A short drive west of Auckland is Piha Beach, one of the West Coast’s most popular getaways. A small coastal village sandwiched between the Waitakere Ranges and the Tasman Sea, Piha Beach is much loved by surfers and fisherfolk alike, but it’s also a great place for everyone to explore nature, both on the coast and in the hills.
Split in two by the towering Lion Rock, Piha is a scenic beach with grand views of the Tasman Sea stretching out to the horizon. Experienced surfers ride the thrilling breaks on the beach’s outer bar while people who fish enjoy the great conditions at Lion Rock and the Tasman Lookout. But keep in mind that Piha is known for its strong riptides and unpredictable waves, so can be particularly risky for surfers and fishers.
Piha Beach is a popular stop on half- and full-day West Coast sightseeing tours from Auckland. There are plenty of opportunities to explore nature from the village, including hikes through the Waitakere Ranges and the short, steep walk up Lion Rock. There are also a number of fantastic lookouts, including the Tasman Lookout at the southern end of the beach. If time is on your side, you can overnight in one of several accommodation options, from romantic bed and breakfasts to campsites and motor camps with room for the whole family.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Piha Beach is ideal for surfers, fisherfolk, and those seeking a day on the beach and in nature.
- At the top of Lion Rock, you can rest at a pou whenua erected in the memory of Ngati Tangiaro Taua, an ancestress of the local iwi (Māori tribe), Te Kawerau ā Maki.
- If you’re looking for a bite to eat, drop in at the Piha Cafe up on Garden Road, or at the Piha Surf Lifesaving Club down by the shore.
- In summer, swim between the red and yellow flags, and get to know the lifeguards of the famous-in-New-Zealand TV show “Piha Rescue.”
- The beach offers wheelchair-accessible restrooms. Although it may be hard to find accessible parking, drivers can drop off guests and find a spot.
- Bring sunscreen, insect repellent and (if you plan to go for a hike) a sturdy pair of shoes. Consider a wetsuit outside of summer.
How to Get There
Piha is on the other side of the Waitakere Ranges from the rest of Auckland, so getting there involves quite a bit of driving. The easiest way from central Auckland is to follow the Northwestern Motorway to the Te Atatu Road turnoff (first left off the Harbour Bridge). Follow Urban Route 13 until you reach Piha Road, then follow Piha Road through the Waitakere Ranges to Piha Beach.
When to Get There
Piha Beach is wildly popular in the summer months, the best time for swimming and surfing. If you’re keen on avoiding the crowds, try visiting on a weekday in late January or early February, when Auckland workers have finished their New Year holidays and are back in the office. Otherwise, head to the beach early to guarantee parking (or book your accommodation well in advance).
Swimming at Piha Beach
Piha Beach is a popular swimming hole, but it’s also notorious for its powerful riptides and strong waves. Because of this, Piha Beach’s Lifeguard Service recommends that if you do go in the water, swim only in the patrolled area, typically marked by giant red and yellow flags. If there are no flags and no lifeguards, it’s best not to take the risk—stay out of the water.