea to often be anything but calm. However, even on the calm days care should be taken as there can be strong, unpredictable rip currents at Piha. Despite being home to two of the country’s premiere surf lifesaving clubs the sea here has still claimed several lives over the years. During the summer months the bathing is generally safe and as long as swimmers stay between the flags put out by the lifeguards there should be no danger.
Piha is big enough to soak up the summer crowds. There is beachfront parking, public toilets, changing rooms and a takeaway serving food and drinks on the beach.
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