We love our walks, particularly along the West Coast of New Zealand. It has that dramatic energy that makes you feel very alive. The windswept beaches are a treasure trove of dunes and driftwood and the pounding waves refresh your senses with a salty spray in the air.
“Auckland’s West Coast was calling us at the weekend”
Muriwai Beach (a mecca for surfers) is a long stretch of coastline with dramatic black volcanic sand. We have a particular passion for 4-wheel driving up the 60km stretch of this beach. However, on this occasion, we were looking at checking out the coastal walk to visit the large busy gannet colony (takapu) that moves into the area from August to March for breeding. The colony is located at the southern end of the beach at Otakamiro Point.
A Little About The Gannets
The gannet colony of approximately 1200 attract visitors from all over to watch the comings and going’s of these bird’s busy lives. They are hugely entertaining. Their nests are centimetres apart. The gannets are 2½ kilogram birds with a wingspan of 2 meters. Watching them swooping, diving and tending to their chicks is awe inspiring.
When you have finished taking in the awesome waves, cliffs and gannets take a drive down to the main road and visit the café – Sand Dunz. This has easy access parking, drop kerbs and an easy wide access into the café. You will also find plenty of seating outside.
Accessible Toilets & Mobility Parks
The colony is a one hour drive from Central Auckland. You will find free parking when you take a right turn off Waitea Road, (toilets with wheelchair access here). There are some fantastic views of the beach from the car park with two designated mobility parks.
The Beginning of the Track
The access to the track is next to the car park, the start of the track is easy going but you will come up against some steeper points over hard compacted soil. Assistance will be required, if travelling with wheels, but it’s well worth the effort – a power assist would be perfect. There are magnificent views of the beach, surfers, and crashing waves. You will come across information posts about the area and the gannets along the way.
On hindsight, it would have been easier with our all-terrain wheelchair. But there is nothing like checking out track suitability with a ’tilt-in-space’ heavy wheelchair with castor wheels to contend with. Many tracks will be described as wheelchair accessible but can take a bit of grunt to negotiate. It also depends very much on track maintenance. Just before we visited there had been a great deal of heavy rainfall leaving the track affected by water run-off in areas.
“The terrain is generally hard packed gravel and sand. The start of the track was easy going, but then we needed to negotiate more gradient and rain damage”
Once we had winded our way to the top, we came out to the most beautiful views overlooking the gannet colony. The birds were ducking in and out, bringing food for their growing chicks, who were waiting in all sorts of nooks and crannies along the cliff face.
It’s quite a show watching the parent’s glide in and overhead with their impressive two-metre wingspan. August is apparently the best month to see them because that is when the population is at its maximum.
To get a closer look at the gannets you will come across steps that will take you down to other vantage points. It is possible to enjoy a good view of the colony before you come up against the steps. Just good to know about them so you aren’t disappointed that your access comes to an end if you are reliant on wheels. As you can see in the photo’s below we followed a lady down with a walking stick.
Muriwai Beach is a popular Auckland recreation spot. Popular activities are horse-riding, surfing, 4WD, fishing, motorbiking and walks.