A Weekender's Guide to Auckland's West Coast
Where to dine and drink, rest and relax, experience and explore on the west coast of New Zealand's biggest city.
in partnership with
If you're looking for a weekend getaway that feels like a holiday without costing too many kilometres, then New Zealand's west coast beaches are the ticket. Often regarded as one of Auckland's best-kept secrets, these black sand beauties are untamed, untouched and accessible. Just an easy 45-minute drive from Auckland airport, the only time constraint is fitting everything in. Explore the tousled beaches, charming eateries and countless outdoor activities that the west coast has on offer. Whether you'd prefer to conquer the rugged cliffs of Piha, surf Muriwai or take a stroll between vines at one of the many vineyards, it's the destination for all paces and palates. Here, you'll find the food you should sample, the wine you should drink, things you should do and the places you should stay while on this wild retreat.
Rolling hills underfoot and glass in hand, fill your lungs with fresh air and your belly with wine. Kumeu is New Zealand's oldest wine region, so the wine is rich in tradition as well as flavour. Like its grapes, the options are plentiful when it comes to exploring the area's boutique wineries and orchards. Book a wine tour and while you sip, soak up plenty of west coast greenery, as well as (hopefully) a little bit of sunshine, too.
Home to New Zealand's most-awarded sparkling wine, Soljans Estate Winery is definitely one to drop a pin on. Known as the gateway to Kumeu wine country, it may be proof that you never forget your first love. Take a tour of the winery and hear the rich history behind the vineyard, then seal the deal with a glass of wine and something to eat from Soljans Café, named as one of Auckland's top 40 restaurants and also one of the top 20 winery restaurants in the world. It's one for the memory bank.
If you think true love doesn't come by twice in a lifetime, then you need to try Kumeu River Wines. Set in green pastures, it's a picture of paradise. While you're sampling the wine, be sure to have a tipple (or a large glass) of the chardonnay. Still made in the old-world style of classic French varietals and known as being world-class, what's not to love?
Fit for families, couples or the lone wine ranger, The Hunting Lodge Winery has got what you need. The 80-acre estate features a winery and bottling works, a restaurant, cafe and a family zone. With a pétanque pitch surrounded by an olive grove and kids' play area, it's a winner for everyone. There's also an option to take a stroll in the vines for those looking for a bit of romance. From pasture to plate to your mouth, it's an experience not to miss.
While it may be wine country, the food on the west coast deserves a gastro tour of its very own. Whether you have a clifftop walk, a day at the beach or an afternoon of mountain biking planned, you must schedule some time to taste the best of the west.
Known for its fresh seasonal produce, The Tasting Shed presents a unique experience for the palate. Owners and husband-wife team, Ganesh and Jo had a vision to offer the freshest ingredients and accentuate them with an array of wines by the glass. From start to finish, your tastebuds will be taken on an adventure, with food combinations that surprise and delight and an ambience so homely it'll almost be like you're dining in your own house (except that you will be dining at one of Auckland's best restaurants).
From countryfolk and townspeople to smugglers and clergymen, The Riverhead Historic Tavern has seen it all. Nestled on the shores of the upper Waitemata, The Riverhead is steeped in local history, acting as a gateway to lands in the north prior to the completion of roads and railway. Come and taste the offerings of this premium pub and be part of its unfinished story.
For a helluva good time, visit Hallertau Brewery. Designed to bring people together over good quality German-style beer and the community feel of an Irish pub, it's a stop you'll want to schedule on your itinerary. On a sunny day, the expansive outdoor biergarten will have you covered, literally (no one needs a nasty sunburn when they're on holidays). The brewery was also featured as one of New Zealand's top 100 restaurants.
Other eateries worth stretching your stomach for are the aforementioned Soljans Cafe, Blossoms Espresso Cafe and Murray at Piha for fresh tacos. And on the way home, grab a scoop of real fruit ice cream from Phil Greig Strawberry Gardens.
Water babies, wine connoisseurs and the daring weekenders won't be disappointed by the activities the west has to offer. If you're up for hanging ten and donning a wetty, take a surf lesson at the local Muriwai Surf School. You'll be pulling shakas and flicking that imaginary bleach blonde hair off your face in no time. If you'd rather stay out of the water, go horse trekking along the expansive beach instead. For more stunning black sand beaches, head to Piha to tackle Lion Rock or Karekare which is best known for its cameo in The Piano.
For those who love a round of golf, try for a hole in one at the Muriwai Golf Links. Although we can't promise that you'll be able to play with the former Prime Minister and Obama, we can promise incredible views.
If you're looking to pump a bit of adrenaline around your body, unleash your inner monkey among the treetops on Tree Adventures's high wires and flying foxes in Woodhill Forest. Or if that's not enough, try tandem skydiving over Parakai at Skydive Auckland. If you simply need another activity, race on over 100 kilometres of purpose-built tracks and jumps at the Woodhill Mountain Bike Park. But don't forget to visit the tranquil oasis that is the Corban Estate Arts Centre in Henderson for a little R&R to follow. Take a guided tour, have a look at the gallery shop and enjoy a treat or two from the Coffee Studio.
The clifftops of Muriwai house gannet seabird colonies during the summer months and you too can wake up listening to the waves by staying at 216 Luxury Accommodation, self-contained luxury accommodation at Muriwai Beach. If you're after something a little more rustic, book into the Muriwai Beach Campground located just off the black sands of the beach. And for accommodation somewhere in between, there are several Airbnb cottages that'll set you up in the trees within the Waitakere Ranges, among the nikau palms near Piha or in the bush just near Muriwai Beach and the gannet colonies.
Alternatively, you can opt to stay centrally in Auckland city in one of the many hotels or boutique apartments, just a 45-minute drive from the west coast — that way you'll get a chance to see more of the city, including its island of wine.
LET'S DO THIS, HOW DO I GET THERE?
Flights to Auckland from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane are super short — around three-and-a-half hours on average — and Air New Zealand flies direct from all three cities and offers accessible fares. Once you arrive in Auckland, jump in a hire car and let your adventure begin.
Header image: Russell Street.
Published on April 13, 2018 by Annie Hollister-Jones