Our third day in Piha greeted us with rain all morning, dousing our plans to do the nearby Kitekite Track to the falls. So instead we went to the Piha Cafe for a tasty lunch. It’s fortunate the food is good there as in wintertime it is the only restaurant in Piha and even then is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Piha is so small (something over 600 permanent residents) you can barely call it a town. And therein lies much of its charm.
The main attractions are the fabulously scenic beaches. We had quickly checked out the beach late on the second day of our stay here under cloudy skies, but later this afternoon when the rain ceased and the skies partially cleared we dashed back down the hill and had a wonderful walk on the beach.
The sand is eroded volcanic rock and rich in iron; reportedly you can pick it up with a magnet! Because it is dark, in the summer months it can get so hot some people can’t walk barefoot on the beach.
Piha Beach is a famous surfing spot; there are many accounts online stating that surfing was introduced to New Zealand in the mid 1950’s by two Americans who arrived in Piha with their “Malibu boards” (what I would call “longboards”) and caught the waves there. Today there were no surfers in evidence; the surf looked choppy and uneven.
There was a strong wind blowing off the ocean, producing wonderful drifting patterns in the sand.
Here are two videos for a better impression of the what we saw (I can’t explain why they appear to be upside down, but when you hit the Play button they will be correct).
The images above are all of North Piha beach, located north of Lion Rock which is an eroded volcanic vent. South of the rock and Piha Stream’s outflow into the ocean is the smaller but equally beautiful Piha Beach.
There is a lovely pedestrian bridge that crosses the stream near the Piha Domain Campground. The design of the bridge is intended to honor and highlight the endangered New Zealand longfin freshwater eel. Females can grow up to five feet long and live up to 100 years; males just half as long and are much smaller. They are born in the ocean, far from New Zealand and after about a year arrive on the west coast and then spend their very long lives in freshwater rivers and lakes. Upon reaching maturity they return to the ocean to breed once, and then die.
We crossed the bridge and walked south along the beach to a 100m tall, highly eroded cliff face. Can you find the humans in this photo?
I wanted to walk farther down the beach, but at the base of the cliff the water surged right up to the rock and we beat a hasty retreat. Apparently the tide was coming in! So we returned to the car. In the summer no doubt these beaches are full of people, but in the winter you can have them almost to yourself; just you and some funky driftwood art.