A 40 minute drive from Auckland reveals a different world, where surf crashes onto black-sand beaches and tramping tracks hug the rugged, wind-whipped coastline. Auckland's "wild west" is home to some of the most spectacular natural assets on the North Island, which can be experienced on the full-day Bush and Beach: Coast and Rainforest Walk tour. Starting at the Arataki Visitor Centre, the gateway to the Waitakere, your guides will take you from the depths of the rainforest to the open spans of the beach, stopping for a scenic picnic in the shadows of 1,000 year old kauri trees.
At the base of the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park lies one of the most iconic surf beaches in the region. Draped in soft volcanic sand, Piha's shimmering black surface is framed by jagged cliffs and is a popular spot for surfing and swimming (between the flags, of course). If time and weather are in your favour, beach-hop to Muriwai, Te Henga or Karekare for more surfing, swimming or strolling through surrounding bushland.
The self-guided Hillary Trail walk passes through beach hubs, connecting a vast network of park tracks and camping grounds through the Waitakere Ranges. The Waitakere is known as a hiker's paradise, with more than 250 kilometres of walking tracks to trace. If the entire four-day trek, named for explorer Sir Edmund Hillary, isn't a viable option, you can always meander along the easy Kitekite Track. Taking less than an hour to complete, the walk offers a sample of the region's beauty, including the iconic silver tree ferns and cascading waterfalls, and is within easy reach of Piha for a quick pit stop before the homeward journey.
Beyond the natural highlights that parallel Auckland's west coast, the Waitakere region has a thriving arts and crafts scene, plenty of highland cafes, a handful of wineries and boutique shops around the inland Waitakere City area. Combine that with backdrops that have leant themselves to movies such as The Piano and the television series Xena: Warrior Princess and you will find there is unlimited West Auckland wonder to take in.