Time Required : Summer
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The brooding black sand surf beaches of Muriwai, located a quick 45-minute drive from the heart of Auckland, is a different world from the manicured and landscaped setting of Auckland. People from across the globe flock to Muriwai to surf on its black sand beaches, given its distinctive colour as a result of volcanic activity. It is also home to one of the world’s largest Gannet colonies. The Gannet colonies can be seen from viewing platforms, which can be reached by hiking up the easily accessible cliff-top trails.
Every August through March, more than a thousand pairs of gannets make the journey from across the Tasman Sea to nest away on the platforms of Muriwai Beach. Watch these five-pound seabirds snuggle up next to their mates while they hatch their chicks. The stark contrast of the 60 km stretch of black sand beach against the deep blue of Tasman Sea is a truly incredible view from the vantage point that the cliff-top trails provide you with as well.
A favourite pastime of Muriwai’s locals is bushwalking through the scenic cliff-top trails. The Mokoroa Falls Track, starting at Horsman Road in Waikatere, is a gradual 2 km trail that leads you along a cliff-top to a viewing platform, from where the Mokoroa Falls can be viewed. Visitors can continue down a series of steps leading down from the viewing platform to the base of the falls where a different perspective of the falls await. A gamut of downhill mountain bike trails in the vicinity are also sure to raise your and offers another option for the more adventurously inclined.
Muriwai beach sees its resident population of almost 1500 swell to many times its usual size from August through March, on account of the mating season of the gannet birds. Cliff outcrops serve as a nesting site for the hundreds upon hundreds of gannet birds that make the 2400 km journey across the Tasman Sea. Their intimate courtship rituals and mating dances make for wonderfully exciting viewing, and cliff-top trails that lead right up to the cliff outcroppings get you up-close and personal with these splendid feathered-friends.
Fishing is also an integral part of the fabric of the Muriwai community with surfcasting, the specific act of fishing from the beach, being a hobby of many in Muriwai. Surfcasting fisherfolk, donning their tell-tale rods and bucket hats, can be seen standing along the shore as dusk sets.
Muriwai beach also has the distinction of allowing cars and 4WD vehicles onto the beach itself, and a sunset drive is undoubtedly a beautiful way to watch the day come to a close over the magnificent black sands.