West Coast Beaches

including Muriwai, Bethells Beach, Anawhata, Piha and Karekare

Auckland’s west coast is all deserted black sand beaches, crashing surf and steep bushclad hillsides. This is a place for contemplation, rejuvenation and inspiration. Its soulful, severe beauty attracts artists, potters and art directors from Auckland’s adland. Karekare was the sullen, windswept backdrop for the 1993 movie The Piano and Xena has had many a sword and sandals moment here. It’s an environmentally sensitive area, with advocates constantly lobbying for the protection of the easily-trampled dunes in Piha, the coastline, native bush and rainforest. Piha is the most exclusive of the neighbourhoods and the only one with a road running alongside the beach. Muriwai appeals mainly because of its relative accessibility to Auckland. For others the stark, mystical remoteness of Bethells Beach, Anawhata and Karekare is a bonus, not a drawback.

Who Lives There?

The West Coast beaches are not for the faint hearted – the drive to Piha alone needs to be undertaken with respect for the terrain, and a good gearbox. It’s also not the place for faux lifestylers who think they can transplant their city designs on the landscape. As one real estate agent put so eloquently: “Start talking like that at a party out here and the music would stop all on its own.” An increasing number of city-siders are choosing to relocate here and commute, replacing bling with bare feet. The middle-aged affluent want to revisit the surfie haunts of their teenage years with their own kids. Migrants, including many English, add to the rich character of the area. Despite the arduous peak traffic commute, Muriwai has its share of return surfies, too. All of the beaches have populations that swell in summer, and while the ratio of permanent residents continues to climb, there are still those with the spare cash to afford a holiday home... and the props to enjoy their entertainment and their water sports.

Typical Homes

It’s a heartening sight to see rustic baches tucked into the bush alongside stylish modern homes. The original houses – board-and-batten, 1930s Art Deco and the post-war bach – are mostly getting the makeover treatment. New houses are usually sympathetically designed for the surroundings. This is given bureaucratic weight by the ever tightening regulations regarding subdividing land (you virtually can’t do it) and the removal of trees (only enough to make space for the dwelling). City considerations just don’t cut it here. As one resident put it: “It’d be an insult to build a big fence out here.” These settlements are small. Piha has some 700 titles; Anawhata has only about 30 houses, some relying on solar and wind power. Karekare has comparatively few properties with sea views. Up the coast, Muriwai has a colourful diversity of houses from baches to mansions and with every price tag imaginable.

Population Profile


Aged Under 15 Years 23.43%
Aged Over 65 Years 5.61%
European 78.58%
Maori 9.08%
Pacific Peoples 2.55%
Asian 1.97%