It’s only an hour out of Auckland but Muriwai feels a world away. Black sand, endless vistas, towering waves, rolling dunes and gannets, lots of gannets.
I had bought a new ND filter for my camera so I was looking for somewhere epic to give it it’s maiden run. James was working on the garage and the kids were with their other parents so I had the whole day to myself – bliss!
The weather forecast was not in my favour (in fact there were storm warnings in Auckland with rain predicted right about when I set out). Patience however has never been my strong suit and optimism always wins out over reason so I set off regardless.
The weather forecasts were spot on and the rain started just past Henderson and by the time I got to Kumeu it was pouring down and lightening was lighting up the grey sky. I briefly thought about turning back, but only very briefly. Storms just add a little more interest to adventures!
As I turned off the main road to Muriwai the roads were empty and when I pulled up at the beach it was all but deserted as the rain poured down.
On the horizon was a tiny band of blue – enough to convince me to wait it out in the car for a bit longer. Turns out I didn’t need to wait long at all and within 10 minutes the rain had turned to a light drizzle and I set out for the beach.
There is something magic about being on a beach by yourself. That, combined with the rain stopping and the beautiful pinks and blues all around me made me feel like dancing, like twirling in the clouds that lay reflected on the beach. Looking back I’m not sure why I didn’t – there was no one there but a solitary dog walker to see me (not that it has ever really bothered me before). As it was I made do with a beaming smile that didn’t leave the whole 2 hours I was there and singing away to myself.
As the rain disappeared and the clouds rolled back to reveal more blue skies more people starting appearing on the beach taking the obligatory selfies that years of taking photos tell me will never pay justice to the landscape behind them (I’ve often thought there is a business in taking selfies that will do this at places like this).
The great thing with Muriwai is that even when it does get busy it is so vast (google tells me it is 60km long) that it really isn’t crowded at all (especially outside of summer). I think at it’s peak there were a couple of dog walkers, a few groups of friends, a few families, a surfer, a fisherman and another lone photographer.
After about an hour of roaming the beach, clicking happily and dodging waves that sprung up from nowhere on an unsuspecting photographer I decided to explore the Gannet Colony.
I’ve been here once before, many years ago, but this time it felt like discovering it all over again. On a rugged cliff face is some 1,200 pairs of gannets who fly from Australia to make their home and hatch their chicks between August and March each year.
The sound is the first thing that reaches you as you make your way up the steep mountainside stairs. A cacophony of squawks saying things only gannets can know.
They sit nestled on an unforgiving island with waves crashing all around them. The swoop and dive through the air with their 2 metre wings slicing through the breeze with barely any effort at all.
It’s a magical spot, made all the more magical by knowing that they are not there all year around. I’ve half a mind to come here in June to see if it feels as empty as I think it might without these birds to grace it.
So wether you are looking for a spot to walk the dog, to take the kids, to have a picnic or just escape for a few hours – Muriwai is a perfect spot for it!