For decades PIHA, 20km west of the Arataki Visitor Centre and accessed along Piha Road, has been an icon for Aucklanders. A quintessential West Coast beach with a string of low-key weekend cottages and crashing surf, it lures a wide  spectrum of day-trippers and the party set, whose New Year’s Eve antics hastened in a dusk-till-dawn alcohol ban on holiday weekends. Despite the gradual gentrification of the old baches and the opening of the modern Piha Café, it is hanging onto its rustic charm.

The 3km sweep of gold-and-black sand is hemmed in by bush-clad hills and split by Piha’s defining feature, 101m-long Lion Rock. With some imagination, this former pa site resembles a seated lion staring out to sea. The rock was traditionally known as Te Piha, referring to the wave patterns around it that resemble the bow wave of a canoe. Most swimmers flock to South Piha, where the more prestigious of two surf-lifesaving clubs hogs the best surf.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

New Zealand features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

How to find the right New Zealand for you

How to find the right New Zealand for you

While it may not loom large on the world map, New Zealand feels incredibly vast and imposing on the ground, especially to those who try to visit the North and S…

23 May 2016 • Eric Grossman insert_drive_file Article
Everything you need to know about backpacking New Zealand

Everything you need to know about backpacking New Zealand

New Zealand’s craggy coastline and beautiful national parks are dotted with wildlife and beg to be explored. The scenery gets more spectacular around every co…

07 Mar 2016 • Rachel Mills insert_drive_file Article
Video: the world's friendliest cities

Video: the world's friendliest cities

Which cities are going to welcome you with open arms? Where will the locals be likely to buy you a beer, and who's going to invite you in for tea when it's cold…

10 Oct 2014 • Rough Guides Editors videocam Video
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month