The Lonely Planet New Zealand guide suggests a visit to Auckland’s western beaches if you are looking for a 4 day itinerary in the city. Everyone knows Auckland has a magnificent harbour, and catching the ferry over to Waiheke Island is naturally a priority for visitors. But placing the western beaches region right up near the top of your must-do list would be a smart move, even if you’re staying only a couple of days.
Referred to as The Wild West for good reason, the coastline is rugged, fierce and untamed.
This is where the Tasman Sea smashes against the North Island. Windswept black sand beaches run for miles and the surf is known to be treacherous with strong undercurrents, though that doesn’t stop the die-hard surfers out there in any weather.
Our home owners’ young grand-daughter Sophia was telling us about her love of horses and that she has a part-time job with a horse riding tour company out at Muriwai Beach.
I’ve long held a love/fear of the idea of riding a horse. In a way I always felt I’d enjoy riding but something has always held me back from giving it a go. Dave had plenty of experiences as a boy riding horses, goats and sheep, so in the spirit of new friends and new experiences we jumped at the chance to join Sophia and her group on the next fine day’s ride.
The weather played in our favour and the following day we had temporarily clear skies so it was off to ride horses along the Wild West Coast for us!
Once we arrived at the Muriwai Beach horse riding location we became immediately aware of Sophia’s joy with being around these beautiful creatures. Her ease and confidence with the horses helped us to feel relaxed and ready for our hour long beach and bush ride. Though I did feel a bit silly with the hi-viz and helmet.
Such a wonderful feeling as we rode quietly and effortlessly along the wide black beach. The air was light and misty, quite a surreal space.
Sophia had earlier instructed us to lean backward when going down hills and lean forward when going up hills. Or was it the other way around, by the time we got to our first hill I couldn’t remember which way to lean, though it quickly became obvious when I was doing it the wrong way.
Riding our horses out on the beach, through the bush and across streams really was the most incredible experience for us and something we hope to do again as we travel along.
On the drive home with Sophia in the car with us she told us about a place along the way where we could buy raw milk, fresh from the cow via a vending machine. Sophia guided us to the farm and sure enough, there was a vending machine delivering fresh raw milk into a container of choice. We’ve never seen anything like it before, and that milk sure tasted divine, just like we remember from our childhood.
We’d had so much rain in Auckland so we were eager for a fine day, and very keen to get the dogs out on to the beach for a run and a bit of a swim. Sophia and her mum Caroline suggested we all head over to Bethell’s Beach as it’s a family favourite.
It is indeed a fantastic dog beach, lots of long wide stretches of that now familiar black sand and shallow waves for our gorgeous girls Lucy and Daisy to wear themselves out for a few hours. There’s also a lovely calm shallow lagoon for when the waves got a bit intense.
Those dogs really were so joyous on the beach it was a shame to rein them in and take them home.
Despite the mostly crappy Auckland spring weather we managed to spend plenty of time exploring all along the coastline and take in the wonder of the beaches along the wild west coast.
This place really is like no other we’ve seen and we’re so glad we had the opportunity to house sit for 2 weeks in the fantastic western side of Auckland.
We’ve loved our time house sitting and caring for Lucy and Daisy, and especially for the company of Sophia and Caroline who have helped us discover places we may not otherwise have seen.