Wow, I have so many photos to go through from our recent trip to New Zealand! I’m so excited to start sharing the first batch. This trip was everything we could have hoped for. We relaxed, we explored, we hiked, we drank wine, we… drank more wine. New Zealand is an absolutely beautiful country, and I hope that our photos and stories inspire some friends to make the journey.
So, after a surprisingly uneventful ~24 hours of traveling, we arrived at our home for the next 10 days. We found a quaint and cozy basement apartment in Auckland on Airbnb, complete with a small kitchenette and beautiful backyard space!
After arriving in the late morning on our first day, we spent the first afternoon just walking around and exploring Auckland. The weather was 75-80 degrees and sunny, and was perfect for enjoying some beers by the city’s beautiful harbor.
Our second day we had left open on our itinerary as well, and we decided to spend it napping off some of our remaining jet lag at Piha Beach. Piha Beach is an easy 45 minute drive west from Auckland, and is located on the western shore of the north island. The drive to Piha winds through the beautiful Waitakere Ranges Regional Park. We rented a car to use during our stay, and New Zealanders happen to drive on the left side of the road. This combined with their winding, narrow lanes was quite exciting for the two Americans in their rented hatchback! However, the threat of potentially life-threatening collisions was quickly forgotten once we arrived and stepped out to these amazing views.
That large rock, which Piha Beach is famous for, is called “Lion Rock”. Named for its shape, it looks like a sleeping lion separating the north and south beaches at Piha. I thought it looked like something from a fantasy movie, the way this giant formation stuck out into the water like that. The crystal clear blue waves rhythmically crashing onto the large rocks was entrancing. Unfortunately the photos do little justice to Lion Rock’s intense size!
The view opposite Lion Rock on the north beach:
The beaches west of Auckland are known as “black sand beaches”, due to the dark color of the sand. Here is a photo which I think shows the contrasting color of the dark sand pretty accurately:
Unfortunately, the black sand (created due to volcanic debris), is especially hot on sunny days due to soaking up more energy from the sun than traditional sand beaches!
After lying around for a few hours, we decided to embark on the approximately hour long hike to Kitekite falls, located in the Regional Parkland near the beach. We passed a brief view of the south beach on our way to the trail (Lion Rock is located just outside this shot, on the right, for perspective).
The trail was easy to navigate and surrounded with lush trees, streams, and ferns which provided some much appreciated shade. Every so often, the foliage would break away to provide continuously stunning views.
Eventually, the falls themselves popped into view.
And after just a few more minutes of hiking, we arrived at the base of the falls. The cool, clear water in the pool below provided a refreshing break after hiking!
By the time we arrived back at the beach, the sun was setting directly behind Lion Rock. The playful light created a stunning backdrop for our final ascent of the day.
Sitting atop Lion Rock, we couldn’t believe the beauty that New Zealand had already shown us on only our first day! Fortunately, it would only get better. We drove away from Piha already sunburnt and happy- and trying to remember to stay on the left side of the road…