Taitomo Island and Nun Rock from Lion Rock, Piha, West Auckland

Piha Beach is a classic West Coast beach, a strip of black volcanic sand backed by steep cliffs and pounded by relentless westerly swells rolling in from the Tasman Sea. Its proximity to the city of Auckland makes it an extremely popular swimming and surfing beach, with hundreds of people flocking here on weekends and holidays. The local swell is a force to be reckoned with though, and Piha’s topography means that strong rips are an almost permanent feature here, particularly around Lion Rock which lies near the middle of the bay.

Given Piha’s popularity as a swimming beach it’s therefore no surprise that it also has a reputation as one of New Zealand’s most dangerous beaches, and many lives have been lost here as a result of inexperienced swimmers and surfers getting into trouble with heavy swells and rips. Despite its unforgiving nature, though, Piha remains one of New Zealand’s iconic beaches and its reliable and often powerful swells are legendary among surfers and swimmers alike.

Westerly storm, Muriwai gannet colony

Cathedral Cove, Coromandel Peninsula

Te Werahi Beach, Cape Reinga

Sunrise at Castlepoint, Wairarapa

Beach face, Spirits Bay

Surf, Pukehina Beach

View from Lion Rock, Piha Beach

Matai Bay, Northland

Young Nick's Head, Gisborne

Whale Bay, Tutukaka Coast

Breaking wave, Tongaporutu

Sunrise, Lang's Beach, Northland

Shore platform, Mahia Peninsula

Otama Beach, Coromandel Peninsula

Shore platform, Whakataki Beach

Pingao on dunes, 90 Mile Beach

"Three Sisters", Tongaporutu