Whatipu is the most remote of Auckland’s beaches, situated on the southernmost point of the Waitakere Ranges on the West Coast, looking towards the Manakau Heads.  We went there last weekend. Part of the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, Whatipu is a scientific reserve with impressive coastal dunes and wetlands ecosystem, a breeding ground of the endangered  New Zealand Dottererel.  It is its very remoteness that make Whatipu so appealing. Wild, windswept and rugged with constantly shifting sands, it is imbued with a special ambience and untamed splendour.  Whatipu’s deadly rips and currents make it far too dangerous to swim here, and no one does. In fact, it’s the location of New Zealand’s worst-ever maritime disaster when HMS Orpheus ran aground just inside the Manukau Harbour entrance south of Whatipu in 1863 with the loss of 189 lives. One of Whatipu’s most striking features is its jet black sand. I’ve never seen sand so black, and the reason is that it’s formed from the ancient remnants of volcanic eruptions in the central North Island, the deposits from which were washed up the coast over the millennia to form what is here today. Pretty amazing, when you think about it.

The Rock Beast


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