Kia ora Muriwai — Travel — NZ Herald News

Kia ora Muriwai - Travel - NZ Herald News

Wild beach is a world away from the city, yet just a short drive, says Elisabeth Easther.

Muriwai local Pat Ford, out for a surf at sunset. Photo / Richard Robinson

Where is it? On Auckland’s west coast, 42km northwest of Auckland and 17km from Kumeu.

Origin of name: Muriwai can be translated as "water’s end" or "backwater". It used to be known as Motutara, "island of seabirds".

Population: 1131, slightly more males than females if you must know.

Slogan: There isn’t one but "West is Best" would do nicely.

Mascot: Gannet.

Famous locals: Brent Wong, the artist. P Digsss aka Shapeshifter. Dave Jackman, who died recently, had lived here since the 1970s and is in the Australian Hall of Fame for surfing. And, of course, Corban and Alexander Wall from The Block .

Really: In the 1980s a well-known television presenter fell on a jar of yeasty spread in Muriwai. Most readers will know the story this refers to.

Big business: Most working locals commute to the city; other people keep themselves busy surfing, fishing and retirement. Tourism fills the coffers too.

Local delight: The campground has a classic old-school feel: right on the beach with giant pohutukawa and old-fashioned fun.

Here for a short time? Take a surfing lesson with Muriwai Surf School. or just wander the beach. Winter or summer, rain or shine, you’ll feel revitalised.

Best reason to visit: Fresh air and open spaces so close to the city. With 45km of beach, it’s still delightfully unspoiled.

Best place to take the kids? The beach, the beach, the beach. At low tide the little rock pools at the southern end provide hours of fun and swimming never gets old.

Best kept secret? Go to the end of Coast Rd and you’ll find a track through the dunes that takes you to the swimming hole in Okiritoto Stream. Perfect for youngsters when the ocean is rough.

Best park? Again it’s the beach. Spotlight tiggy anyone?

Best playground? Just past the surf school.

Best facilities? The loos at Maukatia Bay have won design awards. Built of macrocarpa with an earth roof, perfect for spending a penny.

Best walk? The 10-minute walk to the gannet colony is hard to beat. For a longer walk, Goldie Bush walkway is a winner.

Or. How about the Hillary Trail. The full monty is a four-day hike but it passes through Muriwai on its way to Bethells Beach. Get dropped off and do one leg.

Best view? Everywhere. Everything looks beautiful here, but if a person had to pick they’d say the gannet colony at Otakamiro Point.

Best place to pull over? Coming down Waitea Rd — spectacular views.

Best swim? Between the flags.

Best museum? There isn’t one, but the pillow lava rock formations on the cliffs are as old as the hills and geologists travel across the world to marvel at them.

Nice arts? The biannual Muriwai Arts Trail (March 2-10, 2015) features open studios, exhibitions, markets and more.

Top shop? The only shop is called Top Shop. You’ll find all the essentials for a day at the beach.

Cream of the coffee? Sand Dunz Beach Cafe at 455 Motutara Road does an excellent brew as well as icecream and food. Top Shop also does coffee.

Kia ora Muriwai - Travel - NZ Herald News

Hungry? Sand Dunz does milkshakes and takeaways.

Still hungry? Muriwai Golf Club has a restaurant and bar. Thanks to the coastal location, it’s popular for weddings and functions.

Wet your whistle: The Surf Club is open occasionally. Time it right — open mic night on the first Thursday of each month.

Sleep over: Only Fools and Horses backpackers is supercool. Unlike any other backpackers, they cater to guests with horses. Although you can stay without a horse.

Best mountain biking? Lots of secret trails and Woodhill Forest is close, for some of the best MTB-ing around.

So many adventures: Surfing is amazing; take a lesson with the lovely people at Muriwai Surf School. Ride a horse with Hayley and Kate from Muriwai Beach Horse Treks. If you’ve a 4×4, drive along the beach; if you don’t, you’d be wise to befriend a local with a towrope. Blokarting on the beach is great fun; it takes five minutes to learn before you hurtle across the sand. The beach is also a perfect place to learn to drive but do wash the car afterwards (salt corrodes) and be aware of the tides.

Best kept secret? Maukatia caves. Visit at low tide to marvel at the pillow lava rocks, walk through the caves and out the other side — stunning, natural and free. Not too many people make the trek because it’s a bit steep, but well worth the effort.

Wildlife? Gannets are resident from August to March. Maui dolphins frolic as they pass from Taranaki to Dargaville. The world’s smallest and rarest dolphin, they’re wonderfully playful. Seals like it here too.

Safety warnings? Respect the sea, and if you plan to fish off the rocks be careful. These waves can surprise and people are often swept off. Always swim between the flags.

Visitors say: Your life’s a beach.

Locals say: Them’s the breaks.

Thanks to Martin from Muriwai Surf School for risking his wife’s ire by sharing their family secrets.

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