Being uniquely positioned between two natural harbours, the Manukau and the Waitamata, Auckland is known mainly as a sailors paradise due to its proximity to the ocean and it’s abundance of wind. People often forget that the same elements that make the region ideal for sailing - wind and water - also make it a great place to do some surfing.
Surfing so often relies on the wind direction to create favourable conditions and the great thing about Auckland is that you can easily access beaches on both the West Coast and the East Coast of New Zealand in less than an hour. This means that finding the right wind, and subsequently waves, is easy; if it’s blowing the wrong way on the West Coast, head over to the East Coast, and vice versa. If you’re really keen, you can surf both coasts on the same day - which would mean that you are surfing in two oceans in the same day, how cool is that!
As far as wave set ups go, you will mostly find beach breaks, with the occasional reef that turns on in the right conditions, however, both coasts offer something different from the other. The West Coast tends to be a bit wilder with its black sand beaches and strong swells that march their way up from the Southern Ocean before slamming into beaches like Piha, Muriwai and Bethells. The waves out here are powerful and surfers must be vigilant and maintain awareness of what is happening in the ocean around them. The east coast is a little more inviting with its white sand beaches and mellower Pacific Ocean swells. Though not as consistent as the West Coast, the East Coast offers more variety and types of waves, making it ideally suited for surfers of all skill levels, with mellow beach breaks for the beginners, and heavy reefs for the more experienced.
The guys at Dropinn have put together a list of their favorite places to surf when they are in Auckland, along with a brief description of what to expect when you get there.
West Coast Auckland Surf Beaches
As you wind your way through the snake like roads and native bush of the Waitakare ranges, it can be easy to forget that you are on your way to go surfing. Just when you think everyone is going to be car sick from the constant hairpin turns, you turn the corner, the skyline opens up and you find yourself looking down on one of New Zealand’s most iconic beaches as she meets the vast Tasman Sea. Piha has long been a favorite for Aucklanders and is somewhat of a rite of passage for young surfers in the area.
The majestic Lion Rock splits Piha into two distinct beaches, North Piha and South Piha. There is often a good left-hander breaking off Lion Rock at the southern end of North Piha, and a short walk further north will get you classic beach break conditions away from the crowds. South Piha tends to be a bit busier in the water and features typical beach break conditions. If you are lucky and the sand is right, the infamous Piha sandbar will come to life and produce reeling lefthanders into the middle of the bay. If the surf is flat (which it rarely is), then all is not lost, Piha is a beautiful place to be and a walk up Lion Rock will certainly make the trip worth it.
Muriwai is the easiest to access of all the West Coast beaches, making it a popular spot for local surfers looking for a quick wave after work. There are two distinct beaches at Muriwai; Maori bay to the south, and Muriwai to the north. A Gannet colony separates the two, and is worth checking out after your surf. Once you make it down the steep path (you will understand when you see it) Maori bay features peaky beach break, with swells refracting off surrounding the cliffs to create super fun wedges that offer up everything from heaving barrels to sick air sections.
South Muriwai is a classic beach break that sometimes has a good lefthander depending on the sand banks. Watch out for the fishermen on the rocks, these guys are serious about their fishing and won’t hesitate to cast out into the lineup. The best way to surf Muriwai however, involves a four wheel drive. If you can get your hands on one, there is beach access at the southern end of the beach and from there all you need to do is head north. Keep driving until you find your ideal bank, away from the crowds, and surf your heart out.
Bethells beach is the prettiest of the West Coast beache and here, like the rest of the coast, you will find black sand and world class waves. From the parking lot, follow the river to the ocean and get amongst it. The waves here are pretty typical of the West Coast, your best bet is to scope out a sand bank and get on it. When you’re done surfing be sure to check out the caves and secret lake on your way out (ask a local for directions).
Pro tip: A little exploring around Bethells (maybe to the north???) can help you find paradise and score pumping waves all to yourself.
East Coast Auckland Surf Beaches
Omaha & Tawharanui
Surfing on the East Coast around Auckland requires travelling a little under an hour to the north, where the beaches are free to receive raw swell that has not been blocked by the islands of the Hauraki Gulf. Omaha beach is a long, flat beach that requires an east swell and features, long, slow-rolling rides. This is a great place for beginners and longboarders due to the gentle nature of the waves. On a bigger swell, the sea walls to the north can turn into a pumping little point break, and a little exploring around the area can yield some outstanding results.
A little further East is the beautiful Tawharanui regional park. The whole area is a marine reserve so be sure to bring a snorkel and flippers to get a good look at the wildlife such as orca whales and dolphins if the waves are flat. There are three bays at Tawharanui, each offering mellow beach break waves, with reef and point set ups between the bays. The area likes a north swell, and depending on the size and direction of the swell, Tawharanui can get really really good. The whole area is beautiful so even if there are no waves, you will be guaranteed a great day at the beach.
As you continue north from Auckland the beaches become more exposed to swell and the waves become more powerful. Mangawhai is about as far as you want to travel on a day trip, from Auckland you can be there in under an hour and a half. Mangawhai is a sleepy surf town, where the surf action revolves around an estuary outlet known as the Mangawhai Heads. Here you have two options, on most days you will be surfing out front of the surf club, a classic white sand beach break. However, if there is some decent sized swell around and the wind is right, the Mangawhai bar is one of New Zealand’s premier waves. It takes some commitment to get to the bar, including a daunting 200 metre paddle across the estuary, but once you are there you will be in goofy heaven; reeling left hand barrels and rides over 250 metres long.
For the most part, Auckland’s inner city beaches don’t receive many waves because a lot of the swell is blocked by the Coromandel Peninsular and the scattered islands of the Hauraki Gulf. However, if you happen to be in town when a strong northeasterly wind is blowing chances are that there will be a few waves at the city beaches. If you get really lucky and you are in town when the wind switches to the southwest after a few days of nor’easters, then you could even get epic, pumping waves. Most people head to Takapuna beach, which receives the bulk of the swell, however, a little time and exploring down the beach roads between Takapuna and Browns Bay can yield exceptional results.
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