Remote, Historic Beach
NZ Gps: 37° 2' 34.9872" S 174° 30' 9.7776" E
Whatipu is the most remote of the Waitakere’s road-end beaches. Other than the miles of beautiful solitude found here, you’ll also find a historically and geologically fascinating beach. In the late 1800s an elevated railway was built along the shoreline cliffs, running from Piha to Karekare and then to Whatipu. The railway carried Kauri from the nearby valleys to the busy wharf at Whatipu. What makes this historic tramway even more interesting is the fact that it had to be built against the cliffs and past the mouths of the Whatipu caves because 100 years ago the waves actually bashed up against cliffs most of the way to Karekare. Yup, all that marsh and dune from the caves out to the sea is all NEW land, courtesy of the river of blacksand that moves up the coast from Taranaki. Investigate the wharf ruins in the gap at Paratutae Island.
Whatipu is a beach for soul searching and retrospection. No surf scene like Piha, Karekare, or Bethells. No Gannet watching or Ute hordes. Just great views, interesting historical tidbits, giant landlocked “sea caves”, and a blissfully lonely “new” beach stretching about 8km to Karekare.
Omanawanui/ Kura tramping loop. (Note: carpark map doesn’t show Kura track.) This is a long 3-hour loop which provides an excellent workout as well as a comprehensive exploration of the Whatipu uplands. In a nutshell, this track undulates up and down the hilltops above Manukau harbour for 90-120 minutes, crosses the road, drops to the stream and criss-crosses the stream through the fern forest 45 minutes back to the carpark. If you’re not up for an excursion of this length, then the first half-hour up Whatipu stream is fun, as is a 17-minute climb up to the first viewpoint. Do the loop anti-clock so you climb the hills when you’re fresh, then splash in the stream when you’re sweaty. For the track’s start head through the picnic area to find the signed track past the first bridge. When you come out on Whatipu road, continue uphill a bit to find the Kura downhill track.
Whatipu Lookout (Lemmings bench). A must-see! This is one of the finest Tasman views in all the Waitakere. A 15-20 minute huff ‘n’ puff climb on the Omanawanui track heads up to this spectacular view. Skip the “Lookout House” spur track and keep going another 6 minutes to the “Lemmings” bench atop the hill. Hooo…SWEET AS!! Whatipu curves below with the remains of the wharf…Raglan’s jagged Mt. Karioi pokes up down the coast…and if it’s clearclear you may even see Mt. Taranaki floating out over the Tasman Sea. Looking east there’s all of Manukau Harbour past the airport to the distant Hunua range. Go ahead, try to name a better view!
Whatipu Caves. These are a series of vast sea caves, now isolated from the sea by the ever-growing sands of Whatipu. From the carpark an easy track leads 15 minutes over to the caves. These caves had an amazing history in the days of the Piha Tramway. The kiosk at the carpark details how there was once a dance floor installed in the big cave, but now it’s buried under 5 meters of sand! (C’mon DOC, dig!) Bring a torch to explore the back reaches of these caves. There’s no beach access from the caves.